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Heard the one about celery juice?

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If you spend any time on social media, you’ve likely come across this latest trend of people drinking celery juice. ‘Wellness bloggers’ are touting the benefits of it, backed up with some pseudoscientific claims’ about its properties.

Where did this come from? We’re not really sure. So, let’s look at facts.

Celery, like many plant foods, contains compounds that we don’t actually need for nutrition the way we do vitamins and minerals. However, these compounds may not necessarily be essential to life, but they have often been termed ‘lifespan essential’, meaning the more we have them in our diet, the more they help us live hale and hearty.

This is because while they may not be vitamins and minerals, they do have biological activity in the body. And these activities may include acting as antioxidants, helping to fight inflammation, and helping the immune system. However, there is a really important feature to how they act that is always forgotten when it comes to a fad to drink or eat loads of one food: they act at very low doses.

That’s right. Because we evolved eating food, our adaptations to these compounds is relative to the amounts that we would ordinarily get through eating food. Now, you probably couldn’t eat 5 apples at once, but you could drink them. You couldn’t eat two whole celery bunches, but you could drink them. The point here is that this idea of condensing loads of a certain food into a concentrated amount sounds great in theory, but guess what: you can have too much of a good thing. For some reason people don’t think this applies to food, but it does. Because the activity of many of these compounds occurs at low doses, high doses often mean they have the opposite effect to the lose dose effects.

Bottom line: don’t fall prey to the hype about a single food: this isn’t how nutrition works. Diet is always the sum of its parts, and a broad range of nutrients and other food compounds is always more beneficial than high levels of a single one, due to the synergy between nutrients and compounds.

So, by all means chop up a stalk of celery or two into salads, or spread some almond butter on them for a lighter snack.

Just do not go drinking the plant. It’s pointless. Think food first. And when anything seems too good to be true in nutrition, it is.