Wheatgrass shots- dark green juice shots squeezed from young wheat shoots- have become incredibly popular recently. But are they a health miracle or another marketing myth?
Does wheatgrass boost red blood cell production and flood your tissues with oxygen? Nonsense- there is no scientific evidence supporting this claim. Chlorophyll (a compound found in green plants and involved in photosynthesis) has a similar structure to haemoglobin ( a protein which enables human red blood cells to carry oxygen around our bodies). Fans of wheatgrass claim that it is the best dietary source of chlorophyll (not true- chlorophyll is found in similar concentrations in many green vegetables), and that due to its structural similarity to haemoglobin, drinking wheatgrass will ‘flood your tissues with oxygen’.
However, the key difference is that haemoglobin contains a molecule of iron at the centre of the structure, whereas chlorophyll contains a molecule of magnesium. It is this iron that gives haemoblobin its characteristic oxygen-binding capacity. The same cannot be said for chlorophyll.
Is the claim that ‘a 30ml shot of Wheatgrass equal in nutrients to 1kg of good quality vegetables’ valid?
No. Nutritional analyses have shown that pound for pound, wheatgrass is just as good as common green vegetables such as broccoli or spinach. Its also worth noting that you can purchase 200g of spinach from your local supermarket for £1-you’ll only get half the amount of wheatgrass (100g) at a much bigger cost (£9.99) at Holland Barrett.
Does wheatgrass reduce colon inflammation?
A small study from 2002 reported an improvement of symptoms in patients with ulcerative colitis, after drinking 100ml of wheatgrass daily juice for a month. However, the study involved only 21 people and the positive results could have been simply down to chance. As such, the evidence is inconclusive (NHS, 2017).
Verdict: There is no such thing as a ‘superfood’, and there is a lack of scientific evidence to support the recommendation of wheatgrass over any other fruit or vegetables in terms of nutrition.
Although a single shot of wheatgrass won’t count as one of your 5-A-DAY, if you’re a big fan, there’s no harm in including it in a balanced diet.