Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are probably familiar with the juicing craze. Juice bars and smoothie shops are popping up all over the place, offering blended drinks packed with nutritious ingredients. Among the top performers is wheatgrass, an ingredient that has taken the health food niche by storm. But what is it? Keep reading to find out.
What is Wheatgrass, Anyway?
Wheatgrass is simply the sprouted leaves of the common wheat plant, Triticum aestivum. This edible grass can be juiced fresh or milled into a green powder that can be used in a variety of different ways. Even though it is a product of the wheat plant, wheatgrass is completely gluten-free, and many consider it to be a superfood. Here are some important nutrition facts:
- A teaspoon of wheatgrass powder contains about 10 calories
- Just one teaspoon (3.5g) contains 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of carbs, and no fat
- A 1-teaspoon serving of wheatgrass powder contains 30% your RDA for vitamin A
- Wheatgrass powder is rich in electrolytes like magnesium and calcium
- This food contains vitamins A, C, and E as well as plenty of antioxidants and amino acids
Though it is important to note that wheatgrass is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, the one nutritional benefit worth extra attention is its chlorophyll content. Chlorophyll is what gives wheatgrass its bright green color, and it supports a number of important bodily processes. For one thing, it is a natural detoxifier that can help cleanse the liver. It also acts like an antioxidant, helping to reduce oxidative stress and fight free radical damage. Chlorophyll also strengthens the blood and gives you a boost of natural energy.
What Are the Health Benefits of Wheatgrass?
As you already know, wheatgrass is packed with healthy nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It also contains 17 different amino acids, 8 of which are essential – this simply means that your body can’t synthesize them on its own, so they must come from your diet. But what are the health benefits of wheatgrass? Here are a few of our favorites:
- It has been shown to reduce both LDL or “bad” cholesterol and blood triglycerides with a similar level of benefit to atorvastatin, a common cholesterol medication.
- In a 10-week study, wheatgrass juice was shown to now only lower total cholesterol, but it also boosted HDL or “good” cholesterol levels.
- The antioxidant benefits of wheatgrass have been shown to decrease the spread of certain types of cancer and may help minimize the adverse effects of cancer treatments.
- Wheatgrass may help manage blood sugar levels and reduce symptoms of hyperglycemia.
- It may help reduce inflammation which can contribute to a number of chronic diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease.
- Drinking wheatgrass juice may improve satiety and weight loss due to its thylakoid content.
- It has an alkalizing effect on the body and may increase absorption of key nutrients including vitamins and electrolytes – it may also reduce toxicity from processed foods.
In addition to offering all of these health benefits and more, wheatgrass is very safe to consume, even for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Keep in mind, however, that you still need to exercise basic food safety precautions. Wheatgrass is highly susceptible to mold, so check it before using it – if it has a bitter taste or shows signs of spoilage, don’t use it. If you decide to take wheatgrass supplements, keep an eye out for side effects like headache, nausea, and diarrhea and decrease your intake if they happen. If you continue to experience side effects, talk to your doctor.
How Do You Use Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass comes in a variety of different forms including powder, juice, capsules, and tablets as well as the fresh grass itself. When it comes to choosing the best form of wheatgrass to use, remember that nutritional supplements are the most beneficial when they are close to their natural form. This being the case, fresh wheatgrass or wheatgrass juice is the most nutritious, though wheatgrass powder comes in a close second. But how do you use wheatgrass? Here are some ideas:
- Make your own wheatgrass juice in a juicer or blend it with water in a blender.
- Add wheatgrass powder to fresh juices, smoothies, teas, or salad dressings.
- Chop up fresh wheatgrass and use it in salads or side dishes.
- Take oral wheatgrass supplements in capsule, pill, or tablet form.
If you’d like to give wheatgrass a try, one of the easiest ways is to use the fresh grass in a homemade smoothie. Here is a quick and easy smoothie recipe:
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach
- ½ cup frozen blueberries
- ½ small frozen banana, chopped
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 4 to 5 ice cubes
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds or ground flaxseed
- 1 tablespoon wheatgrass powder
- Liquid stevia extract, to taste
- Combine all of the ingredients in a blender.
- Pulse several times to chop the ingredients then blend for 30 to 60 seconds until smooth.
- Pour the smoothie into a large glass and enjoy immediately.
While you might not be ready to start chugging a glass of wheatgrass juice with breakfast every morning, you should seriously consider adding this nutritional supplement to your diet. Stir a few teaspoons into your morning smoothie or add it to some fresh-pressed juice. The nutritional benefits are myriad, so take advantage of them!