used to be synonymous with pulverized wheatgrass
. You’d walk into a smoothie bar, where a college kid greeted you with a sample of monster green liquid. It smelled as earthy as it looked, and it tasted exactly as it smelled. Despite the obvious reasons not to, you went ahead and took the shot every time. After all, it’s a quick and painless price to pay for your health. And in a world full of environmental toxins and constant stress, you’d do anything to feel clean and look lean. Maybe wellness shots are the way to go…or, maybe not. What are wellness shots, anyway? Do they really have the power to cleanse your body, boost your energy or strengthen your immune system?
What Are Wellness Shots?
While the selection of wellness shots has certainly evolved over the years, the essence is still there – in all its bitter, hold-your-nose glory. Wellness shots are concentrated juices made from whole-food-based ingredients. The focus is on fruits, vegetables and other ingredients that have well-known health properties, such as ginger or turmeric root
. If that sounds a lot like cold-pressed juices that’s because it is. Wellness shots are simply cold-pressed juices served in much smaller quantities – typically two ounces.
The Pros and Cons: Weighing Wellness Shot Benefits
You can tolerate two ounces of just about anything and gladly would if it promised to promote your health and wellbeing. Since wellness shots seem to be the epitome of health (it’s even in the name), you’d think they’re a no-brainer. But it’s always a good idea to look a little deeper, especially when something sounds too good to be true.
Here are the pros and cons of wellness shots:
The drawbacks of wellness shots
Many companies use orange juice or apple juice in their wellness shots. These additives increase the overall volume so your wellness shot is actually a shot’s worth. Unfortunately, this also adds unnecessary sugar to the mix. The best way to avoid added sugar is to create your own wellness shot recipe
at home. You’ll not only save yourself the empty calories, but will spare your wallet a few bucks to boot!
Lack of nutritional significance
If you’re familiar with the benefits of juicing
, you have an idea of what wellness shots claim to offer (namely, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants). The problem is that wellness shots are limited by their size. Unless you’re throwing back multiple wellness shots per day, the smaller volume is simply not enough to supplement a lackluster diet. An actual multivitamin supplement
would provide more of your daily nutrient needs.
Ever noticed how fruits and vegetables fill you up faster than a piece of white bread? That’s all because of fiber. Fiber absorbs water in the intestines to help you feel full. It can also help lower the glycemic load of certain carbohydrates and reduce blood sugar spikes. Soluble fiber, in particular, serves as a prebiotic that feeds the “good” bacteria in your gut. Meanwhile, insoluble fiber helps bulk up stool and promotes regularity. This is all wonderful news. The problem is wellness shots don’t provide any of that. Fiber is lost in the process of juicing fruits and vegetables.
The health benefits of wellness shots
As contradictory as it sounds, the lack of fiber in wellness shots can also be considered a benefit. Fiber is bulky and slows down digestion. Too much fiber can also be irritating to sensitive stomachs. Without it, micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) can be quickly and smoothly absorbed. If your diet supplies other sources of fiber – whole grains, nuts
, legumes – you might appreciate consuming fruits and vegetables in this gentler form.
Wellness shots may not offer enough
vitamins and minerals to cover your daily needs. But that doesn’t mean they have zero
nutritional value. Wellness shots are made with health-promoting ingredients. Some of those ingredients you may not enjoy in their whole-food form, such as ginger root or wheatgrass. By turning the root into a ginger shot, it becomes much more palatable.
Should You Give it a Shot?
Below are the most popular ingredients found in wellness shots. Read up on what science says these nutrients can – and cannot
– do. From there, you can make a more informed decision about your favorite wellness shots and what you might put in them.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Give it a shot?
Yes, with caution.
The rumors that apple cider vinegar can support weight loss may have some truth to them. While more research is needed, a few studies have found a link between apple cider vinegar and weight loss. A 2009 study from Japan
concluded “daily intake of vinegar might be useful in the prevention of metabolic syndrome by reducing obesity.”
It’s important to note that the participants consumed a large amount of vinegar (500 mL, 15 mL or 30 mL) each day – much more than you would consume in a wellness shot. Equally as important is the health of your teeth. Because of its acidity, consuming any amount of vinegar on a daily basis can wear away at your enamel.
There are also apple cider vinegar studies
that support its role in lowering blood sugar levels. The results seem to work best with type-2 diabetics. On the other hand, type-1 diabetics may have an adverse reaction. It’s also not entirely clear if apple cider vinegar can help maintain
balanced blood sugar levels, or if the effects are temporary.
Give it a shot?
Yes, but not every day.
Capsaicin, the active compound in cayenne pepper, is well-studied with regards to weight management. Typically, studies have focused on large quantities of red pepper consumption, which would not apply to the average person. But a small randomized trial from 2011
found that even one gram of red pepper can increase energy expenditure and decrease cravings for sweet, fatty or salty foods. The effects are greatest when you can actually smell and taste the heat versus taking pepper in capsule form.
One caveat: regular consumers of capsaicin showed a reduced benefit. As reported by the 2011 study: “Conversely, users who ate spicy foods at least three times per week, may have desensitized to the physiological effects of [red pepper] and established a new energy balance equilibrium.”
Give it a shot?
Ginger, specifically Zingiber officinalis
, has been touted for a host of health benefits – everything from anti-inflammatory to anti-cancer. While many of these claims have not
been well-researched, certain ones have. There are numerous studies
that have concluded ginger’s positive effect on nausea, vomiting, metabolic syndrome and pain. If you’re experiencing any gastrointestinal distress, including morning sickness
, a ginger shot may be just what you need.†
Give it a shot?
Like all citrus fruits, lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, which itself is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that fight cell-damaging free radicals. As such, antioxidants like vitamin C may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. A study published in June 2020
found that lemon juice with warm water can be used as a complementary treatment for hypertension. Hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD).†
With regards to cancer prevention, evidence is inconsistent and inconclusive. Plasma concentrations of vitamin C are lower in people with cancer than in healthy individuals. However, there’s not enough research to determine that increasing vitamin C intake has a preventative effect.
Generally speaking, increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and most types of cancer, which could be due to their vitamin C content
. Whether you get your vitamin C from lemon juice or other foods doesn’t matter. In other words, lemon juice does not offer any specific benefits not found in other fruits.
Give it a shot?
Tart cherry is a fruit that does
offer unique health properties. In addition to vitamin C and fiber, tart cherries have a high concentration of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a family of polyphenols, which provide significant antioxidant power. In fact, reducing oxidative stress is a common conclusion in human studies on the benefits of cherries
. Tart cherry, specifically, benefits athletes or those who regularly endure performance training. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
reported in 2016 that tart cherry supplementation resulted in 13% faster race times
for long-distance runners, because it helped reduce muscle breakdown and inflammation.
Tart cherries not only help muscles recover, but also promote a better night’s sleep for full-body recovery. A 2010 pilot study
of a tart cherry juice blend found that the beverage had “modest beneficial effects on sleep in older adults with insomnia.” Another study
found that two servings of concentrated tart cherry juice resulted in elevated melatonin and improved sleep. Tart cherries have a high concentration of melatonin. This, paired with their antioxidant properties, may be the reason for significantly reduced insomnia severity scores.
Give it a shot?
For centuries, turmeric has been used in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine, brightening up dishes with its yellow-orange hue and subtle spiciness. That beautiful color and tasty kick come from the active compound curcumin. Curcumin acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage. It’s also well known for its positive effects on inflammation and brain health.†
In January 2020, Nutrition Today
published a review of several human trials that determined curcuminoid extracts could be beneficial. That said, the research is inconclusive with regards to long-term safety and effectiveness. The review also noted that “culinary quantities of turmeric powder added to foods for sensory purposes are unlikely to provide meaningful health benefits for the conditions reviewed.” Basically, skip the turmeric shots and try a dietary supplement, instead.†
Give it a shot?
Wheatgrass is a popular addition to wellness shots, because it does provide an array of important nutrients. The green stuff is highly concentrated with chlorophyll, iron, calcium, magnesium and amino acids, as well as vitamins A, C and E. Beyond that, there is no significant research to support the health claims you may have heard. Wheatgrass does not rid the body of waste or kill harmful bacteria. Some people may even be allergic to it. Mayo Clinic
recommends those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance to check with your doctor before consuming wheatgrass, as it is part of the wheat family.
To sum it up, you’re getting a little bang for a lot of bucks. You’re better off spending your money on a pay-per-pound salad body. A bowl of greens offers a variety of flavor combinations and that oh-so-filling fiber you need to stay fuller longer. You’ll get to actually chew your food and be satisfied with it.
Take it All in
Never again will you wonder “what are wellness shots?” But what you do want to think about is their overall value. These two-ounce juice blends will not contribute significant amounts of vitamins and minerals to your diet. They may, however, be a good source of other nutrients you wouldn’t consume otherwise, like capsaicin or vinegar. Or, maybe you just feel
better when you drink a wellness shot. Some concoctions are truly refreshing. If it’s a regular ritual you enjoy, by all means, don’t throw away your shot!