Wheatgrass is hailed by some as a superfood capable of performing miracles. Decide if it’s right for you using this guide to the health benefits of wheatgrass.
Wheatgrass is the grass shoots of a common wheat plant called Triticum aestivum. Though it has been used as a dietary supplement since the time of ancient Egypt, wheatgrass didn’t enter Western diets until the 1930s. The plant has been hailed by a number of natural health advocates as having a significantly positive impact on health. Some of the purported health benefits of wheatgrass include increasing red blood cell count, neutralizing toxins in the body, improving skin health, and various anti-aging benefits such as returning grey hair back to its normal color.
Purported Benefits of Wheatgrass
According to the American Cancer Society, advocates of wheatgrass believe regular consumption of this dietary supplement can treat a number of medical issues including:
- Chronic skin problems like eczema, also treat eczema with coconut oil
For more nutritious superfoods checkout our 50 Best Superfoods of 2015. A post on the Hippocrates Health Institute website, a natural health facility run by doctors, claims the health benefits of wheatgrass shots, powder, and tea include treating ulcerative colitis and other gastrointestinal problems, detoxifying the liver and bloodstream, fighting tumors, reducing the acidity of blood, rejuvenating aging cells and slowing the aging process, strengthening immunity, and lessening the effect of radiation. It is believed that chlorophyll, the pigment that turns plants green, contains beneficial properties that help the body attain these results. For more chlorophyl try arugula and parsley.
The Science of Wheatgrass
One study published in the Indian Pediatrics journal noted patients in the thalassemia unit required fewer blood transfusions when they drank 100 milliliters of wheatgrass. Another study conducted in 2002 found that people with ulcerative colitis who drank three ounces of wheatgrass juice each day for thirty days experienced fewer symptoms of the disease such as diarrhea and rectal pain. A third study conducted on sixty breast cancer patients found wheatgrass juice appeared to reduce chemotherapy dosage and myelotoxicity. However, this last study requires further testing to confirm the results.
Besides chlorophyll, wheatgrass has a number of other nutrients that are beneficial to the body.
- Vitamin A: Beneficial to skin and eyes, for more try carrots
- Vitamin C: Gives the immune system a boost
- Iron: Improves blood production, for more try mulberries
- Vitamin E: An antioxidant that promotes healthy skin and muscle growth
- Potassium: Can reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke
- Vitamin B12: Involved in healthy brain function
- Zinc: Promotes sexual health
- Phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium: Help strengthen bones
The grass only contains fifteen calories per three grams and like brazil nuts, is a good source of fiber, which can help keep you regular as well as promote satiety. Wheatgrass has no fat but does contain some protein.
Ways to Consume Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass can be consumed in several ways. People commonly drink it as a juice, either purchasing it at a juice bar or squeezing it fresh themselves. You can also purchase it as a powder or tea. The health benefits of wheatgrass powder and tea are believed to be relatively the same as fresh squeezed juice. Some of the vital nutrients may be lost during processing, however. No matter how you drink it, wheatgrass juice should always be consumed raw to maximize the amount of nutrients obtained from the plant.
Growing and Storing Wheatgrass
Many people who consume the juice of this plant grow it themselves either in an outdoor garden or in potted plants indoors. The quality of the grass obtain depends on the care and quality of soil the plants are grown in. Typically, you want to harvest the grass when a second shoot starts to grow on the blades, about seven to twelve days after planting. The cut grass can be stored for up to fourteen days in the refrigerator. Wheatgrass is also sold as a powder or tea, and both can be purchased at natural food stores. The powder and tea should be placed in resealable containers and stored a cool, dry place to preserve freshness. It’s best to use the powder by the expiration date on the container and discard once the date has passed.
Side Effects & Health Concerns
In general, wheatgrass is considered safe for the average person to consume. However, some people have reported feeling nauseous, being constipated, or getting headaches after drinking the juice. Since the plant is used in its raw state, the primary concern is you may become ill if you drink juice from a plant that has been contaminated with bacteria, mold, or another substance. To reduce this risk, it’s best to grow your own wheatgrass or obtain it from places that practice good food safety. Another concern is the possibility of an allergic reaction. If you experience throat swelling, break out in hives, or have other signs of an allergy to the plant, seek immediate medical attention. There isn’t enough information about the effect on or health benefits of wheatgrass for fetuses or infants, so women who are pregnant or nursing are advised to avoid consuming wheatgrass or at least seek medical advice before doing so.