A couple of years back, the price of celery shot through the roof! There was no national shortage, no issue with crops, the reason it spiked like crazy was pretty much the doing of Kim Kardashian!! Okay, I'm being a little flippant, but it did seem for a while as though celery was the celebrity stated cure-all for every disease known to man. Headlines claiming celery could clear skin and aid weight loss seemed to spring up on a weekly basis, with celebs like the Kardashians fawning over its benefits.
In May of the same year, Anthony Williams (you might know him better as Medical Medium) published a book called 'Celery Juice: The Most Powerful Medicine of Our Time Healing Millions Worldwide.' In it, he advises readers to drink 16 ounces of organic celery juice on an empty stomach each morning. The advice in this best selling book pretty much sealed celery's fate as the most in demand vegetable of 2019.
Benefits of Celery
Did you know, celery is actually a member of the carrot family? It's also related to fennel, parsnips, and lots of herbs including angelica, anise, caraway, coriander (cilantro) cumin, chervil, dill, lovage, and parsley? Like celery, all plants in the Apiaceae family are known as 'umbellifers', because of their umbel-shaped (umbrella like) blooms.
Celery's superfood status goes back to 370 BC. Greek physician Hippocrates used to prescribe it to treat nervous disorders. Historians claim he thought it had the potential to calm patients and help them fall soundly to sleep. Now that we understand more about nutrition, this is most likely true due to celery's soothing magnesium content.
Let's look at its other benefits. Besides manganese, celery is rich in a whole range of vitamins and minerals and boasts a low glycemic score. It's particularly beneficial for our recommended intake of the following:
- vitamin A
- vitamin K
- vitamin C
- vitamin B6
Celery is also low in sodium and its low GI score ensures it has a slow, steady effect on our blood sugar. It also contains heaps of water. In fact 95% of celery's structure is water, so you can be sure you're hydrating aplenty whilst eating it.
Many naturopaths and dieticians (myself included) attribute skin conditions to an underlying problem with a 'leaky gut'. Improving the lining of the stomach can be extra beneficial for those of us with eczema and psoriasis, and pectin is showing promising in recent research when it comes to balanced gut microflora.
Just like apples and pears, celery contains pectin. The polysaccharide compounds found in celery, include something known as 'apiuman'. These have been shown to improve the lining of the stomach and even reduce stomach ulcers in animals.
Besides good gut health, if you're struggling with an inflammatory skin condition such as acne, eczema or psoriasis, it's really important to focus on a diet filled with hydrating, anti-inflammatory foods. The phytonutrients in celery have been shown to reduce instances of inflammation in the digestive tract, cells, blood vessels, and organs.
So all in all celery does pretty much sound like a skin soothing superfood!
Love it or Loathe it?
I personally love the taste of celery. If I had to describe it, I guess I'd say it's a mild but strong taste at the same time. Very salad'y, ever so slightly onion'y, it's juicy, but also sweet yet salty .. in fact it's one of the most difficult flavours to describe!
I do know it's a divisive taste. Some people love it, others can't stand it. If you're in the first camp, celery is one of the quickest and healthiest snacks you can enjoy. Chopped stalks, a pot of hummus and you're sorted! It's great for picnics, buffet tables, kids parties and easy between-meal fillers! So easy in fact that I've got a bowlful on the go whilst I'm writing.
If you're not a celery fan, disguising the taste is doable:
- Juiced with other greens
- Blended into vegetable soups
- Snuck into homemade stock
- Hidden in stir fries
So, we know it's full of vitamins and nutrients, we get that it's probably good for us, but what do official studies suggest? Research so far backs up all of the above. In fact this study published two years before Anthony Williams sent the world into a celery super spin, specifically states "It is clear that celery, with different compounds and diverse concentration can have varied healing effects."
And it isn't just a single study, there's heaps of official evidence out there that suggests it could be massively beneficial for us to add celery to our everyday diet. Amongst its purported benefits, celery can:
- prevent cardiovascular diseases according to this study
- fight jaundice, liver and lien diseases according to this study
- reduce urinary tract obstruction according to this study
- fight gout according to this study
- lower rheumatic disorders according to this study
- increase sperm production according to this study
- improve fertility according to this study
- reduce glucose and blood lipids according to this study
- lower blood pressure, which can strengthen the heart this study
- it's antifungal according to this study
- it's anti-inflammatory according to this study
- it's antibacterial according to this study
- reduce bronchitis according to this study
- aid chronic skin disorders such as psoriasis according to this study
Okay, so reading that list, perhaps Mr Williams had a point when he called it 'The Most Powerful Medicine of Our Time'! Celery has to be one of the most studied vegetables I've ever seen, and looking at the pages of research supporting its health properties, one of the most beneficial.
Celery for Skin Conditions and Allergies
Alongside its natural healing benefits for inflammatory skin conditions, celery contains two beneficial antioxidants called luteolin and apigenin. This 2017 study looked at whether luteolin could reduce inflammation and lower allergic responses in mice with asthma. Results went on to show that giving the mice luteolin half an hour before exposing them to an allergen, significantly reduced the levels of inflammation within their lungs and nasal passages.
Interestingly, particularly for those of us with autoimmune skin conditions, the second antioxidant 'apigenin' has been proven to offer a natural immunosuppressive impact. It does this by interrupting the transportation and signaling capabilities of cells that trigger inflammation. This study, conducted around the same time, showed less arthritic tissue inflammation in mice treated with apigenin, which in turn resulted in delayed onset and reduced severity of arthritis.
Celery Side Effects
With all these wonderful studies supporting celery's status as a superfood, are there any problems we should be aware of?
Celery contains the chemical psoralen, which reacts to sunlight. Eating large quantities of celery and other foods high in psoralen, or increased sensitivity to psoralen, may increase the skin’s susceptibility to ultraviolet light, increasing the risk of dermatitis, sun damage, and photoaging.
Somebody who is extra sensitive to psoralen, might find that even touching psoralen-rich foods can cause skin irritation.
Celery is also a labelled allergen in the UK. A celery allergy can trigger a range of symptoms, including skin rashes, digestive upsets, and respiratory problems. In extremely rare cases, celery can potentially lead to a deadly allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. If you feel your tongue swelling or throat tightening after eating celery, if you experience nausea or a feeling of dizziness, please seek medical help immediately.
Medical Medium suggests drinking near on 500ml of organic celery on an empty stomach each morning. That's almost a full pint of celery juice! Even as a hardcore celery lover, it feels like a lot. Whilst necking celery neat is an option, I prefer to add a little apple and lemon to make it taste even better.
- 4 stalks of celery
- 1 apple (2 if you need more sweetness)
- 1/2 a lemon
- Small chunk of ginger
METHOD: Run everything through the juicer, pour over ice and serve cold
If you are simple not a fan of celery or struggle to buy it locally where you are, there are plenty of other vegetables offering a nice range of nutrients. Try adding these to recipes if celery isn't an option for you
- Fennel (stalks and bulbs can both be used)
- Scallions or green onions
- Fresh salad leaves
- Leafy greens such as spinach or kale
Do you enjoy celery? Or is it one of those vegetables you just don't like? Here in the UK it's easy to get hold of and relatively inexpensive all year round. Let me know if you add it to your diet regularly in the comments below.