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Incorporating wheatgrass into your diet has many health benefits

Incorporating wheatgrass into your diet has many health benefits

Wheatgrass first received attention in the 1980s and this green plant has gained increasing popularity since. While clinical studies in humans are absent and hence no claims exist that wheatgrass cures or treats certain diseases, the chlorophyll rich wheatgrass has health benefits worth mentioning.


Do

Do understand the nutrition in wheatgrass

Wheatgrass is high in chlorophyll, which has a molecular structure similar to hemoglobin, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood. The young grass is high in vitamins A, C and E, and minerals iron, calcium and magnesium. Consuming wheatgrass undoubtedly contributes to achieving the recommended number of vegetable servings daily.

Do know that multiple forms of wheatgrass exist on the market

A variety of options are available for ingesting wheatgrass, some perhaps more beneficial than other. Wheatgrass may be consumed raw, raw in juice, or powder form in tablets or capsules. Extracted raw juice from wheatgrass is a popular avenue for consuming wheatgrass. The wheatgrass is pressed through a masticating extractor. Wheatgrass powder in tablet and capsule forms are made by extracting wheatgrass and then freeze-drying. These methods remove much of the hassle of growing, harvesting and extracting the wheatgrass.

Do know how to properly ingest the different forms of wheatgrass

Chewing raw wheatgrass may not be as beneficial as alternative forms because the cellulose is difficult to digest only a small percentage of the potential nutrients in this chlorophyll powerhouse would actually be ingested and assimilated.

For raw wheatgrass juice, the wheatgrass passes through the juice extractor and then immediately consumed like a shot followed by a bite of orange or can be added directly to juice or smoothies.

Powder and capsules can be added to plain water or for a more palatable option, added into freshly juiced citrus and vegetable juice and smoothies.

Do find a good juice bar or juice your own to ensure best quality

If you trust a good juice bar nearby, then count on them to do the growing, harvesting and juicing of the wheatgrass. You can bet that freshly juiced wheatgrass will be of much higher quality than a mystery manufacturers product collecting dust on the shelf. If you grow or harvest your own wheatgrass, use a special masticating extractor juicer to squeeze the good stuff out of the wheatgrass and enjoy as soon as its juiced!


Don't

Do not ignore the potential contraindications of wheatgrass

Some individuals may experience nausea after consumption of wheatgrass. Other side effects may include headaches, swelling of the throat and hives. Additionally, since wheatgrass is grown in warm moist soil (sometimes in consumers' homes) and consumed raw, wheatgrass may potentially contain mold.

Individuals with grass and wheat allergies, celiac or gluten intolerance should consult a physician before consuming any form of wheatgrass.

Do not consume without checking with a physician

Prior to incorporating wheatgrass into your diet, consult your physician to ensure no contraindications or drug, food or medication reactions exist.

Do not believe all the media claims

Wheatgrass has been loosely claimed to treat a number of conditions including bronchitis, fevers, infections, and mouth and throat inflammation, gout, rheumatic pain, digestive problems. You may have also heard that a diet full of wheatgrass can be used to treat or ‘shrink’ cancer. Don’t believe all of the media claims! No credible clinical studies in humans have supported these claims.

Do not think that all products on the shelf are equivalent

Wheatgrass powder or capsules are sold as a supplement, and therefore manufacturers are not subject to regulation by the FDA to prove that the product is safe and effective. Unfortunately this also means that the product may contain additional ingredients not listed, such as contaminants and fillers, colorings, dilutants et cetera. Always purchase from reputable brands to ensure a high quality wheatgrass product.

Do not think that adding wheatgrass replaces the need for vegetables

While its true that wheatgrass can contribute to the number of servings of vegetables you consume daily, you can’t simply add an ounce of wheatgrass juice in for a days worth of vegetables. Add wheatgrass into your existing diet. If you can add wheatgrass into green vegetable juices and smoothies, even better! Use wheatgrass sensibly to add interest and a little extra zing to your whole foods balanced diet.


Summary
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Wheatgrass is a tender green powerhouse full of nutrients that can be easily incorporated into any diet. While disease claims in the media are not strongly supported by scientific studies, consuming wheatgrass can always support your dietary goals by supplying an added source of green vegetables.


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Photo Credits: Provided by Tarynne Mingione; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Tarynne Mingione, RD CDClinical Pediatric Dietitian

Tarynne presently works at Seattle Children's Hospital as a clinical pediatric dietitian. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University, where she also completed her dietetic internship. She has a diverse resume includin...

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