What is wheat grass?

Wheatgrass (also known by its English name wheatgrass or as wheatgrass in some areas) refers to the soft leaves of wheat. It is common to find it in the form of a powder, obtained by spraying the dehydrated wheat plant, which is sold as a dietary supplement. It can also be consumed fresh or mixed with wheatgrass juice. It has a high content of beta-carotene, fiber, vitamins and minerals and has some beneficial health properties.

How and with what is it done?

When we talk about wheat grass or grass, we usually refer to wheat bread (Triticum aestivum). Commercial wheatgrass powder and pills are made from the leaves of plants that are about three months old. It is collected, dehydrated and ground into a fine powder that is sold as is or used to make capsules, tablets and other products.

This wheat species can also be easily grown at home, even indoors in small pots, and is normally consumed 10 days after germination in the form of a smoothie (wheatgrass juice).

How is it taken?

Powdered wheatgrass is taken by mixing it with water to make a drink that is drunk directly. The powder can also be added to other foods. It can also be taken in the form of tablets and capsules. Fresh grass is taken liquefied. The frequency and value may vary according to the objective pursued; At this point it is advisable to follow the recommendations of a professional.

What nutrients does it provide and what benefits does it have?

Wheat grass has a high nutritional value. It contains almost all the B vitamins plus vitamins C, E, H and K, high amounts of beta-carotene, minerals and essential amino acids. Some texts claim that 3.5 grams of wheatgrass powder is nutritionally equivalent to 50 grams of spinach. This amount of nutrients can be obtained in the powder preparation due to the dehydration process that preserves most of the nutrients of the fresh herb, significantly reducing its weight and volume.

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Among the health benefits attributed to wheatgrass are:

Restore the body’s natural pH: Among the minerals that wheatgrass provides, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium stand out, all of which have an alkalizing effect (increasing pH). Stress and current eating habits, with high consumption of refined carbohydrates, tend to acidify the environment (lower pH) and consumption of wheatgrass would help to counter this. Improves digestion and helps in weight loss diets: because of its content in enzymes, such as protease (intervenes in protein digestion), amylase (carbohydrate digestion), lipase (fat digestion) and cytochrome oxidase (potent antioxidant) improves digestion of general form and can be useful in tapering diets. Improves skin elasticity and appearance: its high content of vitamin C and vitamin A (twice as much as carrots, in the form of its precursors, beta-carotene) improves skin elasticity, which has an anti-wrinkle effect. It also helps fight acne. Increased oxygenation: chlorophyll promotes the formation of hemoglobin, increasing the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and, therefore, endurance during physical exercise. Chlorophyll also, for some authors, helps in the treatment of some diseases such as gout, rheumatism and is even beneficial against cancer. Detoxifying effect: Wheatgrass’ vitamin and antioxidant content promotes the elimination of toxins, especially free radicals.

the debate

Many of wheatgrass health benefits are attributed to its high content of chlorophyll, a substance said to promote hemoglobin production, improve fertility, or prevent gray hair from forming. All these benefits were first publicized and defended by Ann Wigmore (1909 – 1994), famous holistic nutritionist, author of countless books with millions of copies sold. However, scientific studies supporting such benefits are scarce and inconclusive.

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The debate over whether wheatgrass has the benefits it claims has been going on for a long time and is far from over. Wigmore introduced himself as a medical professional with the title of Doctor of Divinity. Wigmore went so far as to claim that wheatgrass could replace the insulin given to diabetics, prompting the Massachusetts attorney general in 1982 to bar her from presenting herself as a medical professional. He later withdrew these claims, but began advocating wheatgrass as a treatment for AIDS, causing him to be banned from calling himself a medical professional again in 1988.

Some claims about wheatgrass can be dismissed out of hand. For example, chlorophyll is not absorbed in the intestine, so it can hardly have a detoxifying effect. Of course, it could exert its effect on gut health. Another of the unsupported claims is related to vitamin B12. This vitamin is not found naturally in wheatgrass or any other plant, but is produced as a waste product of the metabolism of some bacteria found on the surface of the plant. This is exactly the same reason vegetables in general are considered an inadequate source of vitamin B12. The USDA National Nutrient Database reports zero vitamin B12 content in wheat grass.

Controversy aside, there are a few studies that show possible beneficial effects. For example, a 2002 study of colitis patients showed that those who supplemented conventional treatment with wheatgrass juice experienced less pain, diarrhea, and intestinal bleeding than those who drank a placebo juice (Ben-Arye E, Goldin E, Wengrower D, Stamper A, Kohn R, Berry E. Wheatgrass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2002;37:444-449). Wheat grass is also a valid source of high amounts of vitamin C and iron, though no more than other vegetables.

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