There is no way that your ears have avoided the whispering of wheatgrass. Whether they’ve heard loyal fans preaching of its healing properties or researchers cautioning the claims; there’s no doubt wheatgrass is in the news. Let’s learn more about wheatgrass, wheatgrass powder, the claims and the cautions.
What is Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass, sometimes referred to as couchgrass or agropyron is a grass that resembles wheat (big surprise?) with the scientific name Triticum aestivum. Wheatgrass usually grows in climates that are temperate. These types of temperate climates in the United States and in parts of Europe are suitable climates for the healthy growth of wheatgrass. It is possible to grow and harvest wheatgrass both in indoor and outdoor growing environments. The grass blades aren’t the only nutritional component of the plant. The roots and stems can also be used in the kitchen, usually in herbal concoctions (Cancer.org).
Wheatgrass, in modern times, is known for its supposed benefits in nutrition, some therapies and is also rumored ability to heal various conditions and symptoms. It is part of the wheat family, but it does not contain any gluten. This makes it a popular item, supplement or substitute for those eating gluten-free diets. People enjoy wheatgrass in its grass form, mixed into juices, and as this article focuses on, in powder form (The Health Site).
Wheatgrass is not to be confused with wheat malt. Wheatgrass comes from the seed leaves of the wheatgrass plant, which are then ground into a powder or distributed as a juice. Wheat malt is not allowed as much growing time as wheatgrass. Wheatgrass grows to develop all the way into the “Jointing Stage”. It is in this stage where the highest level of nutrition is found and kept. If it is harvested and either enjoyed fresh or dried at a very low temperature for future use, then it maintains its nutritional content (Herb Wisdom).
A little history trivia
It seems as though all great and trendy food or nutrition products have a great story or a regal history. And while kings may not have raved about wheatgrass, it does (according to Cancer.org) have quite the story. It rose in popularity from a brilliant immigrant’s reading of no less than the Christian Bible. This history isn’t ancient but it is laced with drama.
Ann Wigmore, an immigrant from Lithuania, settled in Boston and was a strong believer of how nature could cure and heal humans. She used what she read in the Bible along with simple observation of domesticated neighborhood pets to feed her curiosity about a diet of wheatgrass. She noticed that pets tend to eat grasses when they are not feeling well. Perhaps this has some truth in humans too? She wondered this and made big claims about how wheatgrass might cure much more than a kitten’s bellyache, it might cure human diseases as well. These claims did not go unnoticed. Ann Wigmore was sued by The Massachusetts Attorney General in 1982. She was sued because of her claims that wheatgrass could work for diabetes, and it could work so well that diabetics wouldn’t need insulin. This was a bold and potentially dangerous claim that she later took back. But this was not the end of Wigmore’s legal spotlight. She got sued again in 1988, for another inflated claim. She claimed to have cured AIDS with her precious wheatgrass. And while her claims were often trampled and her credibility, no doubt, tainted; her institute (Creative Health Institute) still exists her and popularized diet is still around even 20 years after her death.
Only 20 years? That’s not such an impressive history. Well, wheatgrass wasn’t unheard of even in the 30s. Charles F. Schnabel wrote about the nutritional value of wheatgrass along with a handful of others. He did a lot of research on wheatgrass and other grasses, maybe inspiriting Wigmore in her devotion to wheatgrass. He inspired others, too. Schnabel was called “the father of wheatgrass” by author Steve Meyerowitz (Pines).
What is in Wheatgrass?
Enough gossip and history. Let’s get down to the truth. Forget the claims and magical cures about what wheatgrass can supposedly do. What is actually in wheatgrass?
- 7 calories
- zero fat
- nearly no carbohydrates or protein
- no essential omega-3 fatty acids
- 7% DV of vitamin C
- otherwise very little vitamin content
- 10% DV of iron
- traces of other vitamins and minerals (Mother Nature Network)
Not an entirely impressive rap sheet for this supposed super food. So, why the craze? Why the rave reviews for wheatgrass? According to some, the secret’s in the green. The health power is in the chlorophyll. This mega pigment, which is essential for photosynthesis, makes it possible for plants to get any energy from the sun. It is also said to increase oxygen in the blood for those that ingest it. The chlorophyll, they claim, helps with the removal of toxins in the blood and body. In this cleansing, it can make us more immune and improve conditions in the digestive system (Mother Nature Network).
Additionally, there is the claim that “Wheat grass is said to contain 98 of 102 earth elements…” by the Times of India. But does this impressive breadth of elements contribute to its benefits?
What are the benefits of wheatgrass?
So, the time has come to hear some of the wishful claims of wheatgrass powder and its benefits. Like most products, organic, seems to be the most desirable. Organic is an “easy” way to ease any suspicions or anxieties about added pesticides, preservatives and the like. Organic wheatgrass powder is no different. So when considering the benefits, its always best to assume if there is any truth to the claims, it’s best to stick to organic wheatgrass to ensure you are not inviting negatives along with the positives. Let’s hear some of what the world believes are the benefits of organic wheatgrass powder:
It’s like eating your vegetables
Although the claims would lead you to believe 1oz of wheatgrass shoots 2.2lbs of vegetable nutritional goodness, tests disagree. It turns out wheatgrass juice is just about the same as having your usual vegetables—which is good, it’s just not magically super-good, as you’re led to believe (NHS).
It is said that organic wheatgrass powder can actually fight obesity. It supposedly does this by stimulating the thyroid gland. While doing so, it also attends to other issues of the endocrine system (The Health Site). At the very least, wheatgrass is low in calories, which may not be a bad inclusion to a weight-management approach.
Gets your red blood cells goin’
Here’s the chlorophyll claim again. Because of wheatgrass’s chlorophyll, some are led to believe that it has improved hemoglobin production—though we’ve yet to see the definite evidence for this (NHS).
Improved symptoms of ulcerative colitis
More than ten years ago (2002) there was a small study that encouraged the loyal fans of wheatgrass. It showed that participants inflicted with ulcerative colitis, a condition of inflamed colon, improved after having wheatgrass in their diet for only a month. Stop here, and it seems we should applaud wheatgrass and go home. But upon closer, and more statistically responsible, inspection one might point out that the sample size was quite small and there was a strong possibility that mere chance was the real cure (NHS).
Helps to conceive
This claim, while hopeful, can be potentially heartbreaking if it is nothing more than a blind promise. But, either way The Health Site lists improved reproductive health as a benefit of wheatgrass, saying it helps, ”in increasing vigor, vitality and helps conceive.”
Lower need for blood transfusions
Some patients with blood disorders, who were followed in a 2004 study, didn’t need as many blood transfusions after taking wheatgrass for 3 years. The research is indeed there, though is cited as having “many weaknesses” by NHS.
Not all resources are as reserved or hesitant in their support of and belief in wheatgrass. Natural News is one of the scream-it-from-the-mountaintop supporters of wheatgrass. They are focused on the positives and hope. They loudly give hope to ulcerative colitis sufferers, breast cancer patients, and detox-fans using words like “clinically proven to heal,” and “confirms,” and rarely using words like “research is still needed.”
How to take it
Whether you’re a skeptic or an optimist, there is no doubt that we should keep our eyes on wheatgrass powder to see if these claims come through. It has the ability to inspire researchers, organizations, writers, Attorney Generals, nutritionists, and patients alike. So if you’re an optimist and are ready to start trying wheatgrass powder or merely intrigued by all the hype, let’s see how to incorporate wheatgrass powder into your daily life.
Spoon and stir
The powder is pretty simple. Simply pour one spoonful of organic wheatgrass powder into your water. Give it a good stir and repeat daily. Be sure to keep watch over the rest of your diet, too. Well-rounded, with decent portions of vegetables and fruits, is the best way to go (The Health Site).
Wheatgrass juice is almost as easy as wheatgrass and water. Simply stir your wheatgrass powder into your daily glass of juice and enjoy!
Blend 1 cup of milk with your powder for a delicious wheatgrass milk. Mix it up even more, and make it creamier, with a spoonful of peanut butter tossed into the blender as well.
Using one cup of water and the appropriate serving (according to the package of your wheatgrass powder) amount of wheat grass powder, blend an even mix in your blender. Then add your choice of fruits, ideally fresh, for a refreshing smoothie. Ice cubes optional.
Frozen yogurt wheatgrass
Add your favorite wheatgrass powder to your favorite frozen yogurt. Blend as usual and add berries if you like. Put your mixture in the freezer until it is completely frozen through. Thaw just a bit before eating it. Honey will sweeten it up, if your sweet tooth is calling.
(These mixtures recommended by SF Gate)
Ready to get started? Or maybe you’re one of the skeptics ready to conduct more research. Either way, precautions should always be noted.
Always check the labels and inserts of your wheatgrass powder, as some may differ. Make sure to note the recommended daily limits and amounts. Always check for allergies. And of course, always, always, always check with your physician or health care provider before changing your diet.
- Antao, Lisa, The Times of India, Watch out for wheatgrass, 2013, online.
- Arora, Debjani, The Health Site, 10 reasons wheatgrass should be added to your diet, 2014, online.
- Cancer.org., Wheatgrass, online.
- Handler, Judd, Mother Nature Network, Are the benefits of wheatgrass overblown?, 2012, online.
- Herb Wisdom, Wheatgrass, online.
- Nadia Haris, SF Gate, How to take Wheatgrass Powder, online.
- NHS, Wheatgrass: detox tonic or just a juice?, online.
- Pravel, D.E., Natural News, Scientists prove the healing effects of wheat grass juice and wheat grass extract, 2012, online.
- Pines: Wheatgrass.com, The history of wheatgrass, online.
- Image Source: stylesatlife.com & pinterest.com.