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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

Why you should think about incorporating celery into your food plans

The taste isn’t unpleasant and is less intense than you might expect, with a light, clean, vaguely grassy flavour that feels like it should do you some good

Prepare a healthy lunch box with tuna-salad-stuffed celery, crackers and fruit. Mona Al Marzooqi for The National 
Prepare a healthy lunch box with tuna-salad-stuffed celery, crackers and fruit. Mona Al Marzooqi for The National 

Move over, kale; get out of here, broccolini; see you later, baby spinach: celery is having its time in the culinary sun. Well, to be more specific, it’s actually celery juice that’s dominating the foodie zeitgeist.

Over the last few months, images of bright green juices have popped up all over social media, with health-food influencers, celebrities and even regular people like you and me clamouring to share shots of their verdant-coloured drinks.

The Celery Juice Challenge, which encourages participants to sip on about 475ml of freshly blitzed celery juice first thing in the morning, has been gaining traction; #CeleryJuice has been used more than 100,000 times on Instagram.

The craze can be traced, at least in part, to best­-selling author and vocal proponent of natural food cures Anthony William, otherwise known as the Medical Medium. William has long been an advocate of celery juice as a superfood and was lauding the vegetable’s ability to improve your health back when the rest of us were still dodging it in the salad bowl.

In order to see maximum results, William’s approach has a few caveats: the drink must be freshly made and consumed on an empty stomach, straight up – no ice allowed, let alone any other additional ingredients. You then need to wait at least 15 minutes before eating or drinking anything else.

It’s worth noting that William is not a qualified doctor, but according to him, the benefits of drinking celery juice include easing the symptoms of migraines, liver detoxification, improved gut and skin health, weight loss, and lower blood pressure.

How accurate those claims are is up for debate.

Sounds too good to be true?

Most nutritional experts tend to agree that William’s ardent belief in the healing properties of the vegetable, particularly those surrounding its ability to combat the pathogens that cause illnesses such as Lyme Disease, are unconventional to say the least and best taken with a pinch of (celery) salt.

That said, there’s no denying that celery is low in calories, contains beneficial antioxidants, fibre, a notable amount of vitamin K (although not as much as kale, when compared like for like), and has a high water count, making it a hydrating food choice, if nothing else. In short, there are certainly worse ways to start the day from a health perspective, and embracing the celery juice trend certainly isn’t going to do you any harm.

How to try it and matters of taste

Despite the plethora of juice bars, wellness spots and healthy-eating cafes dotted around the UAE, at the moment pure celery juice isn’t particularly easy to get hold of. Salama Khalifa, the founder and managing director of Soil Store, an online organic health food shop in Abu Dhabi, says that when they put pure celery juice on the menu a few weeks ago, the company believed it was the first shop in the region to have done so.

Khalifa adds that the response to the juice has been overwhelmingly positive. While plenty of customers were on board with the idea already, most of Soil Store’s focus has been on highlighting the benefits of the drink, with a view to convincing sceptics to take a first sip.

People are really surprised by how good it tastes. Once they try it, we find customers coming back and saying that they’d drink it for the flavour alone, regardless of the health benefits, of which there are many.

Salama Khalifa

“People are really surprised by how good it tastes,” she explains. “Once they try it, we find customers coming back and saying that they’d drink it for the flavour alone, regardless of the health benefits, of which there are many.”

Providing you’ve got the right kit, it’s easy to make celery juice at home. You’ll need a medium bunch of celery to make the requisite 475ml – either push the sticks through a juicer and drink immediately, or finely chop and then blitz them in a blender, and strain the juice through a sieve before sipping.

The taste isn’t unpleasant by any means and is less intense than you might expect, with a light, clean, vaguely grassy flavour that ­certainly feels as though it should do you some good.

Don’t fancy drinking it?

If you’re keen to add a dose of celery to your diet, but don’t want to go down the juicing route, it’s worth making the ingredient the hero of a dish, rather the throwing it into a soup or salad as a token gesture. A baked celery gratin topped with a crispy layer of breadcrumbs and Parmesan might not be the most virtuous of options, but it certainly is delicious.

Alternatively, slice a head of celery in half lengthways, and braise slowly in chicken or vegetable stock; or trim the stalks and sear in a hot griddle pan (or on the ­barbecue) until charred and serve with chunks of feta, dried cranberries and smoked-paprika-dusted almonds.

Updated: March 12, 2019 04:26 PM

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