Gut health has become an increasingly popular topic in recent years. An unhealthy gut can contribute to inflammation, digestive issues, autoimmune diseases, and even mental health problems. With gut health in the spotlight, many people are looking for ways to clean up their gut naturally. Celery has emerged as one potential gut-cleansing food. But can munching on celery stalks actually cleanse your gut? Let’s take a closer look at the evidence.
What is Celery?
Celery is a marshland plant that has been grown as a vegetable since ancient times. Celery belongs to the Apiaceae plant family, along with carrots, parsley, and other herbs. The Apiaceae family is characterized by aromatic leaves and hollow stems. There are three main types of celery:
- Leaf celery – Grown for its leaves and seeds
- Celeriac – Grown for its root
- Stalk celery – Grown for its crisp, edible stalks
When people refer to celery, they are usually talking about stalk celery. The stalks can be eaten raw or cooked. Celery leaves and seeds can also be used as seasoning.
Nutrients in Celery
Celery is made up of mostly water. But this crisp, low-calorie vegetable also provides some important nutrients:
|Nutrient||Amount Per 1 Cup Raw Celery|
|Vitamin K||31% DV|
Some key nutrients in celery:
- Fiber – Celery provides insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and helps food pass more quickly through the digestive tract.
- Vitamin K – This fat-soluble vitamin supports bone health and blood clotting.
- Folate – Also known as vitamin B9, folate is important for cellular growth and development.
- Potassium – An essential mineral that supports nerve transmission, muscle contractions, and heart function.
In addition to nutrients, celery contains antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols. These compounds can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Celery also contains phytochemicals that may have anti-cancer effects.
Does Celery Support Gut Health?
Now that we know a bit about celery, let’s look at some of the evidence related to celery and gut health:
As mentioned earlier, celery provides insoluble fiber. This type of fiber does not dissolve in water; it passes through the digestive system relatively intact. Insoluble fiber bulks up stool and decreases transit time in the digestive tract. This can help reduce constipation by allowing waste to pass more quickly.
Multiple studies have found insoluble fiber supplements like wheat bran can help reduce symptoms of constipation and normalize bowel movements. Based on its insoluble fiber content, celery may provide some relief for constipation when consumed regularly.
Celery contains a type of soluble fiber called pectin. Pectin is considered a prebiotic, meaning it provides fuel for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. When pectin passes through the small intestine undigested, it can be fermented by gut bacteria in the large intestine. This fermentation process supports the growth of helpful bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
Human studies have found pectin supplements can increase short-chain fatty acids and beneficial gut bacteria. Celery is not as high in pectin as some fruits. But munching on raw celery may still give your gut microbes a health boost.
Chronic inflammation is detrimental to gut health. Compounds in celery called luteolin and polyacetylenes have demonstrated anti-inflammatory abilities in animal studies. The antioxidants in celery may also help lower inflammation by reducing oxidative stress.
However, human studies are needed to determine whether celery consumption directly reduces inflammation in the gut and body.
Impact on Stomach Ulcers
One rat study found celery extract had protective effects against stomach ulcers. Celery extract appeared to help reduce injury to the gastric lining while also inhibiting the bacteria H. pylori, a common culprit behind ulcers. This study suggests celery could aid in preventing or healing ulcers. But again, more research is needed, particularly in humans.
Other Potential Benefits
In addition to possible gut benefits, research suggests celery may also:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce cholesterol levels
- Have antimicrobial properties
- Support liver health
- Provide antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress
However, larger and more robust human studies are still needed.
Downsides of Eating Celery
Celery is considered very healthy and safe for most people. However, there are a few downsides to consider:
- Allergies – Celery allergies are fairly common. They are caused by birch pollen cross-reacting with celery. Oral allergy syndrome is also possible.
- Pesticide residues – Celery’s porous structure makes it prone to holding onto pesticide residues. Buying organic or washing carefully can help.
- Sensitivity – Some people may experience bloating or discomfort when eating large amounts of raw celery due to celery’s insoluble fiber content.
- Blood-thinning effects – Celery contains coumarin, which acts as a natural blood thinner. People on blood thinners should keep this in mind.
Overall, celery is safe to consume and provides nutrients and fiber that can benefit most people. But some individuals may need to exercise caution regarding overconsumption.
Does Celery Juice Offer the Same Benefits?
Drinking straight celery juice has become trendy lately, often touted as a gut health cure-all. Proponents claim celery juice contains anti-inflammatory properties and gut-healing compounds.
However, there is very limited evidence behind these bold claims. Juicing celery does remove the valuable insoluble fiber. The nutrients in celery juice are also more prone to oxidation.
The bottom line is celery juice may provide antioxidants, but research has not confirmed specific benefits. For most people, eating whole celery stalks would provide more overall nutrition and fiber. Of course, drinking celery juice a few times a week is unlikely to cause harm for most individuals.
How to Incorporate More Celery Into Your Diet
Given the potential digestive and anti-inflammatory benefits, it’s worth incorporating more celery into your diet. Here are some simple ways to do that:
- Chop celery into tuna or egg salad
- Add diced celery to soups, stews, and chili
- Slice celery into mixed green salads
- Stuff celery stalks with nut butter or hummus
- Garnish completed dishes with chopped celery leaves
- Juice celery along with fruits/veggies like apples, carrots, cucumber
- Roast chopped celery with carrots and onions
Aim for 1-2 cups per week to reap the benefits of celery’s nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants. Select crisp, bright green stalks free of spots or blemishes. Store wrapped celery in the refrigerator for 7-10 days max. Enjoy celery raw or lightly cooked to get the most nutrients.
The Bottom Line
Here is a quick summary of the evidence on celery and gut health:
- Celery provides insoluble fiber that can relieve constipation by adding bulk to stool.
- Compounds like luteolin and antioxidant flavonoids may reduce inflammation.
- Pectin acts as a prebiotic by feeding beneficial bacteria.
- Animal studies suggest celery extract may protect against stomach ulcers.
- Juicing removes valuable insoluble fiber, and benefits are unproven.
- Most experts recommend eating 1-2 cups of chopped celery per week.
Overall, research indicates components in celery may help promote a healthy gut by increasing beneficial bacteria, reducing inflammation, and relieving constipation. However, human data is still limited. Celery appears safe for most people when consumed in moderation. But individuals with allergies or on blood thinners should exercise caution.
The Bottom Line
While celery may not “cleanse” your gut as some claims suggest, adding a few stalks to your diet each week offers a range of potential benefits. Celery provides essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber—all supporting overall health. So next time you go grocery shopping, reach for the celery and start reaping the gut and body benefits of this crisp, hydrating vegetable.