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Wheatgrass: Favorable or Fad?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
With the recent Consumer Reports findings of metal in protein drinks, you may see new options being promoted at your local health food store. One new up and coming drink catching some buzz is wheatgrass juice.

Agropyron plants are closely related to wheat but with an appearance similar to lawn grass. The sprouted grain can be extracted and made into a powder and placed into a pill or the grass itself can be placed in a wheatgrass juicer and blended into a green milky liquid. Some people drink the bitter tasting juice straight but most frequently mix it with juice or add it to a smoothie or shake. Wheatgrass was first introduced as a nutritious option back in the 1930's with a number of unconfirmed claims that still linger today. Although in some ways wheatgrass is no different nutritionally from other vegetables, are they benefits or potential risks?

Wheatgrass provides vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, and minerals like many other plant sources. Some claim possible health benefits include the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer due to anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants. Others suggest benefits for those suffering with hair loss or symptoms of menopause. With liver cleanses being heavily encouraged, wheatgrass is also touted as a digestion aid that assists with constipation while providing liver cleansing properties. Although anecdotal evidence may be available to support some or all of these claims, there are very few reliable and scientifically based studies available related to the effects of wheatgrass. One small study conducted by researchers in Israel in 2002 did find some benefit from wheatgrass juice for those suffering from ulcerative colitis.

Despite the fact that wheatgrass has been reported as safe, there have been side effects reported as well especially from higher intake levels. For some, the biggest side effects are nausea and headaches while for others allergic reactions such as hives and swelling of the throat have been experienced. Probably one of the biggest risks comes from raw wheatgrass and the bacteria or other soil based organisms that can unknowingly contaminate the product and be consumed.

The Bottom Line

Because the FDA or other governing bodies do not regulate wheatgrass, consumers should use caution related to specific claims as well as when using raw products other than your own produce. If you have food intolerances or allergies, caution is also warranted. It is important to follow safety guides for any herbal supplement to be sure the potential benefit is worth the potential risk. If you are otherwise healthy and not taking any medications, there may be little risk in trying a small amount of wheatgrass from a reputable company source after talking with your medical provider. Remember that nothing makes up for an unbalanced and nutrient-poor diet and many times claims of potential cures and disease prevention are just that, claims. Children, woman who are pregnant or nursing or people that have medical conditions that compromise immunity would be best to use caution with this new marketing focus product because of the potential infection risk from bacteria and other organisms.

Have you seen wheatgrass promoted as a beneficial supplement? If you have tried it, what did you think and what made you try it. If you have not tried it, do you think it is a marketing fad or something that could be fabulous?

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