If you frequent health food stores, juice bars, or wellness sites, you’ve probably seen wheatgrass mentioned. Still, a large portion of people seem uncertain how to use it or why it’s beneficial.
What is Wheatgrass and Is It Gluten Free?
Wheatgrass is exactly what it sounds like: the grass of wheat. It comes from freshly sprouted leaves of the triticum aestivum, a form of wheat.
It is frequently seen in health food stores as powder, supplements, or an ingredient found in juices or other health-related products. While wheatgrass isn’t technically a vegetable, it supplies many nutrients that are found in vegetables, and can have many overlapping health benefits.
The CDC reports that only 27 percent of Americans claim to eat three or more servings of vegetables daily—which is not nearly enough to be receiving the nutrients we need from food.
Wheatgrass doesn’t replace veggie intake, but it is rich in antioxidants and micronutrients and can help to supplement missing micronutrients, while also further boosting the wellness of those who do eat higher levels of vegetables.
Wheatgrass is gluten free because it doesn’t contain gluten, the protein found in the grain part of the plant. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should be able to eat wheatgrass just fine, as long as it’s made in a gluten free facility.
People who have wheat allergies, however, or who are sensitive to other grasses, will still want to be cautious of and potentially avoid wheatgrass.
5 Health-Boosting Benefits of Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass has been claimed to have numerous health benefits, but here we’re only going to cover those proven by research.
Additionally, there are many different ways to get in your daily wheatgrass, but we’ll cover the best of the best. Consider this your complete guide to wheatgrass!
1. Nutrient Dense and Rich in Antioxidants
Wheatgrass is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, particularly vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E—all of which function as antioxidants within the body to scavenge free radicals.
It is also rich in magnesium, iron, and calcium, which are essential minerals needed for healthy blood and bones. Wheatgrass also provides several amino acids, which help to provide the body the tools that it needs to rebuild and repair.
Amino acids are broken down into two groups: essential and nonessential. The essential ones are critical for health. Wheatgrass contains 17 different amino acids, and eight of those are considered essential.
Wheatgrass is also rich in chlorophyll, which is the part of the plant that makes them appear green. Wheatgrass is 70 percent comprised of chlorophyll, which is a potent antioxidant and blood building nutrient that is particularly good at helping to boost hemoglobin, which helps move oxygen throughout the body.
In addition, wheatgrass contains glutathione, which is an essential antioxidant that is known as the mother of all antioxidants. It’s required for detox, immunity, and every other health process in the body.
While the body does make its own glutathione, chronically stressful lifestyles, poor dietary choices, and lack of exercise can all lead to the depletion of our glutathione stores and can suppress the body’s ability to make enough.
Being able to get glutathione in dietary sources is a critical aspect of being able to boost health, since antioxidants are necessary for preventing conditions like heart disease, arthritis, neurological disorders, and even cancer.
Wheatgrass is even such a potent antioxidant that it can help to boost fertility in both men and women and promote balanced reproductive hormones.
2. Blood Sugar Balance
When blood sugar is too high, it can lead to a slow breakdown of many physical processes, including nerve damage, skin problems, vision issues, suppressed or increased immune response, and more.
Some research has shown that wheatgrass can help to keep blood sugar levels stable by being able to modify enzymes that can lower glucose in the blood. When used for at least 30 days, wheatgrass can promote regularly lowered blood sugar.
3. Supports Natural Weight Loss
Wheatgrass has been a popular part of juice fasts and diet programs, but is there anything to wheatgrass being able to help promote actual weight loss?
Wheatgrass contains compounds known as thylakoids, which are shown by research to enhance feelings of fullness and release hormones that help to bring the appetite back into balance, which can increase the ability to shed extra pounds.
It also helps to improve digestive function and can cut down on unpleasant digestive symptoms like heartburn or stomach pain.
4. Cuts Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s way to bring about a healing process. When the body gets injured, inflammation responds to promote healing.
But we live in a chronically stressful society where inflammatory processes often begin and then continue unchecked, unable to achieve the healing they’re attempting to cause. Chronic inflammation can lead to problems like autoimmune disease, cancer, heart disease, and digestive problems.
Wheatgrass has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown by research to reduce inflammation within the body, especially in the large intestine.
Even just half a cup or less of juiced wheatgrass for a month can have dramatic impacts on inflammatory levels, including reducing inflammation in the arteries, which can be problematic for a healthy cardiovascular system.
5. Can Help Disrupt and Destroy Cancer Cells
Cancer is ultimately an inflammatory process in the body where cells begin to replicate in a damaged manner. Antioxidants can help to destroy cancer cells and cut high levels of inflammation.
While most of the cancer research with wheatgrass has been done in test tubes, it has shown extremely positive results, such as being able to destroy mouth cancer cells and reduce the spread by 41 percent.
In another study, wheatgrass was able to kill leukemia cancer cells and decrease the amount by 65 percent within just three days.
Other research indicates that when wheatgrass is combined with traditional treatments, it can help to buffer the negative effects of cancer drugs or protocols and can support natural health throughout the process.
Bottom line: Wheatgrass has numerous health benefits, most of them stemming from the potent antioxidant properties and high levels of micronutrients. It can be used in a liquid, powder, or capsule form, but for best absorption, most studies look at juiced wheatgrass.
Beyond the benefits listed above, wheatgrass can also support dental health, protect the liver and kidneys, boost natural detox, promote healthy blood pressure, work as a natural antiseptic, provide relief for sore throats, function as a sleep aid, works as a skin food that fights eczema and psoriasis, and can even lower triglyceride levels.
How to Use Wheatgrass
When you go to a health food store, you’ll often find wheatgrass in several forms: juiced, powdered, and in capsules. You can even grow your own wheatgrass at home, although this can be prone to developing mold quite quickly, so be sure to get expert advice on how to do it.
Wheatgrass can be beneficial in any form, but juice is the most absorbable and easily digestible form because it is closest to its most natural state.
As mentioned above, wheatgrass is especially nutrient dense, and contains the following vitamins, minerals, and other health-essential compounds:
- Amino acids
- Phenolic acid
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Superoxide dismutase
- B-Complex vitamins
- Vitamin K
Wheatgrass is not toxic, even when consumed in high amounts, although it can have similar effects to eating large quantities of vegetables: it can cause stool to turn a dark green color when consumer in higher amounts over time.
Beyond taking it internally, wheatgrass can also be used topically. Here are the best ways to use wheatgrass, inside and outside, and how exactly to use them.
Skin food: Apply wheatgrass juice to acne, psoriasis, eczema, and even perfectly health skin as a tonic or cleanser. Apply juice to the skin and allow to sit for 20 minutes before gently rinsing with warm or cool water.
Arthritis aid: Soak a wash cloth or small cotton rag in wheatgrass juice and lay on the inflamed or swollen area. Cover with plastic wrap or a plastic bag, and leave for 20 minutes. Apply three or four times a day as needed.
Constipation cure: Drink one-half cup of wheatgrass every morning, followed by eight ounces of warm water. Optionally, for extremely uncomfortable intestines, drink before bed and first thing in the morning.
Digestive boost: Drink a one-fourth cup of wheatgrass mixed with a few ounces of water either before or after a meal, especially meals that include proteins or foods that are harder for you to digest. Make it part of your daily digestive support by adding some freshly squeezed lemon juice and a pinch of turmeric or peppermint.
Immune support: Feeling under the weather? Take a shot of one-fourth cup of wheatgrass juice, or a tablespoon of wheatgrass powder added to a smoothie, three or four times a day for a mega-boost of nutrients that can help to support natural immunity while also providing sore throat relief.
Anti-aging elixir: Add wheatgrass juice or powder to your smoothie or smoothie bowl for breakfast each morning to help nourish your skin from the inside out.
Blood builder: Take wheatgrass daily to help boost your blood. Wheatgrass can help raise hemoglobin levels and contains vitamin K which promotes normal and healthy blood clotting processes.
Coffee alternative: Want to quit caffeine? Swap your cup of joe for an antioxidant rich wheatgrass latte. Using a bullet, whip together one cup of coconut milk, a few teaspoons of wheatgrass juice or powder, a pinch of stevia leaf or a few drops of liquid stevia, and some fresh lemon. Sprinkle with some cinnamon for a decorative and delicious effect!
Smoothie bowl: Swirl one cup of coconut milk with a few tablespoons of wheatgrass and top with the following: one tablespoon of chia seeds, one tablespoon of hemp seeds, half cup of blueberries, and drizzle with a few teaspoons of raw honey.
You can also top with sliced banana, cacao nibs, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, or any other favorite smoothie ingredients.
Fresh juice: Boost your wheatgrass intake by buying actual wheatgrass still in grass form, or grow your own, and make yourself the freshest nutrient-boosting juice to start each day.
Take a handful of wheatgrass along with the following: one small cucumber, a few handful of spinach, a small green apple, and a few large carrots. Process them using a juicer, and sip on the fresh goodness.
Optional: add the juice of a lemon or lime, or throw in a few teaspoons of turmeric or ginger to step up the anti-inflammatory goodness.
Salad dressing: Make your own detox-friendly dressing by taking a few tablespoons of wheatgrass juice and whisking with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, the juice of one lemon, and a few teaspoons of minced garlic.
While garlic might not seem appealing, it has potent antiviral properties and is especially beneficial when raw. Pour this dressing over your vegetable rich salad of dark leafy greens (don’t forget less common options like watercress or Swiss chard!), and add some free-range protein options like chicken thighs or even some wild-caught smoked salmon.
Wheatgrass is still the subject of much research, but enough has been done to prove one thing for sure: it’s an antioxidant powerhouse that has a well-deserved superfood status.
Between the digestive benefits, cancer-fighting properties, and even topical uses for the skin, wheatgrass is a versatile health food and nutrient that has earned a place in every refrigerator and medicine cabinet.
Since there are unlimited ways to include it in your diet, don’t be afraid to experiment with new dishes that utilize this chlorophyll-rich nutri-food. If you’re not keen to pay juice bar prices or have to mix powders, try your hand at growing your own.
Starter kits can be found at most health food stores and online.
Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid problems, infertility, and digestive wellness. She ate her way back to health using a Paleo diet, lost 80 pounds, and had a healthy baby after numerous miscarriages. She focuses on simple nutrition practices that promote long-lasting results.