As it’s broken down, food either produces alkalizing compounds or acids, classifying it as alkaline-forming or acid-forming in the body. A diet rich in alkalizing foods supports the body’s natural state of slight alkalinity, or homeostasis. While a limited amount of nutritious acid-forming foods have their place in a balanced diet, long-term emphasis of these foods can result in acid buildup, which can lead to chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis, a condition characterized by a slightly acidic body pH. Wheat grass, like most vegetables, herbs and fruits, is alkaline-forming in the body and contains many beneficial nutrients.
Wheat grass is a nutrient-rich plant grown from a specific type of wheat seed that sprouts a week to 10 days after being placed in water. The young grass is very fibrous and difficult to digest, which is why it’s typically juiced for consumption. Wheat grass is approximately 70 percent chlorophyll, and also contains vitamins A, C and E, iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, potassium and natural enzymes. A 1-oz. serving of wheat grass juice provides 5 calories, 1 g of carbohydrate, less than 1 g each of protein and sugar and 6 percent and 10 percent of the daily values for vitamin C and iron, respectively.
Wheat grass is highly alkalizing, according to “The pH Balance Diet” and “Alkalize or Die.” Although almost all plants have a high enough organic acid content to give them slightly acidic values on the pH scale, nearly all vegetables and herbs are alkaline-forming in the body, and most are moderately to highly alkalizing. Fresh vegetable juice blends are among the top most alkalizing foods, especially when the blends include juice extracted from the most alkaline-forming vegetables, including wheat grass, parsley, celery, carrots and beets. Juice extracted from alkalizing fruits such as apples, papayas, mangoes and pomegranates can sweeten vegetable blends without diminishing their alkalizing nature.
Wheat grass advocates claim that it provides numerous health benefits, in part due to its high chlorophyll content. Proponents believe that the structure of chlorophyll closely resembles that of hemoglobin, and suggest that consuming wheat grass juice oxygenates the body. Small amounts of wheat grass are often touted as containing as many vitamins and minerals as large amounts of other vegetables; one common claim is that the vitamin, mineral and amino acid content of a 1-oz. serving of wheat grass juice is comparable to the nutrition provided by 2.5 lbs. of leafy greens. Proponents also claim wheat grass neutralizes toxins and can shrink cancer cells. The American Cancer Society points out, however, that no research studies confirm these health claims.
Many regular consumers of wheat grass juice are also raw foodists, and believe that heating food destroys its live enzymes, rendering it less nutritious. Heating or freezing wheat grass juice — and any other alkalizing food — actually does somewhat diminish its alkaline-forming potential. More importantly, the use of pesticides reduces the alkalizing powers of all foods, making organic wheat grass more alkaline-forming in the body than conventionally grown products. Wheat grass juice has a strong, grassy flavor that some might find unpalatable. Because refined sugar is highly acidifying in the body, however, sweetening a serving of wheat grass juice with sugar makes the beverage acid-forming.
- “The pH Balance Diet”; Bharti Vyas, et al.; 2007
- “Alkalize or Die”; Dr. Theodore A. Baroody; 1991
- “The Acid Alkaline Food Guide”; Dr. Susan E. Brown, et al.; 2006
- American Cancer Society: Wheatgrass
- MayoClinic.com: What is Wheatgrass — And Why is It In My Drink?; Brent A. Bauer, M.D.
- Vanderbilt University Psychology Department: 1 Shot of Wheat Grass Juice = 1 Kilogram of Vegetables?; Melanie Dufault; Sept. 20, 2006
Based just outside Chicago, Meg Campbell has worked in the fitness industry since 1997. She’s been writing health-related articles since 2010, focusing primarily on diet and nutrition. Campbell divides her time between her hometown and Buenos Aires, Argentina.