By Dr. Mercola
Sprouts are one of the healthiest vegetables you can grow. Essentially, they’re young plants that have recently emerged from their seeds that you can eat right away. At first, it may be weird to harvest them at such a young age, but they’re actually concentrated with beneficial nutrients. Furthermore, they’re quite easy to grow since you don’t have to wait until the plants reach maturity.
There are many types of sprouts you can consume as part of your regular diet. Beneficial choices include broccoli, sunflower, beets, basil, kale, mung beans and arugula. In fact, I grow my own sprouts at home to add to my other foods because they help me meet my daily nutritional requirements.
One type of sprout, wheatgrass, has been gaining popularity because of its minimal effort to grow, as well as its diverse nutrient profile. You may have heard about it before and you’re curious to try it out, but is it a good choice for your health?
What Is Wheatgrass and How Is It Used?
Wheatgrass, quite simply, comes from the cotyledons of the common wheat plant,1 which are the first leaves that emerge from the seeds. They are sometimes called “seed leaves” due to their very young age, and they are considered to be the bridge between the seed and the plant.2 Wheatgrass is typically available in three forms:3
• Raw wheatgrass: Wheatgrass can be juiced and mixed into smoothies or other juiced vegetables. To juice wheatgrass, cut at the base of the blade and insert the tips into the juicer.
• Wheatgrass powder: You can pour a scoop of wheatgrass powder into your drinks or smoothies to get the nutrients if you don’t have a juicer at home.
• Wheatgrass supplement: This is usually preferred by those who don’t like the flavor of wheatgrass products.
If you wish to follow the juicer route, here are two ways you can do it:
|Using a High-Powered Blender||Using a Juicer|
1. Add prepared wheatgrass and enough water to allow the grass to liquify in the blender.
2. Blend the wheatgrass and water just long enough to liquify.
3. Pour into a clean tight-weave towel or fine-mesh strainer, set over a clean glass or bowl.
4. If using a towel, gather up the corners to make a bag.
5. Squeeze the liquid from the blended grass into the glass, being sure to get as much out as possible.
6. Discard pulp and enjoy wheat grass juice.
1. Feed the wheatgrass into the juicer and run according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
2. Capture the juice. With a manual grinder, passing the pulp through a second time can help to extract as much of the juice as possible.
Aside from drinking a big glass of wheatgrass juice, you can prepare wheatgrass shots for those who are not used to the taste and texture of wheatgrass yet. Remember that when making wheatgrass juice or wheatgrass shots, add other green vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit for extra flavor and nutrients.
Growing Your Own Wheatgrass at Home
Planting wheatgrass requires little effort. All you need are four items: organic wheatgrass seeds, high-quality potting soil, a plastic gardening tray and a spray bottle.4 You should plant wheatgrass seeds indoors because they are fragile and can be exposed to animals, birds and bugs if planted outdoors. But if your garden is clean and is not on the path of predators, planting outdoors is fine.5
Start germinating your seeds by rinsing them in clean water and then soaking them in a container for eight to 10 hours, then repeat the process twice. If done correctly, you will notice that the seeds have sprouted.6
Next, fill the tray with an inch of soil. Water the soil gently using the spray, then sprinkle the seeds around the container evenly and cover everything with a loose layer of soil again. Water the sprouts daily carefully until they reach a height of 6 to 7 inches. Afterwards, they will be ready to be juiced or added to foods.7
Here’s an important tip when it comes to growing wheatgrass: If your harvest tastes bitter, it may be because you placed the tray under direct sunlight. I suggest placing your produce under indirect sunlight and harvesting it right at the jointing stage for a sweeter flavor.
Another thing to be aware of when growing wheatgrass is that it is susceptible to contamination and mold because the seeds are tightly clumped in moist soil, which is the perfect breeding ground for undesirable pathogens. If you consume moldy wheatgrass, it can make you sick. To lower your risk of disease, lessen the seeds planted on the soil, lower the humidity and keep a gentle breeze going around the tray.
Studies Regarding the Benefits of Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass contains vitamins A, C, E, K and assorted B vitamins. In addition, it contains various minerals important to optimal health such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.8 Because of these collection of nutrients, wheatgrass has gained a reputation for being a superfood. Studies have shown these nutrients working together may help:
Provide Support for Chemotherapy
People who are currently undergoing chemotherapy have a chance of experiencing side effects, which may be managed by taking wheatgrass.
In a 2007 study published in the journal Nutrition and Care, patients who drank wheatgrass juice while undergoing chemotherapy experienced lower blood toxicity levels compared to those who only had typical supportive therapy.9
Remove Excess Iron in the Blood
Wheatgrass may have iron-chelating properties, which help protect your body from hemochromatosis, a condition marked by unsafe levels of iron in your blood.10
In one study, patients who received multiple blood transfusions developed excess iron levels in their blood.
They were given wheatgrass juice that subsequently lowered their levels of iron. This strategy may help people who require frequent blood transfusions.
Lessen Blood Transfusions
Those who are currently undergoing blood transfusions to treat a particular illness may benefit from drinking wheatgrass juice.
According to one study, researchers asked patients suffering from thalassemia major to drink 100 milliliters of wheatgrass juice daily.
The researchers noted that the subjects experienced better health and required fewer transfusions than before the testing period.11
Improve Digestive Health
If you’ve been experiencing digestive troubles lately, wheatgrass may help promote a healthy stomach.
In a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers noted that wheatgrass juice reduced the symptoms of active distal ulcerative colitis among participants. No serious side effects were reported as well.12
Wheatgrass is also rich in chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants that plays a central role in photosynthesis. In this process, plants absorb sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to allow themselves to grow.13 What’s interesting is that this pigment may also benefit your health by:14
• Improving red blood cell function: Chlorophyll contains enzymes that help cleanse your blood and increase its ability to carry more oxygen.
• Controlling inflammation: Consuming foods rich in chlorophyll may be an effective way to help manage inflammation better, according to one study.15
• Promoting a healthier colon: According to findings derived from a rodent study, researchers suggested that chlorophyll may promote a cleaner colon by inhibiting the production of colonytes and cytotoxicity induced by dietary heme.16
• Fighting pathogenic yeast: Chlorophyll may help fight the growth of yeast in your body to prevent overgrowth and potential yeast-related diseases.17
The Important Question: Is Wheatgrass Right for You?
While wheatgrass may be beneficial to your health, some people are better off not taking it. If you have wheat allergy for example, I recommend you avoid wheatgrass in any form to avoid problems. Common problems of wheatgrass allergy include hives and anaphylaxis.18
People who have celiac disease should avoid wheatgrass as well because the supplements they will take may have gluten in them, which can cause a negative reaction if ingested.19 If you still want to take it, consult with a doctor first to have them monitor your health and only take a 100 percent gluten-free wheatgrass supplement.
The Recommended Dosage for Wheatgrass
The recommended dosage for wheatgrass completely depends on the form you’re taking it. When juiced, for example, you may be able to drink anywhere between 16 to 100 milliliters per day.20
As for supplements, currently there’s not enough reliable scientific information regarding the best recommended dosage. If you still wish to push through with taking a wheatgrass supplement, I highly suggest visiting a doctor first to get their opinion and check for any potential side effects. Also, you need to strictly follow the instructions written on the label of your chosen product.21
Known Side Effects of Wheatgrass
If you decide to take wheatgrass supplements or grow wheatgrass at home, be very careful. Consuming high amounts of wheatgrass regularly can cause a healing crisis that can make you very sick, leading to nausea and lead to other health issues, such as:22
• Stained teeth (from wheatgrass shots)
• Dizziness and fatigue
Furthermore, you may experience symptoms of celiac disease and gluten intolerance if the quality of the product is not good. Be sure to do your research and only use gluten-free products because some parts of the wheat plant that contain gluten may become mixed with the product during production.23,24
Most people think wheatgrass is a food that should be consumed daily, but you may eventually develop an aversion to the taste after several months. In truth, it actually works better as a detoxifying agent. One strategy that you can try to work around this problem is to use wheatgrass sparingly — only when you absolutely need to detoxify.
Remember To Be Careful and Do Your Research Before Taking Wheatgrass Supplements
Despite the growing popularity of wheatgrass, don’t dive into the craze just yet. If you decide to buy a wheatgrass supplement, I recommend that you visit your doctor first to confirm if you have wheat allergies or gluten intolerance to minimize risks and side effects. Furthermore, choose a high-quality supplement that uses 100 percent gluten-free wheatgrass from a reputable manufacturer.
I also highly suggest consuming other types of sprouts, especially in their natural state. Don’t rely on wheatgrass alone to augment your daily nutritional needs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Wheatgrass
Q: Is wheatgrass gluten-free?
A: High-quality, pure wheatgrass is a gluten-free product. When researching for wheatgrass supplements, make sure that the manufacturer absolutely uses top-notch ingredients. This is an important distinction to be aware of especially if you are allergic to gluten or have celiac disease.25
Q: Where can you buy wheatgrass supplements?
A: There are many online stores that carry various wheatgrass supplements for your convenience. However, you should pay more attention to the quality of the product. Make sure that it uses high-quality ingredients and the manufacturer follows a high standard of production.26
Q: Why is wheatgrass good for you?
A: Wheatgrass is said to have body-wide benefits, such as increasing your red blood cell count, detoxify your liver, stimulate your thyroid gland and reduce the damaging effects of radiation. However, consuming high amounts of wheatgrass regularly can prompt a healing crisis, so it’s best to be ingested sparingly.
Q: What is wheatgrass made of?
A: Wheatgrass is a product derived from the cotyledons of the common wheat plant (Triticum aestivum).27 Cotyledons are essentially the very first leaves produced by plants. They are sometimes nicknamed “seed leaves” because of this definition.28