I first encountered wheatgrass at Jamba Juice a few years ago. Besides thinking that it was an interesting concept to drink juice from grass that didn’t taste good at all, I really didn’t think much about wheatgrass benefits until I started taking a green food supplement. This curiosity led me to research exactly what is in wheatgrass that could be beneficial to our body. The answers surprised me.
A Little Background on Wheatgrass
I can’t talk about Wheatgrass without mentioning Charles F. Schnabel. Schnabel was an agricultural scientist who popularized the plant in the 1930s when he fed fresh cut grass to his dying hens. After doing this, the hens recovered beautifully and even produced eggs at a much higher rate compared to the healthy hens. Schnabel then started drying the grass to make powder out of it so he can give it to his family and neighbors to supplement their diet. He even got two large corporations to sponsor more research on the plant and by 1940s, wheatgrass powder began appearing in major drug stores across America and Canada.
Wheatgrass can be grown indoors and outdoors. The plant is harvested at the jointing stage which is the time before the grass leaf begins to elongate and form a stem. The nutritional analysis I’ve seen from web sites that sell wheatgrass powder or juice show that this is the moment when the plant’s nutrients are at their peak. Nutrients like chlorophyll, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are just a few of the nutrients found in wheatgrass.
You can even buy wheatgrass kits and grow them indoors at home. However, mold can grow on seeds that did not germinate when the seeds are planted to close together on indoor trays. Some people have reported getting anaphylactic shock after taking a shot of its juice because of this mold. So, to be safe, either get on outdoor grown plant or make sure that the plant is tested to be mold-free when you decide to supplement with wheatgrass.
There’s still a lot of debate regarding the benefits of wheatgrass to our health. Some say that the nutrient profile is similar to just about any green vegetable you can find at the supermarket. But, my research convinced me that there is more to this plant.
The one component of wheatgrass that captured my attention the most was chlorophyll. You may have heard of chlorophyll when you studied biology in school. It is found in the leaves of green plants and is their main energy source. Chlorophyll’s structure is very similar to hemoglobin which is a material that transports oxygen in our blood.
Research also found that chlorophyll has the ability to remove toxic chemicals from our bloodstream. This makes it excellent for cleansing. Livestrong.com even said that people who regularly drink wheatgrass juice report increased energy. This increase in energy may help you workout longer and harder while burning more calories in the process. One study on rats found that a diet high in chlorophyll from spinach juice can help prevent colon cancer(1). This finding is especially beneficial to people who eat a lot of red meat, instead of white meat, and not a lot of vegetables. But, the research doesn’t stop with rats.
One study was done on children with Thalassemia, a genetic form of anemia, who require regular blood transfusions. After taking 100 ml of wheatgrass juice daily for a year, half of the patients only needed 75% of the amount of blood they used to get in order to stay well (2). Researchers found similar results when 20 adult patients with pre-leukemia started taking 30 mls of the juice daily for 6 months. These patients were able to have longer intervals between their blood transfusions so they didn’t need to have as much blood compared to before they started taking wheatgrass juice (3).
The benefits of taking wheatgrass has also been studied in cancer patients for its cleansing and antioxidant properties. One study showed 60 breast cancer patients who took wheatgrass juice daily during their first 3 cycles of chemotherapy. The patients were able to reduce toxic chemical accumulation in their bone marrow and were able to reduce their dose of the chemicals used during their chemotherapy (4). The juice was able to give all these benefits to cancer patients without affecting the effectiveness of their chemotherapy.
Should You Take Wheat Grass?
We can see from these studies that the nutrients and other components in wheatgrass may provide recovery benefits to people who suffer from some type of illness like cancer, leukemia, anemia, etc. This just means that healthy people who do not have any apparent illness can benefit from drinking wheatgrass juice even more. But, of course, there is no substitute for eating a healthier diet.
If you decide to supplement your diet with wheatgrass juice or powder, consider making these changes as well for optimal benefits:
Eating more green vegetables, non-starchy vegetables and fruits.
Reducing red meat consumption and eating more lean meats.
Eating less starchy carbohydrates and simple sugars like bread, pasta, sugar, etc.
Last but not the least, get more exercise or physical activity.
- Eating more green vegetables, non-starchy vegetables and fruits.
- Reducing red meat consumption and eating more lean meats.
- Eating less starchy carbohydrates and simple sugars like bread, pasta, sugar, etc.
- Last but not the least, get more exercise or physical activity.
I prefer to supplement with wheatgrass powder because of the convenience it provides during times when I’m not able to eat a lot of veggies. I get my supply from Amazing Grass because they process the plant under low temperatures to preserve its nutrients. They also grow their plants outdoors which assures that there is no mold contamination. I prefer the powder compared to the juice because I get the whole leaf which means I am also getting insoluble fiber along with the other nutrients. I usually either make a green drink and sip it throughout the day or mix it in my smoothies.
(1) De Vogel, Johan; Denise S. M. L. Jonker-Termont, Martijn B. Katan,and Roelof van der Meer (August 2005). “Natural Chlorophyll but Not Chlorophyllin Prevents Heme-Induced Cytotoxic and Hyperproliferative Effects in Rat Colon”. J. Nutr. (The American Society for Nutritional Sciences) 135 (8): 1995–2000. PMID 16046728
(2) Marawaha, RK; Bansal, D; Kaur, S; Trehan, A; Wheatgrass Juice Reduces Transfusion Requirement in Patients with Thalassemia Major: A Pilot Study. Indian Pediatric 2004 Jul;41(7):716-20
(3) S. Mukhopadhyay; J. Basak; M. Kar; S. Mandal; A. Mukhopadhyay; Netaji Subhas; Chandra Bose; Cancer Research Institute, Kolkata, India; NRS Medical College, Kolkata, India; Central Institute for Research (Ayurveda), Kolkata, India. The Role of Iron Chelation Activity of Wheat Grass Juice in Patients with Myelodysplastic Syndrome. Journal of Clinical Oncology 27:15s, 2009 (suppl; abstr 7012) 2009 ASCO Annual Meeting. Presenter: Soma Mukhopadhyay, PhD
(4) Bar-Sela, Gil; Tsalic, Medy; Fried, Getta; Goldberg, Hadassah. Wheat Grass Juice May Improve Hematological Toxicity Related to Chemotherapy in Breast Cancer Patients: A Pilot Study. Nutrition and Cancer 2007, Vol. 58, No. 1, Pages 43-48