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Is wheatgrass as groovy as they say it is?

Dear Alice,

Is wheatgrass as good as it's claimed to be? I have headaches when I drink it. Why is that??? Thank you very much.

Dear Reader, 

When so many foods have been proclaimed as having extraordinary health benefits, it can be difficult to discern which claims are actually true. Wheatgrass is one of those superfoods, as your question points out, that has lots of people buzzing over its benefits. In this case, the buzz is well-earned. Wheatgrass, most often consumed as a juice or powder, has been found to have tons of health benefits that range from providing consumers with a burst of energy to helping prevent cancer. However, before you start pouring yourself another cup of wheatgrass juice, know that headaches have been noted as a wheat allergy symptom and may be a sign that wheatgrass is not the best fit for you. While this may be a little disappointing to hear, keep reading to discover alternate food options with similar benefits to wheatgrass! 

Wheatgrass comes from the young leaves of a wheat plant and gets its brightly colored green leaves from the natural compound chlorophyll. Many of the health benefits attached to the plant can be attributed to the large quantity of chlorophyll you absorb when consuming wheatgrass. Additionally, it’s a source of protein, mineral nutrients (calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc), and Vitamins (A, C, E, and B), all of which have incredible health benefits attached to them such as: 

  • Lowering cholesterol 
  • Reducing inflammation 
  • Boosting the immune system 
  • Stabilizing red blood cells 
  • Improving blood sugar levels 
  • Preventing cancer 
  • Limiting side effects of chemotherapy 

List adapted from Cleveland Clinic 

To address your concern about possible side effects, some people may experience constipation, appetite loss, or an upset stomach after consuming wheatgrass. These unwanted effects may be the result of a general intolerance for the plant. You can test for this by starting with a small one to two-ounce cup of wheatgrass and slowly increasing the amount you drink daily. Doing so may allow you to measure the amount of wheatgrass you can tolerate while also allowing your body the opportunity to adjust to the new supplement. Headaches are just one symptom linked to wheatgrass consumption; other symptoms include: 

  • Swelling or irritation of the mouth or throat 
  • Hives, swollen, or itchy skin 
  • Nasal congestion and difficulty breathing 
  • Cramps or nausea that may lead to vomiting or diarrhea 
  • Anaphylaxis 

List adapted from Mayo Clinic 

It’s advised to avoid wheatgrass consumption if you begin to notice adverse effects. But don’t fear, there are plenty of other foods that have similar health benefits. Fruits such as avocado, goji berry, and baobab are rich sources of minerals and vitamins, including vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. Quinoa, oat, and buckwheat are grains that are a high source of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. If you're searching for that chlorophyll benefit, kale is a good alternative, and chia and flaxseeds are great for protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. If you enjoy consuming supplement rich foods in a drink form, matcha tea powder, which is a high source of protein and fiber, may be an excellent alternative for you. Additionally, many of the fruits and vegetables mentioned can be enjoyed in a smoothie! 

Wishing you a diet full of healthy foods and drinks! 

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Last updated Feb 09, 2024
Originally published Jan 24, 2003