If you’re serious about good health and have yet to experience wheatgrass, prepare to be amazed. Whether it’s juiced or powdered, wheatgrass is one health food that definitely lives up to its name. So in case you’re new to the wheatgrass game, come with us as we uncover the wheatgrass health benefits that’ll have you wondering where this green superfood has been all your life.
What Is Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass is the nutrient-rich young grass of Triticum aestivum, otherwise known as the common wheat plant. One of the reasons wheatgrass has become popular in both juice bars and kitchen gardens is its high chlorophyll content—up to 70%!
Chlorophyll, as we all learned in science class, is the pigment that gives plants their green color and the substance they use to perform photosynthesis.
Interestingly, chlorophyll is also known as the green blood of plants because its molecular structure closely resembles the hemoglobin in our own red blood cells. In fact, the main difference between the two is that hemoglobin forms around a central atom of iron, while chlorophyll has magnesium at its center.
Wheatgrass Health Benefits
As just mentioned, wheatgrass contains up to 70% chlorophyll. This is especially important because chlorophyll has powerful antibacterial properties and acts as both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Chlorophyll also aids digestion by assisting the liver with detoxification, and it may help with weight loss too. And the green blood of plants has even been found in a number of studies to demonstrate potential anti-cancer benefits.
But as impressive as chlorophyll is, it’s not the only thing that gives wheatgrass its superfood status.
In fact, the many health benefits of wheatgrass are due in large part to its sheer nutrient density. In fact, wheatgrass contains more than 20 times the nutrient density of any other vegetable, with a 1-ounce wheatgrass shot boasting more nutrients than those found in 30 grams of fresh vegetables—that’s over half a pound!
Not surprisingly, this means that wheatgrass contains almost every single nutrient the body requires for life. Even an amount as small as 1 ounce contains over 100 different nutrients, including iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus as well as beta-carotene and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8, B12, C, E, and K.
And we’re not done yet.
Wheatgrass contains all 9 essential amino acids (those we must obtain from food) and all 11 nonessential amino acids (those the body can create on its own), which helps explain why 1 teaspoon of wheatgrass contains almost 1 gram of protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are required for almost every biochemical process in the body, from manufacturing neurotransmitters to repairing tissues and building muscle.
But wait, there’s more…
Wheatgrass contains loads of antioxidants that protect the body from damage due to free radicals, including phenolic compounds, which act as anti-inflammatories and provide protection against cancer, and vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E (in the form of alpha-tocopherol), which help repair cell damage and boost immune system health.
And then there are the bioflavonoids, like apigenin, which helps control blood pressure and has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties; luteolin, which acts as an immune booster and provides protection for the brain; and quercetin, which is anti-inflammatory and antiviral, helps lower cholesterol levels, and inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells in a wide range of cancers, from cervical and colon cancer to lung, prostate, and breast cancers.
What’s more, the antioxidants supplied by drinking wheatgrass or taking other types of wheatgrass supplements can help lower the risk of a number of other serious diseases linked to oxidative stress, including heart disease and neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Wheatgrass also contains electrolytes, including potassium, which helps regulate nerve and muscle function and maintain fluid balance in the body. Potassium can also help keep blood pressure under control and protect against stroke and osteoporosis.
In addition, wheatgrass is a great source of selenium—a trace mineral that acts as both an antioxidant and a detoxifying agent that helps the body rid itself of toxic heavy metals. Selenium also helps protect against many age-related conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline, and may even increase lifespan.
Moreover, wheatgrass is so rich in vitamin K that health care professionals recommend that people taking the blood thinner warfarin avoid it because of vitamin K’s role in blood clotting.
But for everyone else, this important vitamin has a positive impact on both high cholesterol and blood sugar levels and is associated with a lowered risk of diabetes. Vitamin K is also necessary for strong bones and helps protect arteries from plaque buildup. And like selenium, vitamin K appears to play a significant role in longevity.
The Benefits Continue…
We’ve already touched on many potential wheatgrass benefits. But there are so many more.
For example, studies have found that wheatgrass helps to not only prevent heart disease, cancer, and diabetes but also aid in the treatment and prevention of blood disorders, obesity, digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
In addition, a review published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences assessing the findings of a number of different studies found that wheatgrass extract—or the juice pressed from the leaves of the young grass—is useful for a number of other conditions, including:
- Gum disease
There’s one last plus we haven’t yet noted: wheatgrass is naturally gluten free, which means it’s a safe and healthy choice for people diagnosed with celiac disease.
It’s Not Just for Drinking
You may think the only way to get the benefits of wheatgrass is by drinking it. But the truth is that wheatgrass can be used both inside and outside the body.
The nutrients and antibacterial properties of wheatgrass—and its main component, chlorophyll—mean that wheatgrass can be an important addition to your daily oral hygiene routine.
Simply swishing a 1-ounce wheatgrass shot for a few minutes each day can help kill the bacteria that cause plaque and lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease.
By the same token, gargling with wheatgrass can be great for a sore throat, especially if the pain is caused by an infection. And the leftover pulp from your wheatgrass juicer can be used as a poultice for the treatment of cuts, rashes, insect bites, and skin infections.
Strained wheatgrass juice also makes an effective eye wash for the treatment of eye irritations or infections, such as conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Likewise, equal parts wheatgrass and water can be used in a neti pot to help keep nasal passages clear and treat sinus infections.
And if you’re interested in an alkalinizing and detoxifying enema, try one part wheatgrass—either juice or powder form—to three parts water.
If you’re looking for the next powerhouse to add to your healthy lifestyle, look no further than wheatgrass. Whether you’re adding wheatgrass powder to your smoothies or drinking wheatgrass shots, or even opting for a wheatgrass supplement that you can take as a pill, this nutrient-rich grass is one green superfood you ought to check out.