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

Answers from Brent A. Bauer, M.D.

Wheatgrass is a nutrient-rich type of young grass in the wheat family. It's sold as a dietary supplement in tablet, capsule and liquid forms. Wheatgrass is often used for juicing, or added to smoothies or tea. Proponents say that wheatgrass has numerous health benefits, but there are no significant research studies to support these claims.

Wheatgrass provides 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 as a treatment for cancer, anemia, diabetes, constipation, infections, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis and joint pain, among other health concerns. 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 breast-feeding, 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 isn't a miracle cure and shouldn't replace 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.

Jan. 22, 2014 See more Expert Answers