Wheatgrass and Its Health Benefits
Wheatgrass belongs to the category of green superfoods, a dietary supplement category that sells well in the marketplace. The global superfood powders market size was valued at $6.14 billion in 2021, and it is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.2% from 2022 to 2030.[i]
But what exactly are green superfoods, and what contribution are they—and wheatgrass specifically— supposed to make to human health; do they have any real science to back them up? These are the questions I will answer in this article.
There are many powdered green superfood drink mixes available. Most of these drink mixes contain a variety of green superfoods. For this discussion, green superfoods will be defined as grasses (wheatgrass, barley grass, alfalfa, etc.), algae (chlorella, spirulina, etc.), common green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, etc.), and sprouted versions of grass and green vegetables. Wheatgrass is one of my favorite green superfoods.
I’d like to take a moment to mention that wheatgrass does not contain gluten. Wheatgrass is the young (gluten-free) grass of the wheat plant. It is different from the wheat grain that grows on the same plant and does contain gluten.
Generally, people use powdered green superfoods, like wheat grass, with the expectation that it is going to provide them with one or more of the following benefits:
- Compensate for a lack of vegetables/leafy green vegetables in their diet,
- Support and/or promote some aspect of the body’s detoxification process,
- Promote some other aspects of human health.
So now, let’s look at how wheatgrass benefits that may help fulfill these expectations.
Compensate for a lack of vegetables
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has indicated that Americans are getting about 40% less of the recommended servings of vegetables,[ii] and specifically 60% less of the recommended servings of green vegetables.[iii] [iv] But is it realistic to expect that supplementing with a green superfood drink mix will truly compensate for a lack of sufficient vegetable intake? The answer is that it can certainly help.
What nutrients are in wheatgrass?
One scientific journal indicates that wheatgrass components include chlorophyll, flavonoids, and vitamins C and E.[v] Another scientific journal verified that wheatgrass has a rich nutritional profile, including (per 3.5 grams) 860 mg protein, 18.5 mg chlorophyll, 15 mg calcium, 38 mg lysine, 7.5 mg vitamin C and an abundance of micronutrients, such as B complex vitamins and amino acids.[vi] Still another study demonstrated that, in comparison to apple, beet, carrot, orange, and lemon juice, wheatgrass juice had the highest total and in vitro bioaccessible concentrations of calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc, as well as the highest total phenolic and flavonoid content.[vii]
About 3.97 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are disposed of or otherwise released to the environment annually,[viii] which supports a statement made by Rachel Carson in her 1962 groundbreaking book Silent Spring: “For the first time in the history of the world every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.” The good news is that the body was designed to process and excrete many toxins. The bad news is our bodies may not always be equipped to handle the volume of modern environmental pollutants and toxic substances. However, wheatgrass may be able to help.
Researchers have indicated that, as a crude form of chlorophyll, wheatgrass helps to detoxify the body by breaking impacted matter in the colon, helps cleanse the body from environmental pollutants, and with its high levels of enzymes and amino acids work like a natural cleanser to support liver detoxification.[ix] Another study found that wheatgrass juice promoted the detoxification of bisphenol A (BPA) in young women.[x]
Other health benefits of wheatgrass
To begin with, wheatgrass benefits include valuable antioxidant activity. For example, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that 1 g/day of wheatgrass powder significantly:[xi]
- Reduced blood malondialdehyde (a marker of oxidative stress)
- Increased total antioxidant status
- Increased vitamin C levels
- Increased superoxide dismutase (SOD)
Likewise, in animal experiments, wheatgrass demonstrated benefits to immunological activity and oxidative stress.[xii]
How to use wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass promotes distinct benefits for human health and wellness. Because of its popularity in the marketplace, brand owners would be wise to consider offering a wheatgrass powder in their product lineup or even a superfoods powder blend that provides wheatgrass as a significant component of the formulation. Only 1 gram of wheatgrass powder daily offers benefits to supplement users.
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[ii] U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010.