Consuming wheatgrass, especially in the form of juice, has become a global phenomena. Americans are spending upwards of $49 for a pound of the green sprouts as a way to hone in on the anticipated health benefits.
Wheatgrass advocates are relentless when it comes to boasting about its nutritional benefits. While the extent of the health benefits list is exhaustive, and considering it’s deemed a cure-all by many profit-run health food companies, the shortened version is that wheatgrass is claimed to be effective for fighting fatigue, cancer, allergies and diabetes, as well as cleansing the body and improving overall health.
What exactly is wheatgrass? Wheatgrass is, you guessed it, a type of young grass from the wheat family. To be exact, it’s a young version of the wheat plant triticum aestivum. The entire plant, including the rhizone and roots, are eaten by consumers for its concentrated nutrients vitamins C, A, E and calcium, iron, magnesium and amino acids.
And, like all green plants, wheatgrass contains a lot of chlorophyll, which is said to may have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Wheatgrass is available in numerous forms including liquid extracts, tablets, tinctures, capsules, and of course, as a grow-your-own kit.
Mayo Clinic’s Brent A. Bauer, M.D. warns wheatgrass growers that when consuming the grass raw, it can contain mold or bacteria from the soil or water in which it’s grown.
So, what’s the science behind wheatgrass? There is very little scientific evidence to support these health-advocate claims, especially when it comes to cancer. There is still no evidence on the potential anti-cancer effects of wheatgrass in humans.
As for other claims, the general effects of wheatgrass in humans is lacking because most studies used rats as test subjects and focused solely on its specific compounds. While there may be some nutritional value to wheatgrass, there is “limited supporting evidence” for claims of anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties and little confirmation for claims it builds red blood cells and improves circulation and tissue oxygenation.
Is wheatgrass safe? According to Dr. Bauer, people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or grass allergies should check with their doctor before using wheatgrass. While generally considered safe to eat, people can experience side effects such as hives, nausea or swelling of the throat due to its strong gassy properties.
While wheatgrass extract is primarily used in the food and beverage industry as a flavoring component, it will, if nothing else, add a little interest to your juicing diet if you still want to try it.