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Benefits of Wheatgrass

Health gurus have been promoting the use of wheatgrass for years. Long relegated to the dusty back corners of health food stores -- only for the truly devoted health nuts -- wheatgrass is becoming mainstream as more people recognize its incredible nutritional properties. Like its name implies, wheatgrass is a young form of grass from the wheat plant. Most varieties of wheatgrass are from the species Tricium aestivum. This grass species enjoys temperate climates and grows natively in the United States.

Most wheatgrass enthusiasts eat dried wheatgrass in tablet or capsule form. Although the leaves of wheatgrass can be difficult to digest, they are often used to make juice. These green juices release the nutrients from the cells of the grass, making them easier to absorb. Some people also like to sprout wheatgrass from seeds, eating the sprouts for their nutritive value.

It is important to note that people with a wheat allergy, a grass allergy, gluten intolerance, or celiac disease should talk to a doctor before using wheatgrass (Bauer, 2014). Those that are pregnant or breast-feeding should also refrain from consuming wheatgrass. For those looking to improve overall health, however, wheatgrass has been touted as a superfood for the following reasons.

Wheatgrass Gives You a Potent Vitamin Boost

We need to get vitamins from the foods we eat because our bodies cannot produce these compounds naturally. Wheatgrass is an excellent source of essential vitamins. A four-gram serving of wheatgrass provides 30% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A, 12% of the DV for vitamin C, and more than 100% of the DV for vitamin E (Self Nutrition Data, n.d.). Additionally, wheatgrass is a source of multiple B vitamins, including riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5).

Collectively, these vitamins support a range of physiological processes, including cellular metabolism, enzymatic reactions, and supportive processes for maintaining the structure of cell membranes.

Wheatgrass as a Source of Iron

Wheatgrass is provides 8 mg of iron per serving (Self Nutrition Data, n.d.). This represents 44% of the DV for iron. It is important to note, however, that consuming a mixed diet with meat, poultry, and seafood will help boost the absorption of non-heme sources of iron. On the other hand, when abiding by a vegan or vegetarian diet, daily iron needs are increased and the bioavailability of iron is lower.

Iron is an essential part of hundreds of enzymes and proteins in the human body (Wessling-Resnick, 2009). One of its most important roles entails helping to form the compound hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the compound that transports oxygen molecules throughout the blood. People with low iron levels become anemic, meaning that their tissues suffer from loss of oxygen. Enjoying wheatgrass is a good way to ensure your iron levels remain high.

Wheatgrass Supplies Your Body with Manganese

Manganese, not to be confused with magnesium, is an important mineral element. In your body, manganese is involved in numerous physiological processes. One of the most important is wound healing. Manganese helps to activate an enzyme that is critical to the wound healing process (Aschner, 2010). Getting enough manganese has also been associated with lower risk of osteoporosis (Aschner, 2010).

Adult men need 2.3 mg of manganese per day, while adult women need 1.8 grams. One serving of wheatgrass provides 140 mg of manganese, which is more than 100% of the DV for the mineral (Self Nutrition Data, n.d.).

The Chlorophyll in Wheatgrass May Act as an Antioxidant

You probably learned about chlorophyll in school as the compound that makes plants green. The chlorophyll in plants allows plant cells to trap sunlight, which is then converted into energy. However, chlorophyll is not just beneficial to plants. It can have health-promoting effects in humans as well.

Recent research suggests that chlorophyll may have cancer-fighting properties. For instance, chlorophyll binds tightly to certain carcinogens, or molecules known to cause cancer (Dashwood, 2014). When bound to chlorophyll, these carcinogens (such as the products found in tobacco smoke) cannot be absorbed by the body. Thus, increasing dietary intake of chlorophyll may reduce susceptibility to the cancer-causing effects of carcinogens (Dashwood, 2014).

Of course, more research is needed to clarify the effects of chlorophyll on preventing specific forms of cancer. Regardless, enjoying wheatgrass once per day can give your body boost of this phytonutrient.

Wheatgrass Contains Superoxide Dismutases

Wheatgrass is a good source of compounds with antioxidant properties, meaning that they reduce oxidative processes that may harm cellular structures. For instance, wheatgrass is rich in superoxide dismutases, a class of antioxidant compounds (Aydos et al., 2011). In cellular cultures, wheatgrass extract stopped the proliferation of leukemia cells and caused abnormal cells to undergo programmed cell death (Aydos et al., 2011). Although it remains to be seen how wheatgrass affects human health, the actions of superoxide dismutases may reduce cancer risk (Huang et al, 2000).

Wheatgrass Products and Bundles

Searching for a high-quality wheatgrass to add to your diet? The powders and snacks below offer an idyllic means of adding this superfood to your regular regiment of recipes and snacks.

References

Aschner, M. (2010). Manganese. Linus Pauling Institute. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/manganese

Aydos, O.S., et al. (2011). Antiproliferative, apoptotic and antioxidant activities of wheatgrass extract on CML (K562) cell line. Turkish Journal of Medical Science, 41(4), 657-663.

Bauer, B.A. (2014). What is wheatgrass? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/wheatgrass/faq-20058018

Dashwood, R.H. (2009). Chlorophyll. Linus Pauling Institute. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/chlorophyll-chlorophyllin

Huang, P., et al. (2000). Superoxide dismutase as a target for the selective killing of cancer cells. Nature, 407, 390-395.

National Institutes of Health. (2016, February 11). Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron — Health Professional Fact Sheet. Retrieved July 19, 2016, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/

Self Nutrition Data. (n.d.). Wheatgrass. Retrieved from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/custom/900675/2

Wessling-Resnick, M. (2009). Iron. Linus Pauling Institute. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/iron