If you’ve frequented a healthy smoothie or juice shop, you’ve likely been asked if you’d like to add a shot of wheatgrass to your order for added health benefits. Can that shot really benefit your health or is it just a hoax to get you to pay extra? Although wheatgrass is not a miracle food, it could be used as a replacement for a serving of vegetables, as well as have some potential short-term and long-term health benefits.
Wheatgrass is a wheat-like grass primarily grown in Europe and the United States. Commonly sold as a dietary supplement or substituted as a serving of vegetables, it is generally eaten raw. You can get wheatgrass in tablet, liquid or capsule form and add it to tea or smoothies. According to the Mayo Clinic, wheatgrass is often endorsed as a treatment for colds or infections or chronic skin disorders -- and even cancer. However, very little research can back up those claims. Wheatgrass contains valuable nutrients, but side effects can include nausea, headache, hives and swelling of your throat.
Whether or not wheatgrass is a miracle cure may still be debated, but what is certain is that wheatgrass packs in a lot of nutrients vital to your body, including iron, calcium, magnesium, amino acids and vitamins A, C and E. A 1-ounce shot of wheatgrass from a commercial juice store contains only 5 calories but also boasts 6 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C and 10 percent of your recommended daily intake of iron. Iron is important in your diet because it helps make proteins for your red blood cells and muscles and aids in the storage and transport of oxygen through your body. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can block the negative impacts of free radicals and help to repair your body’s tissues.
Impacts on Cancer
Preliminary results from a study by the Division of Oncology at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology indicates that wheatgrass may reduce some negative impact of chemotherapy, including the reduction of white blood cells that help your body fight infection. In the study, the introduction of wheatgrass seemed to reduce the need for G-CS, often used during treatment to increase the growth of white blood cells. Additionally, several reports indicate wheatgrass could increase survival rates in cancer patients and help shrink tumors, but no scientific evidence exists to back up this claim.
Treatment of Gastrointestinal Conditions
For many years, wheatgrass was recommended by experts as a potential cure for gastrointestinal disease, but until 2002, no study was able to prove it. A study conducted by the Department of Family Medicine at the Israel Institute of Technology, indicates that wheatgrass can actually reduce the impact of ulcerative colitis without any serious side effects. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the colon and very often of the rectum and large intestine. A typical symptom is bloody diarrhea and a constant feeling of needing to use the bathroom. The addition of wheatgrass daily for one month reduced the symptoms of the disease in 19 patients who completed the study.
- American Cancer Society: Wheatgrass
- MayoClinic.com: What is Wheatgrass – And Why Is It In My Drink?
- Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology: Wheatgrass Juice in the Treatment of Active Distal Ulcerative Colitis: A Randomized Double Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial
- American Journal of Gastroenterology: Ulcerative Colitis Practice Guidelines in Adults (Update)
- Medline Plus: Iron
- Medline Plus: Vitamin C
- MacMillan Cancer Support: G-CSF
- Nutrition & Cancer: Wheat Grass Juice May Improve Hematological Toxicity Related to Chemotherapy in Breast Cancer Patients: A Pilot Study
Poppy Carpenter graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to teaching journalism to junior high students, she also covers health and fitness for "PUSH Monthly" and Angie's List.