THE READER
March
2007

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Juice Bar News

Wheatgrass

by Dan Moore, Prepared Foods Manager

Quick, what’s the healthiest thing you can buy at the Co-op? I don’t know either, but if you guessed wheatgrass shots from the Juice Bar you’re probably pretty close. There are a lot of claims regarding the health benefits of wheatgrass, and this month I’d like to address some of them including some of the more controversial.

What exactly is wheatgrass?

Grown from the Red Wheat Berry, wheatgrass is a sprout that contains high concentrations of vitamins, chlorophyll, enzymes, and minerals. Wheatgrass grows up to be wheat, but if you have wheat allergies it should be safe—the grass is a completely different animal than the wheat stalk. Many wheat allergies are due to the gluten in the wheat. This isn’t present in the grass, which has a makeup much closer to leafy veggies like chard and kale.

What makes wheatgrass so healthy?

It contains over 80 active enzymes, including a great concentration of chlorophyll and bioflavonoids. Chlorophyll helps detoxify the liver, aids in digestion, and because of its similarity to hemoglobin can help folks with anemia. Bioflavonoids are powerful antioxidants that can help with blood health, absorption of vitamins, and prevention of inflammation. Wheatgrass is also high in Vitamins C, E. K, and B9 (folic acid). Add to that, wheatgrass is an excellent source of calcium, copper, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, 20 different amino acids, and essential fatty acids. The reasons these are good for you have filled many a book, so suffice to say wheatgrass is mighty healthy.
There have been a lot of claims regarding potential health benefits of wheatgrass, and while my nature is to stick to purely what I know to be true, the lack of definitive studies on these benefits leads me to feel that it is worthwhile to present some of these claims as well as some of the claims that have been proven bogus.

2.2 pounds of fresh vegetables

The quote most often seen in books and on websites regarding wheatgrass is that one ounce of juice has the nutritional value of two-point-two pounds of fresh vegetables. While this may very well be true, one would presume it depends on the veggies you choose. I’d still recommend that you eat your veggies, as diversity in your nutrient sources is always in your best interest. I traced this quote back to the “founding mother” of wheatgrass, Ann Wigmore. Ms. Wigmore began promoting wheatgrass many years ago and claimed it cured everything from gangrene to anemia to infertility to cancer to AIDS. While claims of helping gangrene and tooth decay can be backed up by wheatgrass’ anti-bacterial qualities, and it has been shown to help anemia due to its cell structure and digestion because of its fiber content, there has been no shown benefit in the use of wheatgrass in fighting AIDS nor in fighting cancer of the liver or any other cancer. My thought is that it can’t hurt, though.

It can’t hurt

And that’s really the bottom line with wheatgrass. We know it has a ton of vitamins. We know it contains minerals, beneficial enzymes, and bioflavonoids. We know it’s good for us. At some point maybe more of these claims will be backed up, but in the meantime we know we’re benefiting from all the known contents of wheatgrass. So, you can stop by and grab one at the Juice Bar.

The best way to drink it

Once you’ve taken the leap and have decided to join the many that do their daily shot of wheatgrass, you have to learn the best way to drink it. I recommend starting off with one of our Green Zingers. It’s our most popular juice at the Co-op, and mixes wheatgrass with apple, ginger, and lemon. You’ll find that starting off with a straight shot of wheatgrass can be a little overwhelming to your system. The apple, lemon, and ginger help soothe the stomach and prepare your blood stream for the wheatgrass. You’ll also find that the straight shot may be likened to the taste of fresh grass, or the underside of a lawnmower to quote a not-so-big-a-fan I know. I’ve always loved the taste myself, but getting it in a combo might be best for the newbie.

Things to remember

After your body has become acclimated to the wheatgrass, you can start a more regular regimen. Things to remember are to only drink the shots in small quantities, never more than two ounces at a time. For best results, you should also drink it on an empty stomach—slowly swish the juice around your mouth to immediately absorb nutrients through the gums and to get the antibacterial benefits for your teeth. If you still feel nauseous, cut back a bit and build up your body’s tolerance.

Our new juice menu

If it’s still not quite what you were looking for, may I recommend one of our new juices or smoothies? Ok, not the best transition I’ve ever used, but I wanted to take one last moment here to make sure you all get a chance to look over our new juice menu and try one of our 13 new made-to-order juices and smoothies. All of these items were created by our dedicated Juice Bar staff, although none of us are too sure yet if we’re willing to take credit for the names.