A wave of popularity catapulted wheatgrass into the public eye in the 1970s, and ever since, wheatgrass juice's nutritional value has been legendary. The truth of these claims has been examined in today's age of scientific nutritional research. Some of the nutritional claims are valid, however, some experts note that the extent of wheatgrass' nutritional value has been exaggerated.
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The Wheatgrass Legend
According to "Shape Magazine," in the 1990s wheatgrass juice, which is made from sprouts of wheat plants, was believed to have the equivalent nutritional value of 2 lbs. of vegetables and advocates asserted that its green chlorophyll detoxified the body and reversed cellular damage.
Finding accurate information about the nutritional value of wheatgrass is difficult, according to "Vegetarian Times," not only because the subject is imbued with hype and contention but also because few scientific researchers have studied wheatgrass. While wheatgrass juice is not a substitute for fruits, vegetables and whole grains, it may work better than pills to obtain nutrients because a juice is a more natural form, according to Suzanne Havala, R.D., author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Being Vegetarian."
The actual nutritional value of wheatgrass is disputed, but the overall view is that while the juice is healthy, is not a panacea for health, nor is it a replacement for a well-balanced diet. Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association in Sarasota, Florida, says, "Wheatgrass contains roughly the same amount of vitamins as an identical serving size of dark leafy greens." However, she notes that wheatgrass lacks the fiber normally obtained from eating fruits and vegetables.
A 2-oz. shot of wheatgrass provides 10 percent of the daily recommended amounts of folate and vitamin E. Gerbstadt also notes wheatgrass contains about 20 percent of your daily iron needs, which makes it a good choice for vegetarians.
For someone inexperienced with wheatgrass, it may help to know that wheatgrass has an "intensely sweet flavor," according to Steve "Sproutman" Meyerowitz, author of "Wheatgrass: Nature's Finest Medicine." Drinking a juice "chaser" after consuming it can make the juice go down more smoothly.
There is evidence that wheatgrass juice can help treat chronic illnesses, according to Meyerowitz. He says that as a food rich in oxygen and enzymes, wheatgrass detoxifies the liver, cleanses the colon, and purifies the bloodstream, which enhances immune system function.
The results of a 2007 study led by Gil Bar-Sela from Rambam Medical Center at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, and published in the journal "Nutrition and Cancer," reported that daily consumption of 2 oz. of wheatgrass juice reduced the blood toxicity associated with chemotherapy in study patients and did not interfere with the effectiveness of the chemotherapy treatments. The researchers noted, however, that the efficacy of the treatment warrants a further confirmation study.