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What is wheatgrass — And why is it in my drink?

What is wheatgrass, and should I be adding it to my smoothies for better health?

Wheatgrass is a nutrient-rich type of young grass in the wheat family that is sold in a variety of forms as a dietary supplement. Proponents say that wheatgrass has numerous health benefits, but there are no significant research studies to support wheatgrass health claims.

Wheatgrass does provide a concentrated amount of nutrients, including iron, calcium, magnesium, amino acids, chlorophyll, and vitamins A, C and E. Wheatgrass fans say that its rich nutrient content boosts immunity, kills harmful bacteria in your digestive system, and rids your body of waste. Some proponents tout wheatgrass for cancer, anemia, diabetes, constipation, infections, skin conditions, colon cleansing, ulcerative colitis and joint pain, among other health concerns. Wheatgrass may also be promoted as a good way to help meet your daily target for vegetable servings. However, there are few research studies about wheatgrass, so it's difficult to assess such health claims.

Wheatgrass is generally considered safe. It may cause nausea, headaches, hives or swelling of your throat. Wheatgrass is usually grown in soil or water and consumed raw, which means it could be contaminated with bacteria or mold. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, don't use wheatgrass. If you have a wheat or grass allergy, celiac disease or gluten intolerance, check with your doctor before using wheatgrass. Wheatgrass can have a strong grassy taste, making it difficult to tolerate.

Wheatgrass is available in many forms, including tablets, capsules, liquid extracts and tinctures. Wheatgrass is often used for juicing or added to smoothies or tea. You can even buy wheatgrass seeds or kits to grow your own wheatgrass at home.

Wheatgrass isn't a miracle cure and shouldn't replace either your regular medical care or a healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. But used sensibly and in moderation, wheatgrass may add interest to your diet.

Updated: 10/15/2010

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