lot about wheatgrass benefits - those intangible nutritional
miracles that occur when you start swilling the grass's green juice.
Many people gag wheatgrass juice down regularly, convinced their health
In the last few years, wheatgrass has jumped from a fringe health food
to something increasingly accepted by the mainstream - even Jamba Juice
is selling the stuff. Most health food stores now carry it fresh or
dehydrated in packages and pills, and raw food centers serve the juice
as part of their therapy.
But is there anything to the claimed benefits? Could you achieve the
same thing with much better tasting whole raw fruits and vegetables?
I'd like to examine the claimed benefits one by one, and then discuss
why wheatgrass has become so popular.
Wheatgrass Benefits - Is Wheatgrass A Nutritional
We often hear of
wheatgrass's unrivaled nutritional properties.
One of those those claims, based on the work of Charles Francis
Schnabel, an agricultural chemist who was active in the first part of
the 20th cenutry, is that "fifteen pounds of wheatgrass is equal in
overall nutritional value to 350 pounds of ordinary garden vegetables,"
a ratio of 1:23 (1).
More recently I've heard this watered down to wheatgrass possessing two
or three times the nutrition value of other vegetables.
An actual examination, however, shows wheatgrass is not radically more
nutrient dense than other vegetables. In the chart below you can see
how it compares to standard spinach.
Nutrients in 100 Grams of Spinach and
Wheatgrass Source: USDA
National Nutrient Database For Standard Reference
Like everything else in the plant kingdom, wheatgrass has nutritional
strong points and weak points. A comparison to a dozen other fruits and
vegetables would show there isn't a single nutritional element it
provides that is not provided equally well by a balanced intake of
fruits and vegetables.
Wheatgrass Benefits - But
What About Chlorophyll?
Do we need wheatgrass for the Chlorophyll?
Chlorophyll is a substance found in plants that allows photosynthesis
to occur. Life on this planet wouldn't be possible without it, as it is
the way, directly or indirectly, that all creatures gather energy from
the sun. Chlorophyll is also what turns plants green.
Many argue chlorophyll, which is abundant in wheatgrass, is critical
for human health, citing this as a reason to eat the grass. Whether or
not chlorophyll is an essential nutrient is still a bone of contention
among scientists, but it really doesn't matter if you're eating a
healthy raw food diet, as all vegetables contain an abundance of it.
An ounce of wheatgrass contains about 153.9 mg of chlorophyll (2),
while the same amount of spinach contains 300 mg.
Wheatgrass Benefits - Can It Heal You?
the persistent myths people accept is that food can heal the
body, and that some foods are better at it than others. This flies in
the face of everything we know about human life. There is no such thing
as a healing food because only the human body can heal itself. Food has
nothing to do with it.
Detoxification, overcoming diseases, and healing wounds all occur at a
rate the the body is able to sustain with its energy reserves.
The best foods merely provide the high-quality building blocks the body
needs to function while bringing in a minimal amount of toxins (which
the body must expend energy dealing with). Whole, ripe, raw organic
fruits and vegetables fit this description perfectly.
Wheatgrass Benefits - A Food You Have To Juice?
Next time you're hungry, go
out and stare at some grass, imagining yourself biting into it - does
it make you salivate? Of course not. Now, repeat that exercise in an
orchard of ripe peaches. Imagine the scent of peaches reaching your
nose. See yourself biting into one and feel the juices coursing through
your mouth. Are you salivating? If you did a good job with your
imagination, the juices probably flowed.
knows what foods we are physically equipped to digest, and it
will tell our body to respond accordingly.
Although some people manage to choke down whole wheatgrass, they
usually have to bury it among other textures and flavors.
Put a cow out in a field of grass and and watch the saliva drip from
its mouth - they obviously don't have our impediment. Cows and other
rudiments produce cellulase and other digestive enzymes needed to break
down cellulose (the woody fibers in many types of vegetation), but we
don't. This means we can't digest a big part of wheatgrass. Any
wheatgrass benefits we may have derived are questionable when we can't
even digest the whole food.
This usually leaves people to juice wheatgrass and sidestep the
cellulose problem, but it's like bending over backwards to get a food
that's nothing special.
Wheatgrass Benefits - Conclusion
There are no magical
wheatgrass benefits. It is not a superfood, juiced or whole, but merely
vegetation which you can choke down.
I believe the main reason for its popularity is, much like supplements,
wheatgrass is very profitable. It costs almost nothing to grow, and
after the hype people will pay an arm and a leg to get it.
I don't believe anyone is going to kill themselves with wheatgrass, but
I see no compelling reason to eat it in any form.
(1) Meyerowitz, Steve (April 1999). "Nutrition in Grass". Wheatgrass
Nature's Finest Medicine: The Complete Guide to Using Grass Foods &
Juices to Revitalize Your Health (6th ed.). Book Publishing Company.
pp. 53. ISBN 1878736973.
(2) Kohler, G. 1953. The unidentified vitamins of grass and alfalfa.
Feedstuffs, August 8, 1953.
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