Should I Include Celery in My Diet If I Have Type 2 Diabetes?

Celery has been a trendy vegetable in the health-food world for a long time. It's a low-calorie, low-sugar food that pairs well with dips and peanut butters. Recently, celery juice has taken center stage as beneficial to a handful of ailments. But is celery good for managing diabetes?

Celery sticks and hummus are a healthy, diabetes-friendly snack.
Image Credit: OlenaMykhaylova/iStock/GettyImages

What Makes Celery So Healthy?

Celery is so much more than a crunchy snack. A vegetable that originated from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, it provides many vitamins (such as vitamin C, vitamin K and folate), minerals (including calcium and magnesium), carotene, and fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Celery also contains flavonoids, a group of healthful plant chemicals found in fruits and veggies. According to an April 2017 study published in Critical Reviews in Biotechnology, some of the flavonoids found in celery have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.

Read more: The Disadvantages of Celery

Celery and Diabetes Management

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, and nearly 95 percent of them have type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's no wonder, then, that finding ways to manage diabetes symptoms is a priority.

"While most people see celery as a watery, negative calorie food, this crunchy vegetable is actually one I encourage many people to include in their diets, especially my patients with diabetes," says Casey Seiden, RD, a dietitian and author of Meal Prep for Two.

"Celery is a low-calorie vegetable that contains a variety of nutrients and polyphenols. High blood sugar levels, as are often present in people with diabetes, can cause a lot of inflammation in the body and lead to cardiovascular, eye and kidney complications. Celery's antioxidant compounds may help to decrease this inflammation," Seiden says.

A small number of preliminary studies, done only on animals, have intrigued researchers on the possible benefits of celery for those with Type 2 diabetes, but no major human studies have been done to confirm its effect on the disease. Two of these early studies — a June 2013 study in Journal of Rawalpindi Medical College and a March 2016 study in Acta Diabetologica — suggest that celery seed extract has a positive effect on diabetes management in rats, including decreased elevated blood sugars.

Another September 2015 animal study, published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Pathology, suggests that the flavonoid luteolin, a key nutrient in celery, may play a positive role in diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage.

Read more: The Risks of Eating Excess Celery

However, well-designed clinical trials using humans as subjects are needed to have a better understanding of celery's unique nutrients and how they might support people managing diabetes symptoms.

One such study, published in February 2018 in the Saudi Medical Journal, measured the effects of celery leaf on blood glucose and plasma insulin levels in elderly people who were prediabetic. This study provided an experimental group with celery leaf extract capsules for 12 days and compared outcomes with the group that did not receive supplements.

A decrease in both pre- and post-meal plasma glucose levels after celery leaf treatment was found, suggesting that celery leaf may be a simple addition to help manage diabetes symptoms. Considering that the sample size of this study was small (just 16 people) and this is the only recent study of note that evaluated celery leaf and its role in diabetes management, more research is needed to provide a definitive correlation.

The Bottom Line

Celery is a vegetable that's easily accessible, inexpensive and refreshing. Until there have been more well-designed clinical trials using humans as subjects, however, definitive claims cannot be made about celery consumption and diabetes management.

However, though the data remains limited, there's little downside to including more healthy vegetables like celery into your diet, regardless of a diabetes diagnosis. For instance, "pack some celery sticks and a dip like hummus for your afternoon snack," Seiden suggests. "Celery is also great to use as a base for soups, pasta sauces and roast chicken, so go ahead and throw some celery in the pot for better blood sugar."

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