Can Celery Juice Affect Your Gut Health? Here's What Science Says
It seems like there's a new Instagram craze every week, and right now, the internet is quietly obsessed with celery juice: juiced celery sticks, drunk without adornment, for purported nutritional boosts and health-giving properties. Among the many claims about its benefits is the idea that it can help the gut microbiome: the combination of bacteria and other microflora that keep our intestines and guts working happily. But to figure out whether this claim is true, we need to go to the science.
Celery juice itself, like all vegetable juices, can't heal all wounds and isn't a miracle cure; it is, after all, just the green, crunchy stuff that tastes so nice with peanut butter. (As does everything.) It's always important to separate the truth from the hype when it comes to health trends, particularly if the claims being made aren't backed up by properly conducted studies by reputable scientists. Rest assured, there's no big celery conspiracy; it's not going to hurt you (unless you're allergic to it). But its effects on gut health may be greatly over-exaggerated, and it's important to note that the human gut is a very complex and individual thing. Here is what science says about celery juice and gut health.
1An Ingredient May Help Gut Inflammation
The core of the hype around celery juice and the gut is centered on something called luteolin. Luteolin isn't just found in celery; it's also abundant in carrots, peppers, olive oil, peppermint, and rosemary, according to a study in Nutrition Research Reviews. And it's known to have positive health effects, both in the gut and elsewhere.
A study in 2015 found that luteolin inhibits gut inflammation in mice, particularly in the cells that line the intestine, while a review of the science around luteolin in 2016 noted that it promotes "antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-cancer activities" in human bodies, and that it interferes with the signaling of genes that promote inflammatory activity.
But there hasn't been a study on how a daily dose of celery juice, for instance, might affect luteolin activity in the gut; all these studies used pure luteolin on its own. You're likely only getting a little bit of luteolin in your celery juice dosage daily, and science doesn't know if that's enough to do anything to gut inflammation.
2Another Compound Might Help Too — But Its Benefits Are Largely Elsewhere
The other compound to know when talking about celery juice and the gut is pyrroloquinoline quinone, or PQQ for short. PQQ is one of those substances we absorb mostly from our diet; it appears in celery, but it's actually found in greater quantities in broad beans, soybeans, potatoes, parsley, cabbage and carrots, according to a 1995 study.
A 2013 study found that PQQ is good at lowering levels of inflammation in humans, and has effects on substances like IL-6, a pro-inflammatory protein that's linked to various kinds of gut bacteria. It's difficult to track precisely how PQQ might affect our guts, though; studies have shown that PQQ supplements help gut health in pigs, for instance. But a lot of the work done on PQQ focuses on other health benefits, like its ability to help the liver recover from damage caused by alcohol abuse.
3It Has Nutritional Value — Like Many Other Vegetables
The nutrients found in celery are positive. “Many people think of celery as a throw-away veggie with no nutritional value. But it actually packs some key health-protective nutrients. In addition to being low in calories and a source of fiber, celery provides some folate, vitamin K, potassium, and antioxidants," nutritionist Cynthia Sass told Health. Vitamin K is associated with a healthy gut, as is a good dose of dietary fiber.
However, when it comes to your vitamin K dose, other vegetables are actually a better bet than celery. Kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, lettuce and broccoli all have more vitamin K than celery, according to Healthline; in fact, if you're in search of a vitamin K boost in your juice, it's actually better to go with parsley.
4The Fiber Can Be Lost In Juicing
When it comes to a particular health benefit of celery, your gut may actually lose out if you choose to juice. Juicing, according to the Mayo Clinic, often removes the healthy fibers from fruits and vegetables — and, as we've just seen, fiber is one of the biggest keys to gut health. "Whatever happened to chewing?" lamented nutritionist Lisa Young about celery juice in The Atlantic in 2018. Fiber is the primary fuel source for many of the microbes in our guts, so stripping out the fiber from celery by juicing it rids your gut of an essential boost.
If you do want to get a fiber dose, celery juice is definitely less useful than whole celery — and it's not even the highest-fiber vegetable out there. Artichokes, beetroot, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts have more fiber.
Celery juice may not be reaching its full potential as a gut booster. A study in 2008 found that celery juice has great potential as a probiotic drink: in other words, as one enriched with strains of bacteria that will multiply in the gut and help us remain healthy. Probiotic drinks aren't a cure-all either, but they've been proven to help gut health in some instances.
Plain old celery juice on its own doesn't have these bacterial strains. It has some useful ingredients for gut health, but includes them in low doses, and stripping out the fiber from celery by juicing isn't great for the gut microbiome. Overall, you're not hindering your gut by drinking celery juice, and may be lowering some inflammation overall — but you also won't be producing a miracle.