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Wheatgrass




  Wheatgrass refers to the young grass of the common wheat plant, Triticum aestivum, that is freshly juiced or dried into powder for animal and human consumption. Both provide chlorophyll, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes. Claims about wheatgrass' health benefits range from providing supplemental nutrition to having unique curative properties. Some consumers grow and juice wheatgrass in their homes. It is often available in juice bars, alone or in mixed fruit and/or vegetable drinks. It is also available in many health food stores as fresh produce, tablets, frozen juice and powder.

Additional recommended knowledge

Contents

History

The consumption of wheatgrass in the Western world began in the 1930s as a result of experiments by Charles F. Schnabel and his attempts to popularize the plant.[1]

Schnabel, an agricultural chemist, conducted his first experiments with young grasses in 1930, when he used fresh cut grass in an attempt to nurse dying hens back to health. The hens not only recovered, but they produced eggs at a higher rate than healthy hens. Encouraged by his results, he began drying and powdering grass for his family and neighbors to supplement their diets. The following year, Schnabel reproduced his experiment and achieved the same results. Hens consuming rations supplemented with grass doubled their egg production. Schnabel started promoting his discovery to feed mills, chemist and the food industry. Two large corporations, Quaker Oats and American Diaries Inc., invested millions of dollars in further research, development and production of products for animals and humans. By 1940, cans of Schnabel's powdered grass were on sale in major drug stores throughout the United States and Canada.[2]   Ann Wigmore continued to contribute to the popularization of wheatgrass in the 1940s. When Wigmore was a child, she watched her grandmother help WWI soldiers heal their wounds using herbs and weeds. As an adult, she developed colon cancer and faced the loss of both legs after a traffic accident shattered them. Gangrene set in and her doctors recommended amputation. Wigmore refused and set out to heal herself naturally. She discarded her traditional American diet for a diet made of vegetables, grains, seeds and greens and she applied wild weeds and greens to her feet. Realizing winter was approaching and fresh greens would not be available, she prayed for inspiration.[2]

"I asked God for direction. He supplied an exciting solution. The use of grains to grow greens in the kitchen." - Dr. Ann Wigmore[2]

As Wigmore recovered from her wounds, she believed she had stumbled onto something valuable. Believing that most people would not chew grass, she modified a small meat grinder and developed the first wheatgrass juicer. This made it possible for anyone to grow wheatgrass and juice it in their homes.

Believing that it contributed to the remission of her cancer and recovery from gangrene, Wigmore wrote several books on the subject.

Cultivation

  Schnabel's research was conducted with wheatgrass grown outdoors in Kansas. His wheatgrass required 200 days of slow growth, through the winter and early spring, when it was harvested at the jointing or reproductive stage. [1] It was at this stage that the plant reached its peak nutritional potential; after jointing, concentrations of chlorophyll, protein, and vitamin decline sharply. [2] Harvested grass was dehydrated and made into powders and tablets for human and animal consumption. Wheatgrass grown indoors in trays for ten days contains similar nutritional content. [3] Wheatgrass grown outdoors is harvested, dehydrated at a low temperature and sold in tablet and powdered forms. Wheat grass juice powder (fresh squeezed with the water removed) is also available either spray-dried or freeze-dried.

Usage

The average dosage taken by consumers of wheatgrass is 3.5 grams (powder or tablets).[citation needed] Some also have a fresh-squeezed 30 ml shot once daily or for more therapeutic benefits a higher dose up to 2–4 oz taken 1-3 times per day on an empty stomach and before meals. For detoxification, some users may increase their intake to 3–4 times per day. It should be noted that consumers with a poor diet may experience nausea on high dosages of wheatgrass. Outdoor wheatgrass is harvested for a few days each year from plants grown in the "bread basket" regions of the US and Canada. Winter wheat requires more than 200 days of slow growth in cold temperatures to reach the peak nutritional content. Even after that long of time, the plant is only 7 to 10 inches high.

Health claims

Table 1. Nutrient comparison of 1 oz (28.35 g)[dubious] of wheatgrass juice, broccoli and spinach.
Nutrient Wheatgrass Juice Broccoli Spinach
Protein 860 mg 800 mg 810 mg
Beta carotene 120 IU 177 IU 2658 IU
Vitamin E 880 mcg 220 mcg 580 mcg
Vitamin C 1 mg 25.3 mg 8 mg
Vitamin B12 0.30 mcg 0 mcg 0 mcg
Phosphorus 21 mg 19 mg 14 mg
Magnesium 8 mg 6 mg 22 mg
Calcium 7.2 mg 13 mg 28 mg
Iron 0.66 mg 0.21 mg 0.77 mg
Potassium 42 mg 90 mg 158 mg
Data on broccoli and spinach from USDA database.[3] Data on Wheatgrass juice from indoor grown wheatgrass.[2]
Table 2. Nutrient comparison of 15 lbs. of wheatgrass juice, dried wheatgrass and 350 lbs. of broccoli.
Nutrient Wheatgrass
15 lb
Broccoli
350 lb
- Juice Powder Raw
Protein 192 g 3,840 g 4,501 g
Beta carotene 28,800 IU 576,000 IU 994,308 IU
Vitamin E 211 g 4,224 g 1,400 g
Vitamin C 240 g 4,800 g 142,450 g
Vitamin B12 192 µg 3,840 µg 0 µg
Phosphorus 5040 g 100,800 g 105,350 g
Magnesium 1,920 g 38,400 g 33,600 g
Calcium 1,728 g 34,560 g 74,900 g
Iron 158 g 3,168 g 1,050 g
Potassium 10,080 mg 201,600 mg 504,350 mg
Data on broccoli from USDA database.[3] Dry wheatgrass data calculated from indoor grown fresh juice.[2]

Proponents of wheatgrass claim regular ingestion of the plant can

  • improve the digestive system
  • prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease
  • cure constipation
  • detoxify heavy metals from the bloodstream
  • cleanse the liver
  • prevent hair loss
  • help make menopause more manageable
  • promote general wellbeing.

While none of these claims have been substantiated in the scientific literature,[1] there is limited but growing evidence in support of some of these claims. [4][5][6]

Wheatgrass Juice vs. Common Vegetables

One of the most popular claims about wheatgrass, and one that is frequently made by both supporters and retailers, is that 1 ounce of wheatgrass juice is as nutritionally valuable as 1 kg (2.2 lb) of green vegetables, a ratio of 1:35. The available vitamin and mineral data of wheatgrass juice, broccoli and spinach does not support this claim (see table 1). In fact, the vitamin and mineral content of 1 ounce of wheatgrass juice is roughly equivalent to the vitamin and mineral content of 1 ounce of fresh vegetables. This conclusion does not include phyto-nutrient comparisons of these foods.

Another commonly repeated claim, originally made by Schnabel in the 1940's, is that "fifteen pounds of wheatgrass is equal in overall nutritional value to 350 pounds of ordinary garden vegetables",[2] a ratio of 1:23. Schnabel statement doesn't specify the form of wheatgrass, however, Schnabel used dried wheatgrass for his own consumption, in his research and later in his nutritional supplements;[4] a comparison of currently available vitamin and mineral data on dried wheatgrass and fresh vegetables support Schnabel's claim. (see table 2) The vitamin and mineral content of dried grass is equivalent to roughly 20 times that of fresh vegetables.

One area in which wheatgrass is clearly superior to other vegetables is in its content of Vitamin B12, a vital nutrient absent in vegetables. (see table 2) [2][3]

Detoxification

Another common claim for wheatgrass is that it promotes detoxification. There appears to be limited data in support of that claim. [7]

Chlorophyll

As the chlorophyll molecule is structurally similar to hemoglobin, it has been argued that wheatgrass helps blood flow, digestion and general detoxification of the body. [5][citation needed] Although no research exists that directly connects chlorophyll with blood building, nutrients such as iron that are associated with dark green leafy vegetables have been shown to be important for healthy blood.[citation needed]

In popular culture

  • In the 2007 movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Dave is offered wheatgrass by the secretary of a record company executive. [5]
  • In the FX Networks television series Nip/Tuck, Dr. Christian Troy grows and drinks wheatgrass in numerous episodes.
  • In The Simpsons episode "When You Dish upon a Star", Homer invents a cocktail made of wheatgrass and vodka called a "lawnmower". Also appears in the episode "Make Room for Lisa" where Lisa is given a shot of wheatgrass juice by the owner of the New Age store who interprets Lisa's disgust at the taste as a sign of working taste buds.
  • Wheatgrass is referenced in the American television series Sex and the City when a character that Samantha is dating has "funky tasting spunk." Wheatgrass was referenced as a good way to change this.[citation needed]
  • In Woody Allen's 1973 film Sleeper, it is stated that Miles Monroe used to drink wheatgrass juice.
  • In the 2007 horror movie Blood Car, the lead character is trying to build a wheatgrass powered car engine. He succeeds after accidentally mixing wheatgrass with human blood.
  • In the first season of Entourage, Vince's vegetarian girlfriend takes a shot of wheatgrass, while Vince is disgusted by the taste.

References

  1. ^ a b Murphy, Sean. "Wheatgrass, healthy for the body and the bank account", ABC Landline, 2002-10-13. Retrieved on 2006-10-06. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Meyerowitz, Steve (April 1999). "Nutrition in Grass", Wheatgrass Nature's Finest Medicine: The Complete Guide to Using Grass Foods & Juices to Revitalize Your Health, 6th Edition, Book Publishing Company, 53. ISBN 1878736973. 
  3. ^ a b c USDA Nutrient Database. Retrieved on 2007-11-06.
  4. ^ Ben-Arye, E & Goldin, E (2002 Apr), " ", Scand J Gastroenterol (Norway) Volume 37 (Issue 4): Pages 444-9,
  5. ^ a b de Vogel, Johan; Denise S. M. L. Jonker-Termont, Martijn B. Katan,and Roelof van der Meer (August 2005). "Natural Chlorophyll but Not Chlorophyllin Prevents Heme-Induced Cytotoxic and Hyperproliferative Effects in Rat Colon". J. Nutr. 135: 1995-2000. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences.
  6. ^ Ferruzzia, Mario G. & Blakesleeb, Joshua (January 2007), " ", Nutrition Research Volume 27 (Issue 1): Pages 1-12, doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2006.12.003,
  7. ^ Fahey, Jed W.; Katherine K. Stephenson, Albena T. Dinkova-Kostova, Patricia A. Egner, Thomas W. Kensler and Paul Talalay (2005). "Chlorophyll, chlorophyllin and related tetrapyrroles are significant inducers of mammalian phase 2 cytoprotective genes". Carcinogenesis 26 (7): 1247-1255. Oxford University Press.
  • Wheat Grass Juice May Improve Hematological Toxicity Related to Chemotherapy in Breast Cancer Patients: A Pilot Study Nutrition and Cancer 2007, Vol. 58, No. 1, Pages 43-48
  • Wheat grass juice reduces transfusion requirement in patients with thalassemia major: a pilot study. Indian Pediatr. 2004 Jul;41(7):716-20.
  • Wheat grass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2002 Apr;37(4):444-9.
 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Wheatgrass". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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