Wheatgrass is the young grass of the common wheat plant, Triticum aestivum. It is a thick, dry grass that looks like hay or straw but is bright green. Wheatgrass is commonly consumed as a fresh juice, but it can also be eaten in powdered form or as a supplement.
Wheatgrass became popular in the Western world in the 1930s as part of the health food movement. It is claimed to have many health benefits, from detoxifying the body to curing diseases. But is eating wheatgrass actually safe?
Nutritional Content of Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass contains many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Some of the main nutrients in wheatgrass include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B6
- Pantothenic Acid
Wheatgrass also contains antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase, as well as chlorophyll.
One 30ml shot of wheatgrass juice (about 1 fluid ounce) contains around:
|Vitamin C||4 mg|
So wheatgrass contains a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that make it a very nutritious food.
Potential Benefits of Wheatgrass
Some of the potential health benefits associated with wheatgrass include:
- Providing antioxidants: Wheatgrass contains antioxidants like glutathione that help fight oxidative stress and reduce inflammation.
- Enhancing immunity: Wheatgrass may boost immunity by increasing levels of antioxidants and nutrients needed for immune function.
- Detoxifying the body: Some claim wheatgrass helps remove toxins and heavy metals from the body through liver detoxification.
- Improving digestion: Enzymes and fiber in wheatgrass can support healthy digestion and improve symptoms of issues like ulcerative colitis.
- Reducing blood pressure: Animal and test-tube studies link wheatgrass with decreased hypertenstion.
- Managing diabetes: Early research shows wheatgrass may help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Fighting cancer: Test-tube and animal studies indicate wheatgrass may have anticancer potential, but more human research is needed.
Most of the evidence behind these benefits comes from test-tube or animal studies. More high-quality human research is needed before making firm conclusions. Still, adding wheatgrass to your diet as a supplemental food may offer some health perks.
Possible Side Effects and Dangers
For most people, eating wheatgrass in moderation as part of a healthy diet is likely safe. However, some people may need to exercise caution with wheatgrass, including:
- Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity: Wheatgrass is made from wheat, so people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should avoid it due to potential cross-reactivity.
- People taking blood thinners: Wheatgrass may slow blood clotting, so stopping use prior to surgery or discontinuing alongside blood thinners is advised.
- Anyone with a wheat allergy: Wheatgrass could trigger an allergic reaction in those allergic to wheat.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women: More research is needed on wheatgrass in pregnancy. Some recommend avoiding it out of caution.
Some other potential side effects of wheatgrass include:
- Nausea, headaches or dizziness: Some report these side effects after taking wheatgrass in juice or supplement form.
- Constipation: The fiber in wheatgrass may cause constipation, especially when consumed in excess.
- Mold contamination: Wheatgrass grown at home may contain mold if not properly washed and stored.
- Bacterial contamination: Wheatgrass juice sold commercially has been linked to bacterial contamination and food poisoning when improperly prepared.
To help avoid side effects, start wheatgrass supplements with smaller dosages and avoid taking it on an empty stomach. Only purchase wheatgrass juice from trusted sources and stores.
There is no official recommended dosage for wheatgrass. However, most people can safely drink around 1–2 ounces (30–60 ml) per day with minimal side effects.
When taking wheatgrass supplements, it’s best to start with a low dose and increase slowly over time. Follow the dosage instructions on the supplement packaging.
For other forms of wheatgrass, like powder, follow dosage guidelines from the manufacturer or your healthcare provider.
Can Wheatgrass Be Eaten Raw?
Wheatgrass is most commonly consumed raw as a fresh juice. However, wheatgrass can also be eaten raw in several other forms, including:
- Wheatgrass powder: The juice is dehydrated into a powder which can be added to smoothies, water or other foods.
- Wheatgrass capsules or tablets: The powder is put into capsules or pressed into tablets.
- Wheatgrass shots: Small plastic cups filled with 1–2 oz (30–60 ml) of wheatgrass juice.
- Wheatgrass stems: The stems and leaves can be chewed raw or added to salads.
Many people prefer to drink wheatgrass raw as a juice because cooking wheatgrass can damage and deactivate some nutrients, especially vitamin C and certain enzymes.
However, there are some cooked wheatgrass recipes as well. Young wheatgrass stems can be sautéed, boiled or baked into casseroles, though this is less common.
Should You Drink Wheatgrass Juice on an Empty Stomach?
Some sources claim that drinking wheatgrass juice on an empty stomach maximizes health benefits.
Supposedly, an empty stomach allows wheatgrass to be absorbed into your system more rapidly. However, there is limited evidence supporting this.
Drinking wheatgrass juice on an empty stomach may also amplify side effects like nausea, headaches or dizziness for some people.
It’s likely best to experiment and see how your body reacts when drinking wheatgrass at different times and with or without food. Pay attention to any side effects.
You may find that sipping small amounts of wheatgrass juice alongside or directly after a meal helps minimize adverse effects. But listen to your body and adjust timing according to your personal tolerance.
How to Select and Store Wheatgrass
To get the most benefits from wheatgrass, select fresh, high-quality products:
- Wheatgrass juice: This should be refrigerated and consumed within 1–2 days. Look for juice that is minimally processed andavoid discoloration.
- Wheatgrass powder: Choose powder stored in opaque, sealed packaging. Avoid powder with a dull color.
- Fresh wheatgrass stems: These should be vibrant green and not wilted. Choose bunches with long, thick stems.
- Wheatgrass tablets: Ensure there are minimal additional ingredients aside from wheatgrass.
Freshly cut wheatgrass or wheatgrass juice should be stored at cool temperatures in a sealed container to preserve nutrient content.
Dried wheatgrass powder, capsules and tablets can be kept in a cool, dry pantry away from sunlight. Check expiration dates and follow all label storage instructions.
Can Wheatgrass Be Grown at Home?
Wheatgrass can easily be grown at home with some basic supplies. Here is a simple step-by-step guide:
- Obtain wheatgrass seeds or trays of wheatgrass. Choose hard winter wheat or winter rye varieties.
- Fill a shallow tray or flat container with about 2 inches (5 cm) of potting soil. Moisten the soil slightly.
- Spread the seeds across the soil at a rate of about 2 tablespoons per tray. Gently cover the seeds with a thin layer of additional soil.
- Place the tray in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist.
- Once sprouts are 1–2 inches tall, move the tray into direct sunlight. Continue watering 1–2 times per day.
- Allow the grass to grow to 6–8 inches. Cut just above soil level when ready to juice or consume.
With the right environment, wheatgrass can grow indoors in 5–7 days. Cut wheatgrass regrows quickly, allowing multiple harvests.
Growing wheatgrass at home requires diligent rinsing and cleaning to prevent mold or bacteria contamination. Only use high-quality seeds from trusted sources.
Is Wheatgrass Considered Kosher?
Wheatgrass juice and supplements are generally considered kosher, though some kosher consumers may avoid forms processed at non-certified facilities.
Fresh wheatgrass stems are kosher and can be combined with other kosher foods or ingredients. However, wheatgrass juice powder requires kosher certification due to concerns over potential contamination during processing and handling.
If keeping kosher is important to you, check labels for kosher symbols or contact manufacturers to ask about kosher certification for wheatgrass products.
You can also grow your own wheatgrass at home to fully control preparation and get kosher, homegrown wheatgrass.
Can You Juice Wheatgrass in a Blender?
Blenders don’t effectively juice wheatgrass. Blenders simply chop and pulverize fruits and vegetables, rather than pressing out the liquid.
A masticating juicer or manual hand-crank juicer is best for juicing wheatgrass into its pure liquid form.
You can blend wheatgrass leaves and stems with a bit of water to make a blended mix. However, this retains all the fibrous plant matter and results in more of a smoothie texture.
If you don’t have a proper wheatgrass juicer, try one of these wheatgrass juice alternatives using a blender:
- Blend wheatgrass leaves and stems with water, strain and press out liquid.
- Blend wheatgrass powder into fruit or vegetable smoothies.
- Chop stems and leaves finely and add to dressings, dips or sauces.
Though not exactly the same, these provide a way to incorporate wheatgrass into drinks and meals if you lack juicing equipment.
Wheatgrass is highly nutritious and may offer various benefits when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Though generally safe for most, some people should use caution with wheatgrass due to concerns like allergies or medication interactions.
Drink 1–2 ounces of wheatgrass juice or take wheatgrass supplements according to label instructions to minimize adverse effects. Be sure to select fresh, high-quality products for maximum nutritional value.
Coupled with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, consuming wheatgrass in recommended amounts may help boost your nutrient intake and overall wellbeing. But remember that wheatgrass should not be viewed as a cure-all treatment on its own. More human research on its long-term efficacy and safety is still needed.