It may look like the grass that grows in your backyard, but don’t be fooled: wheatgrass packs a powerful health punch.
Worldwide, wheatgrass is soaring to new heights as researchers continue to uncover more of its health benefits.
What’s more, enjoying this popular health food is becoming easier by the day. Although mostly served as juice, wheatgrass is now also available in powder form, making it easy to mix into meals or smoothies. And, if you’re always on the run, popping a wheatgrass tablet, or mixing some wheatgrass powder in water is an easy way to get your daily nutrition boost.
If you have green fingers, buy the sprouts or seeds and grow your own. This way, one of nature’s healthiest foods is always within arm’s reach…
Discovery and background
For thousands of years people have eaten grains such as wheat and barley on an almost daily basis – usually in their mature or fully grown form. But it wasn't until the 1960s that the deep green, younger forms of these plants were popularised for consumption.
According to New York University’s Langone Medical Center, the woman who started it all was Ann Wigmore, a Lithuanian holistic health practitioner and nutritionist who suffered from ulcerative colitis. In her desperation to treat her illness, she tried wheatgrass.
Wigmore claimed wheatgrass cured her of her disease and, to test its health benefits, she also gave it to her neighbours. They too began to show improved health. Needless to say, Wigmore became an overnight sensation and a major figure in the natural health movement.
Wheatgrass Health benefits
Wheatgrass is the young grass of the wheat plant and can be grown in temperate climates both indoors and outdoors. It’s often grown in pots and displayed on counters in health shops.
But there’s more to these tiny green blades than just being aesthetically appealing – they’re rich in a wide range of health-boosting fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, as well as chlorophyll. Research shows that chlorophyll helps deter the growth and development of harmful bacteria in the body.
The oligosaccharides (a form of carbohydrate) in the grass also seem to have the capacity to stimulate an immune response in the body, making wheatgrass a good choice during times of the year when your immune system needs all the help it can get.
A small study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology (2002) suggested that wheatgrass juice may be effective in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. The preliminary study showed that treatment with wheatgrass juice resulted in reduction in overall disease activity. It also reduced rectal bleeding, while no serious side effects were reported in the study participants.
Much more research on wheatgrass and disease prevention and treatment needs to be done though, as many of the functional components and mechanisms of the grass remain unexplored. What we do know now is that it certainly is a healthy source of nutrients.
Many people who use wheatgrass say it works to alleviate or treat their existing ailments, or gives an overall feeling of well-being. In his review on wheatgrass on behalf of the Mayo Clinic, Dr Brent Bauer reports that people who use it claim that wheatgrass:
- Boosts immunity
- Alleviates skin problems
- Assists with constipation (it’s a good source of fibre)
- Rids the digestive tract of harmful bacteria
- Eases joint pain
How to enjoy it
Add fresh wheatgrass to your home-made juices and green smoothies for a nutrient boost.
A few tips:
- Chop the leaves.
- Use a juicer, and not a blender, to make your smoothie.
- Add lots of ice-cold water or juice.
- Pear and pineapple both make good wheatgrass partners.
- Enjoy immediately.
- NYU Langone Medical Center (http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=166732)
- Ben-Arye E., Goldin E., Wengrower D., Stamper A., Kohn R., Berry E. et al. (2002), Wheatgrass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11989836)
- Researchgate.net (http://www.researchgate.net/publication/23137098_Wheatgrass_juice_and_folk_medicine)
- Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/wheatgrass/faq-20058018)
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