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Wheatgrass Benefits: The Superfood that Boosts Immunity & Nutrient Absorption
October 30, 2018
According to surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 27 percent of Americans get more than three servings of vegetables per day. (1) Most of us know by now that we need to be eating fresh fruits and veggies every day in abundance for optimal health and detoxification. However, for many people this isn’t as easy as it might seem. While it isn’t meant to replace eating fresh vegetables, wheatgrass benefits provide numerous antioxidants and other nutrients, all in one small, easy-to-drink glass.
With a history of use over 5,000 years old, wheatgrass was loved by the ancient Egyptians for its beneficial effects on their health and vitality. (2) Centuries later, people are still loving this nutrient-rich grass, nicknamed “green blood,” for its high chlorophyll content and numerous wheatgrass benefits it can provide.
What Is Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass is the young grass of the common wheat plant called Triticum aestivum. This edible grass is either juiced into a “wheatgrass shot” or milled down into a fine green powder that’s used to create a multipurpose product for both humans and animals. What does wheatgrass taste like? It definitely does taste grassy and also mildly sweet.
Can you eat wheatgrass raw? You can eat the young sprouts whole and raw, but more often they are juiced raw and consumed as a liquid. There are some other options as well.
Types of Wheatgrass
Are you wondering how do I add wheatgrass to my diet? Wheatgrass can be consumed on its own or used in combination with other juices or supplements. Now considered to be a “superfood,” several forms of wheatgrass that are becoming more widely available include:
Which type is best? The best way to consume all foods is as close to their natural states as possible. For wheatgrass, this means that drinking it in juice form (“shots” as they’re called) would be preferred over consuming it in tablet or powder form. You can either visit an establishment that sells freshly made wheatgrass shots or try making them on your own (more on this below).
If you aren’t able to find fresh wheatgrass, wheatgrass powder makes a good second option. If convenience is what you’re really after, high-quality (pure) wheatgrass tablets are certainly beneficial as well.
21 Wheatgrass Benefits
Wheatgrass is a potent source of a number of vital nutrients your body can’t do without. Is wheatgrass good for your health? Dozens of studies on wheatgrass — and also its individual antioxidants and nutrients — show that its health benefits include: (3)
- Supplying a high dose of chlorophyll
- Encouraging a highly oxygenated environment in your body
- Promoting a healthy metabolism
- Establishing an alkaline environment in the body
- Acting as an antibacterial by halting growth of unfriendly bacteria
- Rebuilding and strengthening blood
- Restoring fertility and balancing hormones
- Rebuilding damaged tissue
- Detoxifying the body of heavy metals
- Purifying liver
- Helping with blood sugar regulation
- Acting as an antiseptic to treat odors, strep infections, wounds, skin grafts, sinusitis, ear infections, varicose veins and scars
- Helping prevent tooth decay
- Aiding in sore throat pain reduction
- Fighting skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis
- Improving digestion
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving eyesight, particularly night vision
- Helping with sleep
- Boosting the immune system
- Improving nerve signaling and mental well-being
Here are some of the most prominent wheatgrass benefits:
1. Alkalizing the Body and Boosting Nutrient Absorption
What does wheatgrass do to your body? Wheatgrass provides vital alkalizing benefits for the body, along with increasing absorption of nutrients like electrolytes, vitamin C and vitamin E. If you want to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases from flourishing in your body as you get older, creating an alkaline environment is essential. Acidosis (high levels of acid resulting from low alkalinity) is an all-too-common problem today, due to toxicity from the environment along with many people eating highly processed foods.
What gives wheatgrass the ability to prevent acidosis? Chlorophyll is primarily responsible. Chlorophyll has been shown to help naturally balance the body’s pH level and protect cells. This is one of the reasons that chlorophyll consumption is associated with anti-aging effects ranging from younger-looking skin to better weight management. So is wheatgrass good for your skin? With all that chlorophyll content, don’t be surprised if you notice a skin boost!
Will wheatgrass help me lose weight? Possibly! A study published in the journal Appetite in 2013 found that adding chlorophyll-containing compounds to high-carbohydrate meals suppresses hunger motivation and increases signals of satiety. Overall, adding chlorophyll-rich substances to meals appears to reduce food intake and prevent compensational eating later in the day, which may help to reduce body weight over time. (4)
2. Lowering Free Radical Damage
Wheatgrass benefits including having strong antioxidant capabilities. It can also lower oxidation/free radical damage that causes aging and contribute to disease formation. Studies have found that wheatgrass can significantly inhibit lipid peroxidation in the liver and protect mitochondria within cells. This is tied to reduced inflammation levels and lower risk for diseases like cancer, liver disease and heart disease.
Research regarding the antioxidant levels (ORAC values) of various “superfoods” has found that wheatgrass has an ORAC score “higher than those reported for many other natural extracts or vegetables.” (5) Work done by the Department of Pharmacology at Gajara Raja Medical College in India has shown that some of the antioxidants present in wheatgrass include: (6)
- phenolic compounds
- sulfonic acid
- DPPH (1,1′-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl)
3. Raising Immunity and Cancer Protection
Studies have found that wheatgrass demonstrates anti-cancer potential. It seems to do so through the mechanism of inducing apoptosis (self-destruction of cancerous cells). According to research done by the Integrated Oncology and Palliative Care Unit in Israel, wheatgrass can be effectively used in holistic cancer treatment programs (even those that also use conventional treatments like chemotherapy). I also can be used for cancer prevention. (7) Its benefits for overall immune function include regulating immunological activity and fighting oxidative stress that contributes to cell mutations.
Clinical trials show that wheatgrass may also help attenuate chemotherapy-related side effects, such as fatigue, malabsorption and deficiencies. Other than helping to prevent and treat cancer, clinical trials show that wheatgrass may induce synergistic benefits to those with other immune-related conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, hematological diseases, diabetes and obesity.
A study published in 2017 analyzed the effects of an aqueous wheatgrass extract on an oral squamous cell carcinoma cell line. Over just a 24-hour period, the researchers found that the wheatgrass extract had an inhibitory effect on the oral cancer cell line proliferation. The study points out how the anti-cancer benefits of wheatgrass are likely related to its high content of antioxidant enzymes, including superoxide dismutase and cytochrome oxidase. These have the ability to convert free radicals like reactive oxygen species to hydrogen peroxide and oxygen molecules. More studies are warranted, but this one suggests that wheatgrass may help to slow the growth of oral cancer. (8)
Another in vitro study published in 2016 demonstrates the possibility that wheatgrass benefits cancer of the colon. This study found that wheatgrass slowed the progression of colon cancer and even caused some cancer cells to die. The researchers conclude that “the aqueous extract of wheatgrass represents a potential plant based anti-cancer agent.” (9)
4. Lowering High Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Does wheatgrass lower cholesterol? Studies conducted at Sharma University of Health Sciences in India show that wheatgrass is a medicinal plant for the heart and blood vessels. It can be effective in treating hyperlipidemia. In fact, it helps lower high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
One study examined the effects of wheatgrass given to rabbits eating a high-fat diet that induced hyperlipidemia. Thirty rabbits were divided into three groups: one receiving a control diet, one receiving a high-fat diet and a group receiving a high-fat diet together with wheatgrass over a period of 10 weeks.
Fasting serum samples from the animals were analyzed for total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), malondialdehyde (MDA), reduced glutathione and vitamin C, and the results were compared. The high-fat diet resulted in hyperlipidemia and an increase in oxidative stress, along with lowered glutathione antioxidant levels and lowered vitamin C. However, wheatgrass supplementation taken along with a high-fat diet resulted in improved lipid levels (decreased total cholesterol and increased HDL-C). Wheatgrass also significantly reduced MDA levels and increased glutathione and vitamin C levels. (10)
Some experts claim that wheatgrass nutrition contains over 100 different elements needed by man. One of the most noticeable (and important) nutrients in wheatgrass is chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll is the substance that gives wheatgrass its signature, bright green color. Like other nutrient-dense greens, it’s used in the human body for a number of important processes. It’s a natural liver cleanser and detoxifier, acts like an antioxidant to reduce free radical damage, is a blood strengthener (it has a similar chemical composition to that of hemoglobin), and can help give you a boost in energy.
But chlorophyll is not all wheatgrass has to offer. Wheatgrass benefits also include being loaded with amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), enzymes thatare needed for digestion, and many vitamins and minerals needed for disease-free living.
Wheatgrass is rich in the following nutrients: (11)
- Antioxidants like flavonoids and phenolic acid
- Electrolytes, including magnesium and calcium
- Amino acids
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Wheatgrass is known to be used in Ayurveda for its purifying and rejuvenating effects. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), wheatgrass is used to tonify the spleen, boost digestion and help drain dampness in the body. TCM practitioners sometimes use wheatgrass interchangeably with barley grass. In TCM, wheatgrass may be fermented first before being dried. In traditional medicine, wheatgrass has often been used to treat stomach ailments.
Wheatgrass vs. Barley Grass
Wheatgrass and barley grass are two different kinds of young cereal grasses that are both commonly drank as a fresh juice or are taken in powdered form. Barley grass is from the young shoots of the barley plant, while wheatgrass is from the young shoots of the wheat plant.
Wheatgrass and barley grass are both great sources of chlorophyll. They also both contain a wide array of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals antioxidants and amino acids. People typically consider barley grass as having a more mild taste than wheatgrass.
These grasses are often used with similar health goals in mind. For example, both are high in antioxidants, making them great free radical scavengers.
Where to Find and How to Use
You can find wheatgrass fresh, as tablets or capsules, frozen juice and powder form at stores or online. No matter what your current state of health is, you can benefit from adding wheatgrass — especially fresh wheatgrass juice — to your daily diet. Growing your own wheatgrass is easy, affordable and the very best way to get fresh wheatgrass regularly. Once you have access to your own wheatgrass, you can add a small amount daily to drinks, smoothies, plain water or other recipes. This is a great way to get all of your chlorophyll and veggies in one shot, literally!
If you want to grow your own wheatgrass, wheatgrass starter kits can be purchased online for little money. You might choose to buy a wheatgrass kit that includes a bundle of things you’ll need or simply buy the needed materials, such as seeds and a juicer, separately.
The most nutrient-dense wheatgrass is grown in very healthy soil, so always make sure to purchase organic soil whenever possible. Keep in mind it’s important to clean all equipment thoroughly to prevent bacteria growth, which can sometimes be the case with fresh grasses or sprouts.
Once you grow your own wheatgrass, you’ll need to use either a juicer (the preferred method) or a high-speed blender to freshly press the grass into liquid form. A small amount of wheatgrass goes a long way, and making your own juice will save you lots of money in the long run. Wheatgrass shots tend to be expensive when store-bought.
If you prefer not to grow your own wheatgrass, you can easily find fresh wheatgrass at juice bars and health stores. You can also look for a store-bought green powder mix that contains dried wheatgrass. These products tend to combine a dozen or more different grasses and high-antioxidant foods into one. They are easy to use and can save you lots of time.
Many people like to take wheatgrass by itself in what’s often referred to as wheatgrass shots. If you’re looking for how to use wheatgrass powder or fresh wheatgrass in other ways, here are some great healthy ideas:
- Wheatgrass Coconut Muffins
- Brain Boosting Smoothie Recipe (add some whea grass to make this smoothie even more beneficial!)
- Roasted Garlic and Wheatgrass Soup
- Orange Wheatgrass Smoothie
Supplements and Dosage
How much wheatgrass juice should you drink a day? Many people start with one ounce per day and then, after a week or so, move up to two ounces. A standard dose or range of doses for wheatgrass has not been established so an appropriate dose can depend on your age and health status. Always read wheatgrass supplement directions carefully for dosage recommendations and speak with your health care provider if you feel unsure about the best dosage for you. (13)
History and Interesting Facts
Wheatgrass consumption got its start in the United States back in the 1930s thanks to Charles Franklin Schnabel, an American agricultural chemist who became known as the “father of wheatgrass.” He conducted numerous wheatgrass experiences. Many involved feeding the freshly cut grass to dying chickens to try to restore their health. What did he find? Not only did the hens get better, they produced eggs at a higher rate than healthy hens who had not been given the wheatgrass!
In follow-up experiment a year later, the chemist found that the hens consuming food supplemented with wheatgrass doubled their egg production. Schnabel was so excited about his findings that he started drying out the wheatgrass to produce a powdered version to pass on to human friends and families. His wheatgrass supplement caught on, and by the 1940s, there were cans of his powdered grass being sold in major drug store chains all over the United States as well as Canada.
Risks and Side Effects
Although research exists showing the benefits of wheatgrass, there have still not been many long-term studies showing possible interactions of wheatgrass or revealing much information about whether or not it might trigger allergies in some people. People who are allergic to other grasses may also be allergic to wheatgrass. As a result of cross-contamination and cross-pollination, it’s possible for wheatgrass to contain the pollen of other plants. If you have plant allergies, talk to your doctor before using wheatgrass products.
Most of the wheatgrass benefits we know about come from people who have used it for years and can attest to its positive effects. However, not every claim can be backed up yet with well-controlled scientific studies. Overall, it’s best to use wheatgrass as part of a balanced, healthy diet and not in place of whole vegetables or fruits.
That being said, wheatgrass is generally considered safe when taken by mouth in medicinal amounts for up to 18 months or when applied to the skin as a cream for up to six weeks. The safety of long-term use of wheatgrass as medicine is still unclear. What are the side effects of wheatgrass? Known wheatgrass side effects can include nausea, appetite loss and/or constipation. (14)
Wheatgrass is a raw food. It’s usually grown in soil or water and consumed without being cooked. That means it could be contaminated with food-borne bacteria or mold in rare cases. If you’re pregnant, it might be best to either grow your own or avoid consuming it. If you have a known allergy to other grasses, wheat or ingredients commonly found in supplements, then always check with your doctor before using wheatgrass.
Wheatgrass is gluten-free when harvested from a growing wheat plant without any seeds. In that case, wheatgrass is considered safe for those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. If you have celiac disease or a wheat allergy, your doctor may likely want you to avoid wheatgrass entirely due to the chances of cross-contamination. If you have a sensitivity to gluten, you should only use wheatgrass products that are certified gluten-free so you can get the wheatgrass benefits without the gluten. (15)
Are there any other potential wheatgrass dangers? Wheatgrass may also lower blood sugar levels so people with health conditions such as diabetes should check with their doctors before using it. For this reason, you should also stop taking wheatgrass at least two weeks before any scheduled surgery.
- Wheatgrass is the young grass of the common wheat plant called Triticum aestivum.
- Wheatgrass benefits comes from all of its many healthy components, including its high content of chlorophyll, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
- What benefits does wheatgrass have? There are so many with some of the top research-based wheatgrass benefits being its ability to decrease disease-causing free radicals, lower cholesterol and fight cancer. It may even help with weight loss.
- Does wheatgrass detox your body? With its high chlorophyll content, many people love to use wheatgrass for its detoxifying effects.
- You can buy wheatgrass fresh or in supplement form, or you can grow wheatgrass at home so you can juice it anytime!
- Overall, it’s best to use wheatgrass as part of a balanced, healthy diet and not in place of whole vegetables or fruits.
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