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Wellness Wednesdays: Beneficial Effects of Wheatgrass – Hype or Healthy?

Normally when I see claims that are ‘too good to be true’, I immediately shift into detective mode – this week, while searching for evidence behind the supposed beneficial effects of consuming wheatgrass, I did my best to keep an open mind despite my skepticism. However, for the more trusting souls out there, let me warn you in advance – any time a food, supplement, or even a drug is touted as being able to ‘minimize fatigue, improve sleep, increase strength, naturally regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, support weight loss, improve digestion and elimination, support healthy skin, teeth, eyes, muscles and joints, improve the function of the circulatory, respiratory, and reproductive organs, heal ulcers and skin sores, slow cellular aging, and improve mental function’ (but wait, there’s more!), a healthy dose of skepticism is just what the doctor ordered.

From a nutritional standpoint, wheatgrass is less than impressive – a 1.5 oz serving of wheatgrass juice contains less than a gram of protein, and only a fraction of the vitamins and minerals found in vegetables like spinach and broccoli. It’s so nutrient-poor, in fact, that consuming wheatgrass doesn’t even count towards the five daily servings of fruit and vegetables you should be aiming for each day.

But wheatgrass may affect human health in a more subtle way – by moderating the function of your immune system. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry outlined a plausible mechanism for how certain oligosaccharides (short chains of sugar molecules) found in wheatgrass, such as maltoheptaose, can interact with receptors on human immune cells to influence the signals these cells use to ‘talk’ to each other. In this way, these compounds can alter the activity of your immune system in a positive way. However, despite the well-planned methods used by Tsai, et al. to discover these exciting results, this study was conducted in isolated cells only – there is still a lot more work that must be done before we can confirm this is what might happen after drinking wheatgrass juice.

In conclusion, the evidence behind the beneficial effects of wheatgrass isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – but it might be getting there. Now that a potential cellular mechanism has been identified, we have a basis for conducting more informed studies – first in animals, and eventually in humans. Until then, you can decide for yourself if wheatgrass is something you’d like to add to your diet, as long as you don’t think of it as a replacement for other, more ‘classically’ nutritious foods.


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