Ready for a wheatgrass shot?
Before influencers started shilling collagen and celery juice, there was wheatgrass — arguably the original health food craze. There was once a time when you couldn’t get into a juice bar without seeing the stuff.
It’s seeing a bit of a resurgence these days, thanks in part to the growing popularity of chlorophyll. You may remember from high 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 TikTokers claiming that chlorophyll can help a host of ailments, it was only a matter of time before wheatgrass made a comeback. After all, it is one of the best sources of the substance.
But is it worth adding a shot of wheatgrass, juice or powder to your diet? Here’s what the research shows and what experts think about it.
What is wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass is 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 even call it a superfood.
It is 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 really?
An ounce of wheatgrass juice equals vitamins, minerals and amino acids to just over two pounds of green leafy vegetables, according to 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 may reduce oxidative stress, according to a study published in the Nutrition Science Magazine. And clinical trials point to potential benefits for a host of other health conditions and diseases, says research published in Mini Reviews in Medical Chemistry.
It contains many amino acids
Our bodies use amino acids to make proteins. We make some naturally, but the nine essential amino acids that we cannot make must come from food.
Research in the Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences found that of the 17 amino acids in wheatgrass, eight are essential amino acids.
That’s especially great because 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 this vital nutrient.
It contains chlorophyll
If the promise of chlorophyll has drawn you to wheatgrass, you’re in luck. It appears that the plant does indeed contain the compound.
A study in the Journal of Food Science and Technology found that a 200-milliliter serving of wheatgrass contains 82 to 958 micrograms of chlorophyll.
Keep in mind: The verdict on the health benefits of chlorophyll, if any, is not in. More research is needed, but preliminary research points to potential benefits for weight loss and blood cells.
Potential Benefits Of Wheatgrass
Thanks to the nutrients in wheatgrass, claims about its health benefits include detoxification, better digestion, and everything in between.
While the superfood is potentially healthy, there isn’t enough research to know to what extent it helps specific problems. And some of the supposed benefits have yet to be studied at all.
Where there is research on wheatgrass, it is usually done with lab-grown cells or animals. That means there is little to no current research on whether or not the purported effects occur in humans.
And the studies that have been done in humans are small — too small to see a real effect.
Bottom line: It’s too early to make any specific health claims. This applies to research into cancer cells, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes.
Here’s what experts and current evidence on people are saying about the potential benefits of wheatgrass.
May Reduce Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms
An overview of research published in the World news of Gastroenterology, looking at alternative medicine to relieve the symptoms of the inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis.
One of those treatments was wheatgrass juice.
In one of the studies, researchers found that drinking about half a cup of wheatgrass juice for a month improved symptoms and severity of rectal bleeding more than the placebo.
The theory is that this benefit comes from wheatgrass’s antioxidant content, which may help reduce inflammation.
May Reduce Chemotherapy Side Effects
Small studies have shown that taking wheatgrass along with certain chemotherapy treatments may help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, according to registered dietitian Malina Malkani.
In an older study, published in Nutrition and cancerresearchers asked 60 people with breast cancer to either take wheatgrass juice daily during chemotherapy or not.
The researchers conclude that wheatgrass juice may reduce myelotoxicity, a potentially life-threatening condition in which bone marrow function is impaired.
Can help with weight loss
Wheatgrass contains thylakoids, which can help increase weight loss by suppressing appetite.
A trial in 20 overweight women, published in pullfound that supplementing a carbohydrate-rich meal with thylakoids improved satiety compared to a placebo.
Before you get too excited, know that the study wasn’t specifically on wheatgrass.
Can help support blood transfusions
Wheatgrass may also have the potential to help people with a number of blood disorders, according to Malkani.
Research in the magazine Cureus looked at the effect of wheatgrass on children with thalassemia, a blood disease that causes anemia. The researchers randomly assigned children to either receive their usual blood transfusions and folic acid treatment or to add daily wheatgrass tablets to those treatments.
Although children who took wheatgrass still required the same number of transfusions as those who did not, they reported a better quality of life.
Is wheatgrass gluten free?
Since “wheat” is right in the name, we don’t blame you for wondering if the grass is safe for people who avoid wheat.
Wheatgrass itself contains no detectable gluten, says Malkani.
That’s because harvesting occurs before the gluten-containing wheat seeds germinate, according to registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa DeFazio. The wheatgrass itself is the young, fresh leaf of the plant.
However, the method used to prepare wheatgrass can make it susceptible to some cross-contamination. This is especially true because the process involves using wheat seed, which does 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.
When talking to the manufacturer, be sure to get certified gluten-free pure wheatgrass, DeFazio says.
Note that gluten-free foods should contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Still, you can also ask your doctor to add wheatgrass to your diet if you’re avoiding gluten.
Safety, Risks, and Side Effects of Wheatgrass
Reports of mild gastrointestinal distress and difficulty tolerating the taste and smell of wheatgrass juice are common, Malkani said. You may 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 check with your doctor, pharmacist, or registered dietitian before starting any supplements, including wheatgrass, as some supplements can interfere with the function of certain medications.
The FDA does not evaluate the effectiveness, safety, or quality of dietary supplements before they are marketed. That means there is no guarantee that supplements will contain the ingredients they claim to contain. Or that it contains no toxic substances.
If you’re choosing wheatgrass as a dietary supplement in powder or capsule form, look for well-known brands certified by a third-party testing organization, suggests Malkani.
What do experts think of wheatgrass?
The available evidence on wheatgrass is currently minimal.
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 certain health benefits, says Malkani.
For example, some powders may not be as good as a shot of wheatgrass because the processing reduces the nutrients, DeFazio says.
“However, wheatgrass is a great source of many vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients, and for some people, in the context of a balanced diet, it provides an easier way to consume more plants,” she says.
Of course, there are cheaper ways to get those nutrients.
“Many of the nutrients in wheatgrass, such as 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.