Nutritional grasses, commonly known as cereal grasses, are the young green sprouts that grow into cereal grains such as wheat, barley, oats, and alfalfa. The nutritional profiles of these grasses are similar to or better than many dark green vegetables, although the human gastrointestinal system cannot digest them by merely chewing and swallowing them. Instead, you must juice them with a special extractor or dry and pulverize them into fine powder before the nutrients are made available to your body.
Gluten, Grains, and Grasses
It is important to note, however, that grasses are not a grain. If you are avoiding barley grass or wheat grass because you are avoiding the protein called gluten, these grasses are safe, as long as they are grown and processed properly. Organically grown nutritional grasses are always best. It is important to reach out to whomever is offering a product that contains nutritional grasses and thoroughly question them as to the source of their grasses. Yes, even organic grasses, question the source, the process, what steps are taken to prevent cross-contamination. If they are handled and processed properly then they are totally gluten-free!
So, why do wheat and barley grass not contain gluten? If you are Celiac or gluten-intolerant, you have probably had it drilled into you to avoid wheat, barley, rye, and oats at all cost! Trust us, we understand. Remember, gluten is the microscopic protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Young wheat and barley grass has not yet developed the gluten protein, which is why they are termed “grasses” instead of grains.
It is important to understand that the young cereal grasses are not the grains of the plant. Consequently, nutritional grasses are gluten-free, unlike the grains of wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Gluten is a composite protein found in the endosperms within the seeds of wheat, rye and barley. These young grasses have not yet produced their seeds. Therefore, they are void of the gluten protein when they are very young. If you are gluten sensitive, you don’t need to worry about consuming nutritional grasses as long as they are harvested and produced properly to avoid cross-contamination.
Nutritional Value of “Cereal” Grasses
According to Sirah Dubois, a PhD student in food science, “In general, cereal grasses are very good sources of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, chlorophyll and enzymes, which has led some nutritionists to label them “superfoods.” Wheatgrass, for example, contains more vitamin C than oranges and twice the vitamin A of carrots, according to the book “Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet.” Barley grass contains more calcium than cow’s milk, nearly five times the iron of spinach and especially high levels of vitamins C and B12. Oat grass contains up to 30 percent protein by weight and is loaded with lecithin, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin B5.”
It’s important to harvest cereal grasses at the jointing stage, which is when the plant reaches its peak nutritional value. After the jointing stage, concentrations of vitamins, amino acids and chlorophyll decline dramatically. With proper light and hydration, it takes one to two weeks before nutritional grasses should be cut and juiced. A grass juicer needs to have blades specifically designed for cereal grasses.
We hope this helps you to make an informed decision about whether you do or do not want to consume cereal grasses.