What’s so bad about wheatgrass?

What’s so bad about wheatgrass?

But wait Kathy (I hear you saying), its green and it tastes gross, surely you’re going to tell us to eat more of it and demand we figure out a magical way to get our kids to eat it too! Nope. Happy Day.

Okay so it’s not technically BAD in a “clog your arteries, let’s get that first heart attack under our belts” sort of way. It’s not doughnuts cooked in bacon grease (seriously, just down the street). But your juicer friend who swears by her daily shooter of the green sludge might want to rethink. That’s because the claims about wheatgrass have very little to back them up. And lofty claims they are!

Proponents say that wheatgrass (literally a grass in the wheat family) will do everything from clean out your lymph system to prevent gray hair, halt the growth of cancer cells and eliminate toxins and heavy metals from the body. But here’s the kicker: there is little to no research or evidence to back up these claims. In an interview with an Australian agricultural publication Landline, Dr. Samir Samman, senior lecturer in human nutrition at Sydney University said while wheatgrass juice likely would have nutritional benefits, there is no evidence of anything beyond that.  Samman says “There’s no doubt the composition is good as far as the nutritional value is concerned but whether we can extrapolate that further to say the nutritional value prevents diseases is a long link and there’s no evidence for that at the moment.”

So where did we get this idea to drink grass? Wait, you’re not going to believe it. According to several sources, including Dr. Andrew Weil, “It was first popularized as a health food by Ann Wigmore, a Lithuanian immigrant to the United States who lived in the Boston area. Wigmore became convinced of the healing power of grasses partly because she observed that dogs and cats nibble on grass when they feel ill (and then throw it up) and partly because of the biblical story of king Nebuchadnezzar who went insane and spent seven years living like a wild animal and eating grass. The bible says he recovered his sanity, which Wigmore attributed to all the grass he ate.” Yup.

So what about the nutritional claims that “one ounce of wheatgrass provides the vitamin and mineral equivalent of 2.2 pounds of fresh vegetables, and that the chlorophyll it contains may play an important role in cancer prevention”? Well, according to Dr. Weil and Livestrong.com chlorophyll is in fact in every green vegetable and to date has not been shown to play any “nutritional role in the body.” And while wheat grass, like all vegetables, does provide some nutrients, “it’s not nearly as many as you would get from some common foods that taste much better. For example, according to one calculation, you would get 860 mg of protein from seven 3.5 gm wheatgrass tablets while a half cup of cooked broccoli would give you 2,300 mg. Wheatgrass tablets would give you 1,668 IU of beta carotene, compared to 20,253 IU in a single raw carrot.”

And like all plant foods, pesticides and contaminants can be a concern. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Wheatgrass, while generally considered safe may cause nausea, headaches, hives or swelling of your throat. Wheatgrass is usually grown in soil or water and consumed raw, which means it could be contaminated with bacteria or mould. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, don’t use wheatgrass. If you have a wheat or grass allergy, celiac disease or gluten intolerance, check with your doctor before using wheatgrass.” One green and yucky tasting veggie you categorically do not have to get the kids to eat! Hallelujah!

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