Wheatgrass: detox tonic or just juice?

The discoveries in the 1930s by US chemist Charles Schnabel, dubbed 'Mr Wheatgrass', have inspired a body of scientific research into wheatgrass that continues to this day.

If you believe the PR hype, wheatgrass has a higher nutritional content than any other vegetable, protects against inflammation, builds red blood cells and improves circulation.

Wheatgrass contains chlorophyll, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, iron, calcium and magnesium.

We've teamed up with the British Dietetic Association (BDA) to examine whether the host of health claims made about wheatgrass stand up to closer scrutiny.

Wheatgrass contains chlorophyll, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, iron, calcium and magnesium

The evidence

Nutrition claims
Despite claims that a 30ml (1oz) shot of wheatgrass contains as many nutrients as 1kg (2.2lbs) of your finest veggies, tests show that, pound for pound, the nutrient content of wheatgrass juice is roughly equivalent to that of common vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli. 

Red blood cell production
Fans of wheatgrass believe that because chlorophyll and haemoglobin (a protein that carries oxygen around your body) are similar in structure, taking wheatgrass juice enhances haemoglobin production. But as far as evidence goes, there is no scientific proof to support this claim.

Inflammation of the colon
small study from 2002 found that patients with ulcerative colitis (inflammation of the colon) saw their symptoms improve after they were given 100ml of wheatgrass juice daily for a month. However, the study involved only 21 people and the positive results could have been simply down to chance. As such, the evidence is inconclusive. 

Blood disorders
A small study from 2004 of 32 patients with a blood disorder called thalassaemia found that half of the patients required fewer blood transfusions when 100ml (3.5oz) of wheatgrass juice was taken daily for three years. While interesting, the research has many weaknesses and further research is needed before these findings can be properly validated. 


The dietitian's verdict

Alison Hornby, a dietitian and BDA spokesperson, says: "There is no sound evidence to support the claim that wheatgrass is better than other fruits and vegetables in terms of nutrition. It cannot be recommended above any other choices in this food group. 

"Although it contributes towards your recommended daily intake of fruit and veg, a single shot of wheatgrass doesn't count as one of your 5 A Day. But if you're a big fan, you could combine a shot with a fruit or veg smoothie."


More on superfoods

Check out the evidence behind the health claims made about these other so-called superfoods:

Page last reviewed: 12/06/2013

Next review due: 12/06/2015

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Superfoods: the evidence

We examine the evidence behind the health claims of the most popular superfoods