Walk into any health food store, and you’re likely to see wheatgrass sold in some form. From fresh, bright green blades to powder-filled capsules, enthusiasts have been lauding the health benefits of wheatgrass for years.
The multiple beneficial effects of this green superfood range from acting as a preventative to cancer to boosting cognitive function.
It’s considered a power player in the world of natural and holistic medicine. It’s even nutrition that health and wellness professionals are getting behind.
But what is wheatgrass? What are the multiple health claims? And are any of the assertions of its positive on well-being true?
- What is Wheatgrass?
- What Does Wheatgrass Juice Do to Your Body?
- What Are The Health Benefits of Wheatgrass?
- How To Take Wheatgrass
- What Are The Side Effects of Wheatgrass?
- The Takeaway
What is Wheatgrass?
Initially grown by farmers to feed their animals, wheatgrass is the leaves of the common wheat plant, Triticum aestivum.
As its name suggests, fresh wheatgrass looks like bright green blades of grass.
In health food stores, it’s often found on trays growing in small squares of soil and looking somewhat like an overgrown astroturf. It can also be found in powders or capsules.
The fresh grass of this plant, typically used as juice or wheatgrass shots, is considered a living food. Living foods are foods that are consumed raw and are as close to their natural form as possible.
The flavor of wheatgrass is predominately earthy and grassy with a mildly sweet touch.
What Does Wheatgrass Juice Do to Your Body?
Despite the common knowledge that fruits and vegetables are necessary for a healthy diet, a CDC survey from 2015 showed that only a tiny percentage of adults in America consume the recommended servings per day (1).
Wheatgrass juice contains a staggering array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and trace elements, including iron and essential amino acids.
Though nothing beats eating a balanced diet, a daily dose of wheatgrass may be beneficial to people whose diets lack fresh fruits and vegetables.
Research has shown that leafy greens have antioxidant properties, and wheatgrass is no different.
But, along with these properties, health enthusiasts are claiming many other benefits. The number of alleged wheatgrass benefits is somewhat astounding and makes wheatgrass look like it just may be the healthiest food on the planet.
What Are The Health Benefits of Wheatgrass?
Even one small cup of fresh grass from the wheat plants contains a solid nutritional punch. It’s a concentrated source of iron, vitamin A, amino acids, vitamin C, and many other vitamins and minerals.
This extensive combination of vitamins and nutrients makes wheatgrass complete nourishment because it contains every amino acid, vitamin, and mineral humans need.
At 70%, wheatgrass contains an extremely high chlorophyll content. The chlorophyll molecule in wheatgrass is virtually identical to hemin molecules.
The only difference between the two is the main element in hemin molecules is iron, while in chlorophyll, the main ingredient is magnesium. For this reason, wheatgrass carries the name “green blood.”
So, what can this heavyweight living food actually do?
Let’s learn about twelve ways wheatgrass can help you stay healthy and the science behind the claims.
Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory
Like other leafy green plant foods, wheatgrass contains multiple antioxidant properties. These compounds include flavonoids and vitamins C and E, which fight the damaging effects of free radicals.
Chlorophyll has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. One test-tube study showed that this plant pigment represses the activity of a protein that triggers inflammation in the body (2).
Chronic inflammation is associated with autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.
The severity of diseases characterized by inflammation, such as ulcerative colitis, can be lessened with wheatgrass juice. Ulcerative colitis inflames the large intestine.
One study showed that drinking half a cup of wheatgrass juice a day for one month significantly reduced rectal bleeding and inflammation associated with colitis (3).
The chlorophyll in wheatgrass can create a healthy blood flow due to its abundance of oxygen (4).
The liver filters the blood in our bodies, deciding which nutrients should be processed or stored, which toxins can be turned into something safe, and which ones need to be eliminated.
The healthy flow created by chlorophyll aids the liver in efficiently sorting and categorizing nutrients and toxins.
Wheatgrass also contains MSM, methylsulfonylmethane, a compound that has biologically active sulfur. Sulfur is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and is necessary for detoxification.
MSM helps to promote the detox process by making cells more permeable which means heavy metals and wastes can leave cells more efficiently.
The permeability of the cells also makes it easier for nutrients and water to enter the cells and facilitate the cleaning process.
Helps With Digestion
Amylase, protease, and lipase are three digestive enzymes found in wheatgrass.
Amylase breaks carbohydrates down into simple sugars, which are more easily absorbed and digested. Protease metabolizes protein so that it may help the body digest foods such as meat, beans, and dairy.
Lipase is a digestive enzyme involved in breaking down fats.
A robust digestive system helps keep the intestines clean, which makes bowel movements regular. This means drinking wheatgrass may help with constipation, bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort with the proper enzymes.
Boosts Your Metabolism
The seventeen amino acids in wheatgrass, including the eight essential ones your body can’t make on its own, are busy building proteins. Proteins build muscle.
The maintenance of muscle cells requires more energy than the maintenance of fat cells. So wheatgrass boosts your metabolism and raises energy levels by promoting the production and maintenance of muscle cells.
Not to mention that it’s got an extremely low caloric count and zero fat content which is ideal for weight loss.
As all the nutrients in this superfood are digested and absorbed, signals are sent from the body to the brain, telling you that you’re satisfied. These feelings of satiety can decrease cravings and reduce unhealthy eating.
Wheatgrass supplements added into a smoothie or a straight shot of the juice in the morning may be great for weight loss as it lowers the chances of snacking on fatty foods throughout the day.
Evidence in animal studies found that wheatgrass may help to lower cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.
One study looked at the effects of giving wheatgrass to rabbits after they were fed a high-fat diet for ten weeks (5).
By supplementing with wheatgrass, the rabbits experienced an increase in HDL (high-density lipoprotein), “good” cholesterol, which helps to remove “bad” or LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream.
At the same time, the rabbits exhibited an overall lowering of total cholesterol despite the high-fat diet.
Another study noted that rats with high cholesterol experienced lowering and triglycerides after they were given wheatgrass juice for two weeks (6).
The effects of Triticum aestivum (common wheat) grass juice were comparable to the impact of a prescription drug regularly used to treat high cholesterol.
Wheatgrass shows promising results in its ability to affect cholesterol levels in animals beneficially, but further study is necessary to establish its effectiveness on humans based on evidence.
Cancer Prevention and Treatment
A 2017 study evaluated the hepatoprotective abilities of wheatgrass. The dried shoots of Triticum aestivum exhibited the ability to protect against hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer (7).
The same study also showed that high chlorophyll levels possibly help with apoptosis, the death of cells that helps stop the spread of cancer cells.
Multiple test-tube studies have been done on wheatgrass extract to explore its ability to stop the spread of other types of cancer as well.
These test tube studies found that wheatgrass could decrease the spread of cancer cells in the mouth by 41% and reduce leukemia cell count by up to 65% within just three days of treatment (8).
Wheatgrass juice may also aid in cancer treatment by helping with the discomforts of chemotherapy (9).
A study of 60 breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment showed that “green blood” may prevent myelotoxicity and decrease cell production that can harm the immune system.
Other chemo-related side effects, such as nausea and fatigue, maybe warded off by wheatgrass as well.
Boosts The Immune System
Clinical trials have found that antioxidants can improve immune system response and fight against disease activity (10).
The antioxidants found in wheatgrass, such as vitamin C and E, help to reduce free radical damage, which lowers oxidative stress. An unstressed immune system more effectively defends the body against infection and disease.
Wheatgrass is exceptionally high in magnesium which can help strengthen both innate and acquired immunity.
Innate immunity is the body’s resistance against infections that a person has from the moment they are born. Acquired immunity is the resistance a person builds up against foreign infections throughout their life.
Gives You Energy
Wheatgrass is an excellent source of iron that the body needs to make hemoglobin.
Chlorophyll and hemoglobin both work to get oxygen-rich blood into tissue and muscle throughout the body, pumping them full of energy.
When oxygen levels in the blood are high, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to move more of it through the body. If your heart isn’t overworked, you won’t feel overworked.
Because wheatgrass is a complete nutrient, your body is fortified with all the vitamins and minerals it needs, such as vitamin B complex, which will also provide you with lots of energy to get through the day.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Red blood cells can regulate blood pressure by releasing ATP, adenosine triphosphate. ADP causes vessels to expand, which leads to greater blood flow and less stress on vessel walls.
Because of its molecular similarity to hemoglobin, chlorophyll helps with the propagation of red blood cells (11).
Though more research is needed to fully know the efficacy of regular consumption, studies have found that wheatgrass has excellent potential in lowering blood pressure and preventing heart disease.
Improves Cognitive Function
Consuming wheatgrass may positively impact cognitive function. Studies show wheatgrass lowers oxidative stress levels, which can lessen anxiety (12).
Low oxidative stress also improves mitochondrial function, which helps certain organs, such as the brain, to operate at top capacity.
Biochemical, genetic, and molecular studies show that oxidative stress may be involved in the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
As the body and brain ages, habitual consumption of the dried shoots of Triticum aestivum could help to prevent cognitive disorders.
Helps With Diabetes
The abundance of natural fiber in wheatgrass can slow the body’s sugar absorption and optimize blood sugar levels. Studies show that a healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
A study that treated diabetic rats with wheatgrass extract for one month showed decreased blood sugar levels (13).
Reduces Symptoms of Arthritis
The anti-inflammatory properties of wheatgrass may help to ease stiffness, pain, and joint swelling that accompany arthritis (14).
Wheatgrass is an excellent source of calcium which helps to build strong bones. Calcium can also lessen joint inflammation and pain.
How To Take Wheatgrass
Though wheatgrass is full of nutrients and may be healthier than other types of whole foods, it alone cannot make a person healthy.
Lifestyle changes such as eating healthier, exercising regularly, and getting adequate rest are all factors of holistic health as well.
Here are a few tips on how to best harness the potentials of wheatgrass.
The appropriate dose of wheatgrass ingredient is dependent on several factors such as the age of the user, health, fitness level, and reaction to consumption.
To benefit from all the good things wheatgrass can do, it’s recommended to try to have a serving of wheatgrass every day or every other day.
As you begin, consume wheatgrass at the same time each day to notice its effects on your body.
You may experience different side effects depending on when you take it, so keeping track of when you take a capsule or drink a fortified smoothie could help you decide the optimal time to take wheatgrass.
Whether you take this superfood on a full or empty stomach is up to you. Remember at the beginning that trial and error is an excellent way to find the best fit for you.
The amount of time it takes for the effects of wheatgrass to occur varies. Age, health, and lifestyle are all factors. Some people claim to feel invigorated and energized within an hour of taking a wheatgrass shot.
Long-term benefits, such as improved digestion and a stronger immune system, could take anywhere from two weeks to a month to occur.
Forms of Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass can be drunk as juice. However, it has a very overpowering green taste which many people find hard to stomach.
Raw wheatgrass or wheatgrass powder can be mixed into a smoothie or juice. Mixing it with something that has a strong flavor, such as orange juice, can make it a little more pleasant.
There are numerous recipes online to give you tips and pointers on how to make wheatgrass more palatable.
Capsules of wheatgrass are also available to take. As these can range in size and dosage recommendations, follow the instructions on product labels.
Different forms of wheatgrass products are available online, in health and wellness stores, and in pharmacies.
What Are The Side Effects of Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass is considered to be safe for most people. However, there are some reports of the grass causing nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and headaches.
This is why it’s important to keep track of the form, amount, and time of day you’re ingesting wheatgrass, as side effects may vary depending on the factors above.
Many people who have had negative reactions to wheatgrass have stated that drinking a glass of water after consumption helped.
Wheatgrass is generally believed to be safe for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. This is because only the wheat kernels of Triticum aestivum contain gluten, not the grass of the wheat plant.
Multiple benefits have been linked to wheatgrass and its components. These include improved blood sugar levels, weight loss, and even the lessening of the severity of diseases such as ulcerative colitis.
There is evidence of the various ways specific compounds, such as digestive enzymes and antioxidants, react either in vitro or on animals. However, research on the beneficial effects of wheatgrass on humans is negligible.
Overall, this fresh green supergrass should be part of a balanced and healthy diet rather than seen as a replacement for the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
If you’re already living a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition, you can drink wheatgrass safely and possibly experience some great health benefits.
If you want to make a lifestyle change and put your good health at the forefront of your life, then regular consumption of this powerful green grass can help with your holistic health journey.
- Does wheatgrass keep you awake?
There’s no available research on the effect wheatgrass has on sleep. Everyone is different, so the effects of wheatgrass on a good night’s sleep vary from person to person.
Some people experience a burst of energy after drinking wheatgrass in the morning. Other people claim to take a capsule a few hours before bedtime gently stimulates digestion, leading to better sleep.
If you’re worried that wheatgrass might keep you awake, add it to your morning routine. Smoothies with a supplement are a great way to start the morning.
Throw a wheatgrass supplement in the blender with a mixture of fruits and a favorite juice. That way, if you do experience elevated energy levels, the boost will help power you through the day.
- Can I mix wheatgrass and spirulina powder?
Many types of superfood supplements on the market have both spirulina powder and wheatgrass powder listed as ingredients. This indicates it’s safe to mix the two powders.
- Is wheatgrass good for your skin?
Multiple people who have used it wheatgrass claim that the topical application of it can be used to help with beauty and skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.
Chlorophyll and methanol extracts have been proven to be beneficial for wound healing.
Though no studies have been done to prove its direct impact on scar healing, the presence of both chloroform and methanol extract in this superfood suggests wheatgrass may have skin healing potential.