When you’re hungry, do you ever think about going out into your backyard or a field of green and ripping off a couple fistfulls of grass and eating it? Of course not, you’re not a ruminant. You don’t have a multiple-chambered stomach like a cow to digest grass. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t avoid all grasses in your diet. In fact, certain grasses, if consumed in the correct way, are the cream of the crop of superfoods.
What Are Superfood Grasses?
Superfood grasses, as opposed to turf grasses, are the sprouts of the grain world. If you’re trying to minimize your intake of carbs and grains, does that mean eating edible grass is a non-starter?
No. That’s because wheatgrass, barley grass, oatgrass as well as alfalfa sprouts do not comprise the grain element of the plant.
Yes, technically they are “cereal grasses” but don’t shy away from them just because you equate the word cereal with a highly-processed, high-carbohydrate food that is terrible for the waistline and A1C blood sugar levels.
In fact, superfood grasses possess the nutritional portfolio of cruciferous veggies and dark leafy greens. Pound for pound, ounce for ounce, grasses might even outperform veggies in terms of nutrient density.
So why aren’t you “using” grass?
Is it because these baby green sprouts eventually grow into the cereal grains that you’ve been warned about? After all, why would you consume wheatgrass if wheat contains gluten? That’s a logical argument but again, sprouts aren’t the same as the fully evolved grain plant. And that gluten you’re concerned about in wheat? It comes from the seeds. (The same goes for other gluten-containing cereal grains such as barley and rye.)
There’s no need to worry about consuming grasses if you’re sensitive to gluten.
How to Take Grass (Without Inhaling)
But the real reason most people don’t consume young green grass sprouts is, well, because we’re not cows. As such we can’t chew grasses effectively to extract nutrients. But we can juice them or consume them in powder form.
Wheatgrass is the most popular of the superfood grasses. Natural health advocates have been consuming wheatgrass long before superfoods were trendy. But the problem with wheatgrass is that you need a special juice extractor, which, on the high end, costs several hundred dollars. It’s much easier to score your grass by visiting a juice store, or buying a powder supplement.
Why Be High on Grass?
One of the biggest benefits of consuming grass is that it offers us the same ingredient that makes plants green and healthy: chlorophyll. The green pigment doesn’t just make plants look pretty, however, it is extremely nutrient-dense. Chlorophyll is a potent antioxidant and oxygenator of the blood.
And apparently, drinking liquid chlorophyll is as of this moment, a huge trend, if social media is a reliable indicator.
But consuming wheatgrass offers a long laundry list of phytonutrients besides chlorophyll. Per volume, wheatgrass offers more vitamin C and A than oranges and carrots, respectively. As for barley grass, arguably the second most popular superfood grass after wheatgrass, it contains more calcium (again, per volume) than most dairy products. Supergrasses offer an excellent source of pretty much every nutrient and micronutrient under the sun.
If you’ve subsisted largely on highly-processed foods over the years and you’re committed to detoxifying your body, drinking an ounce or two of wheatgrass a day, or taking a superfood powder supplement would be a great place to start. Evidence supports young grasses for removing harmful impurities like heavy metals from the body.
Research Shows Grasses May Protect Against Cancer
This study refers to barley grass powder as “the best functional food that provides nutrition and eliminates toxins from cells in human beings.”
The co-authors of the study reviewed several published research articles on barley grass, between 2008 and 2017. They found that barley grass not only contains the usual vitamin and mineral suspects but also gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps promote calmness, and superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is one of the most important antioxidants in human cells.
Barley grass, the researchers concluded, promotes sleep; has antidiabetic effect; regulates blood pressure; enhances immunity; protects liver; has anti-acne/detoxifying and antidepressant effects; improves gastrointestinal function; has anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, hypolipidemic, and antigout effects; reduces hyperuricemia; prevents hypoxia, cardiovascular diseases, fatigue, and constipation; alleviates atopic dermatitis; is a calcium supplement; improves cognition; and so on.
After reading that exhaustive list, it’s easy to see why barley grass is considered a highly functional food. Another study found that barley grass inhibits obesity and improves lipid profile in rats that were fed an unhealthy diet.
As for wheatgrass, an in vitro study showed that it possesses an inhibitory effect on the oral cancer cell line proliferation. This hopefully will lead to an alternative treatment for oral squamous cell carcinoma, the sixth most common cancer worldwide. And in another study, this one on people (50) instead of cell lines, wheatgrass was shown to support several immunological markers in adjuvant chemotherapy treatment, which is administered to prevent the recurrence of cancer.
In general, superfood grasses help improve every facet of wellness, including digestion, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood sugar … you name it and the grass is greener on the other side when it’s juiced or powdered.