Ready for a wheatgrass shot?
Before influencers started selling collagen and celery juice, there was wheatgrass — arguably the original healthy eating fad. It used to be that you couldn’t stumble into a juice bar without seeing the stuff.
It’s enjoying some resurgence these days, thanks in part to the growing popularity of chlorophyll. You may remember from middle school science class that chlorophyll is a pigment that gives plants their green color and helps them absorb energy and make food from sunlight.
With TikToker claiming that chlorophyll can help with a variety of ailments, it was only a matter of time before wheatgrass made a comeback. It is, after all, one of the best sources of the substance.
But is it worth adding a wheatgrass shot, juice or powder to your diet? Here’s what the research shows and what experts think about it.
What is wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass comes from the Triticum aestivum, or wheat, plant leaves. People take it in the form of wheatgrass juice, wheatgrass powder, and wheatgrass supplements.
You may have come across wheatgrass in juice bars – the juice is often sold in shot form.
The nutritional profile of wheatgrass is so amazing that some might even call it a superfood.
It’s packed with vitamins and minerals
Wheatgrass contains an alphabet of vitamins: A, B, C, E, and K. And it’s packed with minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc.
How nutritious is the plant?
One ounce of wheatgrass juice is equivalent to just over two pounds of green leafy vegetables in terms of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids Advances in plant and agricultural research.
It contains antioxidants
The grass is a great source of antioxidants.
In fact, the antioxidants and proteins in wheatgrass can reduce oxidative stress, according to a study published in the Journal of Food Science. And clinical studies point to potential benefits for a variety of other health problems and diseases, the published study said Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry.
It is rich in amino acids
Our body uses amino acids to make protein. We make some of these naturally, but the nine essential amino acids that we cannot make must come from the diet.
research in Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences found that of the 17 amino acids in wheatgrass, eight are essential amino acids.
This is especially great since most sources of essential amino acids are animal products. If you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or follower of a mostly plant-based diet, wheatgrass offers another way to get these essential nutrients.
It contains chlorophyll
If the promise of chlorophyll has led you to wheatgrass, you’re in luck. It appears that the plant does indeed contain the compound.
A study in Journal of Food Science and Technology found that a 200-milliliter serving of wheatgrass contains 82 to 958 micrograms of chlorophyll.
Remember: The jury is still out on the health benefits of chlorophyll, if any. More research is needed, but early research suggests possible benefits for weight loss and blood cells.
Possible Benefits of Wheatgrass
Thanks to the nutrients in wheatgrass, claims of its health benefits include detoxification, better digestion, and everything in between.
Although the superfood is potentially healthy, there isn’t enough research to know how much it helps with specific issues. And some of the purported benefits have yet to be explored at all.
When research is done on wheatgrass, it is mostly done with cells or animals grown in the lab. This means that there is little to no current research on whether or not the purported effects occur in humans.
And the studies that have been done on humans are small — too small to see any real effects.
Conclusion: It is still too early to make concrete health claims. This applies to research into cancer cells, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes.
Here’s what experts and current human evidence say about the possible benefits of wheatgrass.
May reduce symptoms of ulcerative colitis
A review of the research published in the World Magazine of Gastroenterology looked at alternative medical treatments to relieve the symptoms of the inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis.
One of these treatments was wheatgrass juice.
In one of the studies, the researchers found that drinking about half a cup of wheatgrass juice daily for a month improved the symptoms and severity of rectal bleeding more than the placebo.
The theory goes that this benefit is due to the antioxidant content of wheatgrass, which may help reduce inflammation.
May reduce side effects of chemotherapy
Small studies have shown that taking wheatgrass along with certain chemotherapy treatments can help reduce side effects of chemotherapy, according to registered dietitian Malina Malkani.
In an earlier study published in diet and cancerresearchers asked 60 people with breast cancer to either consume wheatgrass juice daily or not during chemotherapy.
The researchers conclude that wheatgrass juice can reduce myelotoxicity, a potentially life-threatening condition in which bone marrow function is impaired.
Can help with weight loss
Wheatgrass contains thylakoids, which may help increase weight loss by suppressing appetite.
A study of 20 overweight women published in appetitefound that supplementing a high-carbohydrate meal with thylakoids increased feelings of satiety compared to a placebo.
Before you get too excited, you should know that the study wasn’t specific to wheatgrass.
May help support blood transfusions
Wheatgrass may also have the potential to help people with some blood disorders, according to Malkani.
Research in the journal Kurus studied the effects of wheatgrass on children with thalassemia, a blood disorder that causes anemia. The researchers randomly assigned the children to either their usual blood transfusions and folic acid treatments or added wheatgrass tablets to those treatments daily.
Although children who took wheatgrass still required the same number of transfusions as those who didn’t, they reported a better quality of life.
Is Wheatgrass Gluten Free?
Considering that “wheat” is right in the name, we don’t blame you for wondering if the weed is safe for people who avoid wheat.
Wheatgrass itself contains no detectable gluten, says Malkani.
That’s because the harvest occurs before the gluten-containing wheat seeds germinate, according to Registered Nutritionist Lisa DeFazio. The wheatgrass itself is the young, fresh leaves of the plant.
However, the method used to produce wheatgrass could make it susceptible to cross-contamination. This is especially true since the process involves using wheat seeds, which contain gluten, according to Malkani.
“For people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or any other reason to avoid gluten, it’s best to check with the manufacturer about their methods and testing before consuming wheatgrass,” she says.
If you speak to the manufacturer, make sure you’re getting certified gluten-free virgin wheatgrass, says DeFazio.
Note that gluten-free foods must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Still, you should ask your doctor if you can add wheatgrass to your diet if you’re avoiding gluten.
Safety, Risks, and Side Effects of Wheatgrass
Reports of minor gastrointestinal upset and difficulty tolerating the taste and smell of wheatgrass juice are common, according to Malkani. You might experience nausea or constipation, DeFazio says.
Wheatgrass appears to be safe for most people, but pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid it.
And it’s always important to consult your doctor, pharmacist, or registered dietitian before starting any dietary supplement, including wheatgrass, as some supplements can interfere with the way certain medications work.
The FDA does not evaluate the efficacy, safety, or quality of dietary supplements before they are released to the market. This means that there are no guarantees that supplements contain the ingredients they claim to contain. Or that it contains no toxins.
When choosing wheatgrass supplements in powder or capsule form, look for well-known brands that are certified by an independent testing organization, Malkani suggests.
What Do Experts Think About Wheatgrass?
The amount of evidence available on wheatgrass is minimal at this time.
Most researchers agree that large, controlled studies are needed before they can make firm recommendations about wheatgrass, including which form is best and whether it offers specific health benefits, Malkani says.
For example, some powders may not be as good as a shot of wheatgrass because processing reduces the nutrients, DeFazio says.
“However, wheatgrass is a great source of many vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients, and for some people it offers an easier way to consume more plants as part of a balanced diet,” she says.
Of course, there are cheaper ways to get these nutrients.
“Many of the nutrients in wheatgrass, like vitamins C and E, chlorophyll, proteins and flavonoids, can be obtained from other foods that may not be as expensive,” says Malkani.
So it might not be worth paying for wheatgrass powder, juice, or supplements when you could get similar nutrients from whole foods — for a lot less.
Next, check out the benefits of another trendy drink: aloe vera juice.