Can our bodies digest wheatgrass?

Wheatgrass is the young grass of the common wheat plant, Triticum aestivum. It contains high concentrations of chlorophyll, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Many proponents claim that wheatgrass has numerous health benefits including improving digestion. But can our bodies actually digest and absorb the nutrients from wheatgrass? Let’s take a look at what the research says.

The Nutrients in Wheatgrass

Wheatgrass contains a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and plant compounds:

Nutrient Amount per 30g Wheatgrass
Calories 20
Protein 2 g
Vitamin A 127% DV
Vitamin C 204% DV
Iron 6% DV
Calcium 4% DV
Magnesium 8% DV
Amino Acids 17
Chlorophyll 42 mg
Live Enzymes Over 30

As you can see, wheatgrass contains a variety of important micronutrients. It is especially high in vitamins A and C. It also contains amino acids, chlorophyll and enzymes.

Chlorophyll Content

One of the key compounds in wheatgrass is chlorophyll. In fact, wheatgrass contains up to 70% chlorophyll. Chlorophyll molecules are similar in structure to human blood hemoglobin molecules. This has led some to speculate that chlorophyll may help transport oxygen throughout the body and provide beneficial effects.

However, most research has found that the chlorophyll in wheatgrass is not directly absorbed into the blood stream. Instead, it is broken down by gut bacteria into metabolites that may provide health benefits.

Amino Acid Profile

Wheatgrass contains small amounts of essential amino acids such as lysine and tryptophan. However, it does not contain complete protein. This means it does not have adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own.

While wheatgrass does contain amino acids, relying on it as a sole protein source would not provide sufficient amounts of the essential amino acids our bodies need. It is better utilized when combined with other protein sources.

Enzyme Content

Wheatgrass contains a variety of enzymes including proteases, amylases, lipases and cytochrome oxidase. Advocates believe these enzymes provide benefits for our digestive system. However, there is little evidence that these enzymes remain active once they reach our gastrointestinal tract.

When ingested, enzymes are denatured by stomach acid and degraded in the digestive process. Our bodies are well equipped to digest food without relying on exogenous enzymes from wheatgrass or other foods.

Can We Absorb Nutrients from Wheatgrass?

The main question around wheatgrass is whether our bodies can actually absorb and utilize the nutrients it contains. After all, what good are nutrients if we just excrete them?

Most research indicates that the nutrients in wheatgrass can indeed be absorbed and utilized. However, the degree of absorption depends on several factors.


Bioavailability refers to how easily nutrients in a food can be absorbed and utilized by the body. Food processing can affect bioavailability. Generally, raw wheatgrass has higher bioavailability than processed wheatgrass products.

Juicing vs. Blending

Juicing wheatgrass removes the plant fiber, leaving only the juice. Blending wheatgrass pulverizes the leaves but still contains the fiber. Some believe the fiber in blended wheatgrass may limit nutrient absorption. However, both juicing and blending make the nutrients more bioavailable than simply eating the grass.

Digestion Time

How long wheatgrass remains in the digestive system affects absorption. Wheatgrass that passes through quickly may not allow complete nutrient uptake. One study found that chewing wheatgrass pulp increased amino acid absorption compared to swallowing juice alone.

Individual Factors

Factors like metabolism, age, gut health and medications can impact nutrient absorption from wheatgrass. Those with optimal gut function and health may absorb wheatgrass nutrients better than those with gastrointestinal conditions.

Potential Digestive Benefits

While conclusive evidence is lacking, some studies suggest wheatgrass may have potential digestive benefits:

Improving Nutrient Absorption

An animal study found that wheatgrass helped maintain intestinal function and motility. This may allow for enhanced movement of nutrients into the bloodstream.

Relieving Constipation

Multiple studies in rats found that wheatgrass helped increase stool frequency and weight. This indicates it may help relieve constipation.

Reducing Inflammation

Some research shows compounds in wheatgrass may help decrease inflammation in the gut. Less inflammation could improve overall digestive function.

Stimulating Immunity

Wheatgrass may enhance immunity by increasing immunoglobulin A antibodies. This could improve gut immune function and tolerance of digestive processes.

However, most studies used concentrated wheatgrass supplements. More research is needed on whether typical servings of wheatgrass produce these effects.

How to Maximize Nutrient Absorption from Wheatgrass

Here are some tips to help your body absorb and utilize nutrients from wheatgrass:

  • Consume on an empty stomach: Less food competition may allow more nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Chew thoroughly: Chewing breaks down plant cell walls, releasing nutrients for absorption.
  • Drink slowly: Allowing wheatgrass to pass through the digestive tract more slowly gives more time for nutrient uptake.
  • Have occasionally before meals: Wheatgrass on an empty stomach before eating may maximize absorption.
  • Boost digestion power: Pair wheatgrass with ginger, lemon juice or probiotics to aid absorption.
  • Blend pulp and juice: Fiber in blended grass may slow transit time and prolong exposure.

Potential Side Effects of Wheatgrass

While considered safe for most, wheatgrass does have potential side effects to be aware of:

  • Upset stomach – Some report nausea, bloating or diarrhea.
  • Allergies – Wheatgrass could trigger reactions in those with wheat/grass allergies.
  • Headaches – Rarely, headaches may occur after taking wheatgrass.
  • Mold concerns – Wheatgrass grown in humid conditions may contain mold.
  • Blood thinning – Large amounts may impact blood coagulation due to chlorophyll’s similarity to hemoglobin.

Start with small amounts and avoid taking wheatgrass on an empty stomach to help minimize side effects. Those on medications or with health conditions should consult a doctor before using wheatgrass.

The Bottom Line

Research indicates wheatgrass does provide beneficial nutrients that can be absorbed and utilized by the body. However, absorption depends on factors like preparation method, digestion time and individual health.

While evidence is limited, wheatgrass may help promote better digestion due to its enzyme content, antioxidant activity, and ability to stimulate immunity in the gut. However, more human research on these potential effects is needed.

Wheatgrass is considered safe for most healthy individuals. But start slowly, be aware of mold risk, and consult a healthcare professional if you have concerns.

At the end of the day, wheatgrass is an easy way to get more micronutrients from vegetables. While not a magic bullet for health, it can be safely incorporated into a balanced diet and lifestyle for potential benefits.

For most people, wheatgrass is safe to consume and adds beneficial nutrients to the diet. But check with your healthcare provider if you have concerns about using wheatgrass or have any underlying health conditions.

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