Wheatgrass, the newly sprouted leaves of the common wheat plant (Triticum aestivum), has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. You can find it in juice bars and health food stores all across the United States. Most people consume it as a juice, taking a 1 to 2-ounce shot on its own or adding a shot to their favorite smoothie or juice recipe. You can also find it in powdered and supplement forms for sale at most health food and grocery stores.
While many farmers grow wheatgrass for animal feed, people are starting to purchase it or grow it themselves to incorporate it into their diets. It gets harvested early in its development, typically 7 to 10 days after planting. It may look like the grass in your front yard, but the young shoots of the wheat plant are packed with nutrients that may provide important health benefits.
Health food enthusiasts have talked about the health benefits of wheatgrass for years. While more research is needed to prove the claims, studies are finding that the young wheat may potentially provide several important benefits.
Wheatgrass is low in calories but high in nutrients, including antioxidants such as glutathione, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and protecting against health conditions like arthritis, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Health benefits of wheatgrass include:
With its antioxidant properties, wheatgrass may help to prevent cancer. Some studies are showing that it can help to kill cancer cells. Most of these studies are test-tube studies. Additional research is needed to prove the anti-cancer effects of wheatgrass.
One study suggests that wheatgrass may help to reduce the negative side effects of conventional cancer treatments. Again, more research is needed.
The chlorophyll in wheatgrass has antibacterial properties. Applied to the skin, it may help to treat burns and lesions by preventing infections. Some research also indicates that drinking wheatgrass juice may help treat antibiotic-resistant infections.
May Lower Cholesterol Levels
Several studies show the potential for wheatgrass to help lower cholesterol levels, which can then help to lower your risk of heart disease. The only studies available now, however, are animal studies. One study showed that wheatgrass could lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides similar to atorvastatin, a common cholesterol-lowering medication. While the results are promising, human studies are needed to determine if wheatgrass does actually have an impact on cholesterol levels.
Some studies show that wheatgrass may help to alleviate chronic inflammation, reducing your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease and cancer. One small study found that drinking a half of a cup of wheatgrass juice every day for one month helped to reduce bleeding in people with ulcerative colitis. Other, test-tube, studies show that the chlorophyll in wheatgrass may help to reduce inflammation in the body.
Aids in Healthy Digestion
Wheatgrass contains enzymes that help your body to break down food and absorb nutrients, which may aid in good digestion. Drinking wheatgrass juice may also help to detoxify your system, leading to reduced bloating, gas, and stomach upset.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Some research indicates that wheatgrass juice may help to regulate blood sugar levels, and help people with diabetes keep their blood sugar levels under control. As these studies involve rats, more research is needed with people to find if there is an actual link between wheatgrass and blood sugar management.
May Improve Cognitive Function
Wheatgrass may have neuroprotective properties, which means that it might help to improve cognitive functions and lower the risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Wheatgrass often gets called a superfood. It has many essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that provide important health benefits. Nutrients in wheatgrass include:
Nutrients Per Serving
A 1-ounce serving of wheatgrass juice contains:
- Calories: 10
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 2 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 2 grams
Things to Watch Out For
In general, wheatgrass is safe to consume. There are a few things to keep in mind, however:
Wheatgrass grows in soil or water and people consume it raw. As such, it may be contaminated with bacteria that can be harmful to a developing baby. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid wheatgrass.
Wheatgrass is the fresh sprouts of the wheat plant. Even so, they do not contain gluten. Gluten lives in the seed kernels of the wheat plant, not in wheatgrass. If the grasses are cut at the right time, they shouldn’t have any gluten. There is, however, a risk of cross-contamination, so, if you are gluten-sensitive, you should make sure that your wheatgrass comes from a certified gluten-free producer.
It’s Not an Alternative for Regular Medical Care
While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence showing that wheatgrass can help with many health complications, it shouldn’t be used as an alternative to conventional medical care. If you have any health concerns, always speak with your doctor first.
How to Use Wheatgrass
You can find fresh wheatgrass in the produce section of most grocery stores, or you can grow it at home. You can run the blades through a juicer to take make a 1 to 2-ounce shot, or you can add the juice to your favorite smoothie or juice.
Some grocery stores and many health food stores also carry wheatgrass powder or capsules. You can add the powder to smoothies and juices, or swallow the capsules with a glass of water.
Smoothies aren’t your only option for getting wheatgrass into your diet. You can also sneak it into other recipes, such as:
- Salad dressings
- Fruity cocktails or mocktails
- Dips such as hummus or guacamole
- Chocolate truffles or cupcake frosting