If you frequent juice shops, you’ve likely heard of wheatgrass shots, tiny servings of bitter juice made from young grass blades. Like its name implies, a wheatgrass shot is a nutrient-dense drink made from young grass that’s blended or juiced. Its main draw is its high concentration of chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants that’s suspected to fight inflammation due to its antioxidant benefits; wheatgrass is made up of over 70% chlorophyll.
You might be tempted to treat a wheatgrass shot as an ideal way to start your morning, but resist that urge to treat it as breakfast. “It is in no way a meal,” says Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, M.S., R.D.N., founder of health service 360 Girls and Women. “It’s more like a snack or a side salad.” Unless you add more ingredients, like you would with a smoothie, you cannot treat wheatgrass shots as substantial food.
That said, the drink has become popular over the years because wheatgrass is said to reduce blood sugar levels, give skin a radiant glow, and aid weight loss—but is there any evidence behind these claims?
Are wheatgrass shots healthy?
Although it would be fantastic to fight aging and lose weight with a daily shot of green juice, the idea of a chlorophyll potion sounds too good to be true—and that’s because it kind of is. For now, more research is needed before the many health claims surrounding wheatgrass shots can be substantiated, Anderson-Haynes explains. Wheatgrass is inherently nutritious, as it contains amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but because there have been so few human studies on it, it’s unclear what a shot of the stuff actually does.
The little research so far has shown some promise, but not without caveats. One 2001 study found that chlorophyllin (a derivative of the antioxidant found in wheatgrass) might trap carcinogens in the gut—but only when study participants ingested 100 milligrams three times a day for four months, so not exactly practical. Swedish scientists discovered that chlorophyll supplements (so, not the same as taking an occasional shot of the stuff) seemingly reduced hunger, but the study only included 20 overweight women who ate meals high in carbs.
Experts don’t really know enough to have an official stance on the wheatgrass shots, says Shereen Lehman, M.S., adjunct faculty member at the University of Bridgeport Human Nutrition Institute. “There are few human studies on the benefits of wheatgrass, and scientists have yet to figure out if humans can benefit and how much they’d need to consume for better health.”
Should you take wheatgrass shots?
The jury’s still out on whether or not wheatgrass shots are beneficial, but no research has found them to be harmful to most people. Anderson-Haynes recommends increasing vegetable intake in general—if you choose to do it with wheatgrass shots, you’ll probably still reap the rewards of eating more plants, as long as you ingest them in moderation.
Some people might want to avoid wheatgrass, however. Pregnant or breastfeeding women might want to consider skipping it out of an abundance of caution, due to limited research. Those with celiac disease or who are avoiding gluten should also think twice about wheatgrass: “It is gluten-free, but it can be contaminated during harvesting with other wheats,” Anderson-Haynes warns.
Hoping to replicate the chlorophyll, vitamins, and fiber found in wheatgrass without having to drink it? “If you’re trying to match the profile of wheatgrass, I would say it’s very similar to green, leafy vegetables,” which also contain chlorophyll, Anderson-Haynes explains. So instead of mainlining young grass, you can also throw kale, spinach, or arugula into your smoothies or recipes—not to mention simply eating more veggies and fruits of all kinds.
What’s it really like to take a wheatgrass shot?
The official verdict may still be out, but there are enough devoted fans out there to make us want to try it for myself. Here’s what happened when I took a wheatgrass shot every morning for two weeks: