Is Wheatgrass Worth Trying? 8 Potential Benefits to Consider

Wheatgrass is a classic health food fad, but is it really as healthful as enthusiasts claim? Top nutritionists unpack the potential benefits and risks of wheatgrass juice and supplements.

Ready for a wheatgrass shot?

Before influencers began shilling collagen and celery juice, there was wheatgrass—arguably the original health food fad. Once upon a time, you couldn’t stumble into a juice bar without seeing the stuff.

It’s seeing a bit of a resurgence these days, thanks in part to the growing popularity of chlorophyll. You might remember from middle school science class that chlorophyll is a pigment that gives plants their green color and helps them absorb energy and create food from sunlight.

With TikTokers claiming chlorophyll can help a host of ailments, it was only a matter of time until wheatgrass made a comeback. It is, after all, one of the best sources of the substance.

But is it worth adding a wheatgrass shot, juice, or powder to your diet? Here’s what the research shows, and what experts think about it.

What is wheatgrass?

Wheatgrass is from the Triticum aestivum, or wheat, plant leaves. People take it in the form of wheatgrass juice, wheatgrass powder, and wheatgrass supplements.

You may have come across wheatgrass at juice bars—the juice is often sold in shot form.

Wheatgrass nutrition

The nutrition profile of wheatgrass is so amazing that some might even call it a superfood.

It’s full of vitamins and minerals

Wheatgrass contains an alphabet of vitamins: A, B, C, E, and K. And it’s loaded with minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc.

Just how nutritious is the plant?

One ounce of wheatgrass juice is equal in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to a little over two pounds of green leafy vegetables, according to Advances in Plants & Agriculture Research. 

It contains antioxidants

The grass is a great source of antioxidants.

In fact, the antioxidants and proteins in wheatgrass may reduce oxidative stress, according to a study published in the Journal of Food Science. And clinical trials point to potential benefits for a host of other health issues and diseases, says research published in Mini Reviews in Medical Chemistry

It’s high in amino acids

Our bodies use amino acids to make protein. We make some of them naturally, but the nine essential amino acids that we can’t make must come from food.

Research in the Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences found that of the 17 amino acids in wheatgrass, eight are essential amino acids.

That’s especially great since most sources of essential amino acids are animal products. If you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or follower of a primarily plant-based diet, wheatgrass offers another way to get these essential nutrient.

It contains chlorophyll

If the promise of chlorophyll drew you to wheatgrass, you’re in luck. It appears the plant does indeed contain the compound.

A study in the Journal of Food Science and Technology found that a 200-milliliter serving of wheatgrass contains 82 to 958 micrograms of chlorophyll.

Keep in mind: the verdict on chlorophyll’s health benefits, if it has any, isn’t in. More research is necessary, but initial research points to possible benefits for weight loss and blood cells.

Wheatgrasssimarik/Getty Images

Potential wheatgrass benefits

Thanks to the nutrients in wheatgrass, claims about its health benefits include detoxification, better digestion, and everything in between.

Although the superfood is potentially healthy, there’s not enough research to know how much it helps specific issues. And some of the supposed benefits have yet to be studied at all.

Where there is research on wheatgrass, it’s mostly conducted using laboratory-grown cells or animals. That means there is little to no current research on whether or not the purported effects occur in humans.

And the studies that have been conducted in humans are small—too small to see a true effect.

Bottom line: it’s too early to make any specific health claims. This goes for research on cancer cells, cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes.

Here is what experts and the current evidence on humans say about the possible benefits of wheatgrass.

May reduce symptoms of ulcerative colitis

A review of research, published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, looked at alternative medicine treatments to ease the symptoms of the inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis.

One of those treatments was wheatgrass juice.

In one of the studies, researchers found that drinking about half a cup of wheatgrass juice daily for a month improved symptoms and the severity of rectal bleeding more than the placebo.

The theory is this benefit stems from wheatgrass’ antioxidant content, which may help reduce inflammation.

May reduce chemotherapy side effects

Small studies have demonstrated that taking wheatgrass along with certain chemotherapy treatments can help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, according to registered dietitian Malina Malkani.

In an older study, published in Nutrition and Cancer, researchers asked 60 people with breast cancer to either take daily wheatgrass juice during chemotherapy or not.

The researchers conclude that wheatgrass juice may reduce myelotoxicity, a potentially life-threatening condition in which bone marrow function is impaired.

May help weight loss

Wheatgrass contains thylakoids, which may help increase weight loss by suppressing appetite.

A trial on 20 overweight women, published in Appetite, found that supplementing a high-carb meal with thylakoids enhanced satiety compared with a placebo.

Before you get too excited, know that the study was not on wheatgrass specifically.

May help support blood transfusions

Wheatgrass may also have the potential to help those with some blood disorders, according to Malkani.

Research in the journal Cureus looked at the effect of wheatgrass on children with thalassemia, a blood disorder that causes anemia. The researchers randomly assigned kids to either get their usual blood transfusions and folic acid treatment or add daily wheatgrass tablets to those treatments.

Although children who took wheatgrass still needed the same number of transfusions as those who did not, they reported a better quality of life.

Is wheatgrass gluten free?

Considering “wheat” is right there in the name, we don’t blame you for wondering whether the grass is safe for people avoiding wheat.

Wheatgrass itself contains no detectable gluten, Malkani says.

That’s because harvesting occurs before the gluten-containing wheat seeds sprout, according to registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa DeFazio. The wheatgrass itself is the young, fresh leaves of the plant.

The method used to prepare wheatgrass, however, could make it prone to some cross-contamination. This is especially true since the process involves using wheat seed, which does contain gluten, according to Malkani.

“For those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or another reason to avoid gluten, it’s best to contact the manufacturer about their methods and testing before consuming wheatgrass,” she says.

When you talk to the manufacturer, make sure you’re getting certified gluten-free pure wheatgrass, DeFazio says.

Note that gluten-free foods must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Still, you may also want to ask your doctor about adding wheatgrass to your diet if you are avoiding gluten.

Safety, risks, and side effects of wheatgrass

Reports of minor gastrointestinal upset and difficulty tolerating the taste and smell of wheatgrass juice are common, according to Malkani. You might experience nausea or constipation, DeFazio says.

Wheatgrass seems to be safe for most people, but pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid it.

And it’s always important to consult with your doctor, pharmacist, or registered dietitian before starting any supplements, including wheatgrass, since some supplements can interfere with the function of certain medications.

The FDA does not evaluate the effectiveness, safety, or quality of dietary supplements before they enter the marketplace. That means there is no guarantee that supplements contain the ingredients they claim to contain. Or that it doesn’t contain toxins.

If choosing wheatgrass as a dietary supplement in powder or capsule form, look for well-known brands that are certified by a third-party testing organization, Malkani suggests.

What do experts think about wheatgrass?

The body of available evidence on wheatgrass is currently minimal.

Most researchers agree that large, controlled studies are necessary before they can make any firm recommendations about wheatgrass, including which form is best and whether it offers certain health benefits, Malkani says.

For instance, some powders may not be as good as a shot of wheatgrass, as the processing decreases nutrients, says DeFazio.

“However, wheatgrass is a great source of many vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients, and for some people, in the context of a balanced diet, it provides an easier way to consume more plants,” she says.

Of course, there are cheaper ways to get those nutrients.

“Many of the nutrients in wheatgrass, such as vitamins C and E, chlorophyll, proteins, and flavonoids, can be obtained from other foods that may not be as expensive,” Malkani says.

So it might not be worth paying for wheatgrass powder, juice, or supplements when you could get similar nutrients from whole foods—for a lot less.

Next, check out the benefits of another trendy drink: aloe vera juice.

Sources
Medically reviewed by Elisabetta Politi, CDE, MPH, RD, on June 29, 2021

Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.