It's rich in nutrients, improves hair and skin, detoxifies the digestive tract and liver, and boosts immunity. Get into the dark green stuff, says Daniela Soave
In recent months, I have been unable to start my day without knocking back a shot. It started with just one, then I doubled my intake, and now I line up three one-ounce measures before I have even thought about breakfast.
I’m talking not about alcohol, but of wheatgrass. Certainly my three little shots are not the most palatable drinks on the planet. But friends and colleagues have noticed the difference and commented on the change in my appearance and energy levels. Some have gone as far as to say it has affected my mental clarity.
At first, I thought only I could see the effect of those three little helpers. But when my boss remarked on the change, I knew it wasn’t my imagination.
It was my acupuncturist who got me into it. I had occasionally sampled a shot in a juice bar at the end of the Nineties, but at the end of last year he recommended drinking wheatgrass on a much more regular basis to keep my blood more alkaline than acid.
Keeping your blood alkaline strengthens your immune system, and is achieved by making subtle changes to your diet. The typical Western diet is more acid than alkaline, consisting of foods that have an acidifying effect on the blood, which in turn distorts our natural PH balance. This makes us more susceptible to illness and elevates our risk of heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and cancer, among others.
We don’t have to eliminate acidic foods from our diet, but we should aim to keep the ratio weighted towards alkaline.
As a shortcut, wheatgrass gets you well on the way to that. But little did I know of its other amazing qualities, which, for me, surpass the reason I started drinking it in the first place.
What is it good for?
Wheatgrass, as its name suggests, is the young grass of the wheat plant. It is harvested when it’s about eight inches tall, and it’s full of goodness. To get the full benefit, it should be consumed as soon as it is juiced.
An ounce of wheatgrass juice contains the same amount of nutrients as one and a half pounds of broccoli. Its main ingredient is chlorophyll, which contains a high level of antioxidants. Chlorophyll helps maintain a strong immune system, detoxifies your digestive tract and supports intestinal health. It improves your hair, skin and nails and boosts your circulation.
Because chlorophyll is almost identical to haemoglobin, wheatgrass is considered to be a blood building food. Dr Yoshihide Hagiwara, president of the Hagiwara Institute of Health in Japan, is a leading advocate for the use of grass as food and medicine. He believes that since chlorophyll is soluble in fat particles, and fat particles are absorbed directly into the blood through the lymphatic system, chlorophyll can be absorbed in this way.
Wheatgrass increases red blood cell count and lowers blood pressure by dilating the blood pathways throughout the body. It also stimulates metabolism and the body’s enzyme systems by enriching the blood. It contains 18 major vitamins including A, B and C, magnesium, iron, selenium and 88 other minerals. The enzymes and amino acids, of which there are more than 80, strengthen cells and detoxify the liver and bloodstream.
So, if you can cope with the taste – not unpleasant, but like drinking grass – give it a go. I’ve been impressed, and so too have the people I’ve persuaded to try it. Some people mix it with fruit juice, or blend it in a smoothie. You don’t have to be a puritan like me.
Fresh, frozen or powdered
Not all of us live next to a juice bar, however, and while it is possible to grow your own wheatgrass in window boxes or in your veg patch, you have to be pretty dedicated to cut and juice each day. It is possible to buy powdered wheatgrass, but my choice is frozen. There are a number of companies that will deliver to your door and you can take your pick from frozen grass, which you defrost and juice yourself, or ready-prepared one-ounce shots, which you defrost in your fridge overnight and knock back before breakfast at the start of your day.
To maintain its optimal goodness, the wheatgrass has to be juiced and frozen as soon after harvesting as possible.
Wheatgrass is great for all ages, but especially for busy 50-somethings, says wheatgrass expert Britt Cordi, PhD. “It is fantastic for hormonal balance, when going through any changes,” she says.
“Chlorophyll is great for cleansing and revitalising, and has energy enhancing properties. It’s a highly effective way to energise the body in the short and long term. It boosts the immune system and it has anti-ageing properties because of the benefits to the skin.”
So what’s (apart from the taste) not to like?
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