Growing & processing of wheatgrass
Unlike many other green foods such as spirulina, wheatgrass does not thrive in a low nutrient environment such as the over farmed fields in China, and requires a nutrient dense soil to produce a nutrient dense product. It is because of this that our wheatgrass powder is grown in the Canterbury Plains in New Zealand, which have not had hundreds of years of intensive farming, and is still naturally nutrient rich. Here, wheatgrass crops will be exposed to unpolluted air and long periods of sunlight to ensure a healthy plant. The wheatgrass is grown completely naturally, without the aid of any artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. This is because a number of common fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have been linked to liver damage, even in low dosages to the consumer (Rozenn Josse et al, 2014). So although these chemicals may increase the yield of the product, and potentially can increase the amount of some nutrients in the product, it can also have negative effects on consumers health which we want to avoid. These chemicals have also been shown to have a negative impact on the environment, both by disrupting food chains and by causing eutrophication (Yann Hautier et al, 2009, and so by not using these chemicals the impact of this wheatgrass on the environment is minimised.
Our wheatgrass is harvested at a critical growing stage of the plants development, to ensure the nutrient content is at its peak. During the early development of the plant, a lot of its nutritional resources are focused on developing first leaves, which will allow the plant to photosynthesise and produce energy, and so these leaves are extremely nutrient rich to promote development, however, once these leaves have developed the plant will begin to develop the grain. It is at this developmental junction, just before the grain is produced, that the wheatgrass is harvested. This ensures that the leaves are at their most nutritious and that the product is completely gluten free – which is a concern for many. Once harvested, the wheatgrass leaves are washed and briefly blanched which is a process where the leaves are briefly heated in water which will soften the fibres and kill of any bacteria as well as preventing the colour of the product to be lost. The wheatgrass is then dehydrated and ground into the fine particles which you may be familiar with as the final product.
Macro-nutrients in Wheatgrass
Below is a table showing the macro-nutrients found in 100g of wheatgrass as well as the amount you can expect per serving. This data is specific for Geco wheatgrass, and the nutritional profile of other wheatgrass product may vary depending on various growing and processing factors.
Macro-nutrient Per 100g Per teaspoon (aprox 5g) Per serving (aprox 10g)
Protein 24g 1.2g 2.4g
Fat 3.5g 0.175g 0.35g
Total carbohydrates 58.1g 2.9g 5.8g
- of which is fibre 37.8g 1.89g 3.78g
- of which sugar 8.4g 0.42g 0.84g
As you can see from the table, the nutritional content of wheatgrass is quite typical of most plants, high in fibre/ carbohydrates with a small amount of sugars and fats. Wheatgrass does differ from other plants in that its protein content is quite high with 24g per 100g.
The macro-nutrients which you will obtain from a serving of wheatgrass are so low that their impact on health will be almost negligible, certainly with regards to the fat content. The relatively high fibre content will offer some benefit to the digestive system (J.W Anderson, 2009) in that it will be able to help protect the gut from radical damage, help maintain health cholesterol levels, reduce the absorption of sugars and promote probiotic growth, but these benefits will still be slight.
Micro-nutrients in wheatgrass
Below is a table showing the most abundant micro-nutrients which are found in wheatgrass, as well as how much of your RDA you will get per serving. This data is specific for Geco wheatgrass, and the nutritional profile of other wheatgrass products may vary depending on various growing and processing factors.
Micro-nutrient Amount per 100g Amount per serving (aprox 10g) Percentage of RDA in one serving
Chlorophyll 907mg 90.7mg non set
Carotinoids 104mg 10.4mg non set
Vitamin B9 (folate) 1.13mg 0.113mg 28%
Vitamin C 548mg 54.8mg 146%
Vitamin B3 (niacin) 7mg 0.7mg 5%
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 1mg 0.1mg 8%
Zinc 3mg 0.3mg 6%
Chromium 0.074mg 0.0074ug 30%
Iron 10mg 0.1mg 1%
Calcium 330mg 33mg 5%
There is no RDA of chlorophyll set and although it is not essential for health, it does have a number of health benefits, and wheatgrass is extremely high in chlorophyll compared to other plants. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants, and there has been an increasing interest in the health benefits of chlorophyll in recent years. Contrary to what many people claim, chlorophyll cannot oxygenate the blood and this because very little chlorophyll is likely to be absorbed by the digestive system (T.M Fernandes et al, 2007) (although some metabolites may be). This claim is a myth which seems to have originated from the fact that chlorophyll and haemoglobin have a similar chemical structure, not actual scientific evidence showing it can be absorbed, or used as haemoglobin. In reality, chlorophyll will accumulate in the digestive system, and so any health benefits of chlorophyll will be exerted on the digestive system.
Chlorophyll is known for its ability to bind to heavy metals such as cadmium and lead (V.V.K Mishra, 2008), which can prevent their absorption in the body (B.M. Ley, 2003). Many heavy metals are known to have many negative effects on the body such as causing neurone damage (which can lead to diseases such as Alzhimer’s disease) (P.A Adlard, 2006 ) and thyroid dysfunction (I Gerhard et al, 1998), and so chlorophyll will be able to help protect against them. Chlorophyll will only be able to bind to heavy metals which are consumed in the diet, and not heavy metals which are inhaled or absorbed through the skin – limiting the extent to which it can benefit the body. Never the less, preventing the absorption of heavy metals in the digestive system is very important.
In addition to chlorophylls ability to help remove heavy metals from the body it is a known powerful antioxidant (Y. Endo) et al. 1985)(B. Cervantes-Paz et al 2014), and so will be able to protect the digestive system from harmful radicals. Protecting against radicals is associated with being able to reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer (M. Valko et al, 2004). Indeed there is growing evidence that chlorophyll is able to significantly reduce the risk of cancer in the digestive system, and this has been demonstrated in both animal and human trials (TJ. McQuistan et al, 2012) (M. G. Ferruzzi and J Blakeslee, 2007).
Chlorophyll itself is also a natural source of magnesium, and 10g of wheatgrass will provide you with approximately 2.45mg of magnesium. With the RDA being 270mg, this is only a small amount of magnesium, and although it will be beneficial, it is not a significant source of magnesium as many retailers claim.
Of all the ‘green food’ powders such as spirulina and chlorealla, wheatgrass contains the highest amount of carotinoids, and the carotionoids in wheatgrass are at least 300% more bioavailable than spirulina and chlorella. This was tested by simulating the digestion process of our stomachs in a laboratory, and testing the resulting mixture for bio-active carotinoids which can be absorbed. (A. M. O’Sullivan et al, 2011). All carotinoids are recognised for their powerful antioxidant abilities, which will help protect the body against oxidative stress, and so can be considered to be protective against cancer (M. Valko et al, 2004) and other oxidative stress related ailments.
The most abundant carotinoids found in wheatgrass are lutein and zeaxanthin (A. M. O’Sullivan et al, 2011), which, as all other carotinoids is are very powerful antioxidant. There is emerging evidence that both these carotinoids can also help prevent cataract and macular degeneration, and there is also evidence to suggest that it can protect the eye and skin from light damage (Julie A. Mares-Perlman) (Richard L. Roberts et al, 2009). Although evidence for this is still limited, the current research does indicate a benefit, but quantities and extent of benefit is still debatable. These benefits have made both these carotinoids to become popular supplements themselves.
– Vitamin C
Wheatgrass is abundant in vitamin C, and one serving will provide you with 54.8mg, which equates to 146% of your RDA. The benefits of vitamin C are well researched and recognised by many, and its most prominent benefit is its role as an antioxidant. Vitamin C is a valuable antioxidant which reduces oxidative stress directly (by neutralising radicals) and indirectly (by restoring fat soluble Vitamin E) (A. Bendich et al, 2086) (S. J. Padayatty, 2003), making vitamin C vital in protecting the body against oxidative stress. As vitamin C is water soluble, our body is unable to store it. This emphasises the importance of ensuring a daily supply of vitamin C to maintain a healthy body.
Chromium is a vital mineral for normal health, yet its importance is often overlooked. Amongst other roles, chromium is vital for the normal metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. (H.A Schroeder, 1968). A deficiency of chromium has been associated with development of type 2 diabetes as organic chromium (as found in wheatgrass) is known to potentiate the action of insulin R. A. Anderson, 1981). The association of chromium with improving insulins action has made it a popular dietary supplement for those at risk. Actual dietary requirement for chromium are very low, and although wheatgrass only contains 0.0074ug of chromium, it is a equates to 30% of our requirements. Although more dietary sources are required throughout the day, wheatgrass provides a significant source.
– B Vitamins
Wheatgrass contains a moderate amount of B vitamins, particularly folate, niacin and pyridoxine. All B vitamins are vital for a number of biological functions, including the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Although other dietary sources of B vitamins are needed to ensure good health, wheatgrass is a significant source.
Wheatgrass has become a popular health supplement primarily because of its high chlorophyll and carotinoid content. These nutrients have demonstrated an ability to protect against a number of diseases, and chlorophyll has been shown to be especially beneficial for digestive system health. The full extent of the benefit of these nutrients is still unknown, but they are widely accepted as health promoting nutrients.
Wheatgrass is also high in a number of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C and chromium – the benefits of which are well researched and understood. The variety and quantity of nutrients in one serving of wheatgrass powder (10g) shows just how nutrient dense wheatgrass is.
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