Ask a Dietitian

Ask a Dietitian

"Diana, just a quick heads up to let you know we are still using your cookbook and the guys will often be heard saying what would Diana say about this or that....really good feed back... I made your potato salad and the oriental coleslaw on Sat. for a family luncheon and had rave reviews so thanks again."

Maeghan Henke
BC Hydro


March 10th, 2009

The consumption of wheatgrass began in the 1930’s, due to the experiments of Charles Schnabel. He used freshly cut grass to try to nurse dying hens back to health. When the hens not only got better but began producing more eggs, Schnabel began adding the grass in different forms to his family’s diet. After much promotion and research, powdered wheatgrass started showing up on drug store shelves in the 1940’s. However, there is very little scientific evidence that wheatgrass is actually able to cure or even prevent disease. Nonetheless, it is a good source of many vitamins and minerals.

Wheat grass is a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals characteristic to dark green leafy vegetables. It is a good source of vitamins A, C and K, as well as many minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, iron and magnesium. Wheat grass is also a source of fiber, contains some vegetable protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. A common claim is that an ounce of wheatgrass juice far outweighs that of one kilogram of green vegetables. However, available data disproves this. In fact, the vitamin and mineral value of an ounce of wheatgrass is about the same as an ounce of fresh vegetables. Many of the beneficial qualities attributed to wheatgrass can also be attributed to other green vegetables, such as detoxification effects (mostly provided by chlorophyll, which is present in all green veggies!)

Wheatgrass is often credited as being able to treat colds, coughs, bronchitis, skin problems, gout, and shrink tumors and bolster the immune system. So far, none of these have been proven to be true. One small study indicated that wheatgrass may help with ulcerative colitis, which is chronic inflammation of the large intestine, by lessening the severity of symptoms such as diarrhea. Additionally, it adds oxygen enrichment and prevents toxic metal build-up via chlorophyll, while simultaneously providing antioxidants. Early research indicates that a small amount of wheatgrass added to the diet helps increase fertility in livestock, coinciding with Schnabel’s original experiments. The particular carbohydrate structure of wheatgrass (and other cereal grasses) contains mucopolysaccharides (MPs), which is useful in lowering body fat, reducing inflammations and in strengthening body tissues.

If you choose to purchase wheatgrass to supplement your diet, it is available in many forms. You can buy it in seed trays to grow yourself, or in capsules, tablets, or liquid extracts. Wheatgrass juice is one of the more common types, also known as the ‘green drink’. This can be added to smoothies or mixed with regular juices to add some nutrients. Some people drink the juice alone, as it is believed that the detoxification has greater effect when the juice is concentrated.

The Bottom Line:  There is no conclusive evidence that wheatgrass is the miracle supplement it is purported to be, nor does it really have many more beneficial qualities than your average vegetable. However, it tastes good in juice and if you like green drinks it can be yet another way to get more of your green veggies.

Article written by April Peters, UBC Nutritional Sciences student.  2009