Researching the benefits of drinking wheatgrass juice has to be one of the most challenging tasks as opinions vary wildly from one side to the other. The problem for me is that the more ardent supporters of wheatgrass make such bold claims on its healing properties that it starts looking like a 'medicine man' magic potion to cure all ills. Wheatgrass benefits are claimed for a broad range of ailments from digestive issues, to skin problems and even for life threatening conditions like cancer.The scientific community will tell you that wheatgrass does contain a broad range of nutrients but no more than any other green, leafy vegetable. Why force yourself to drink shots of pressed grass juice instead of another healthy vegetable that tastes much better?
I felt what's needed here is the voice of reason, someone who understands healthy food from the garden to the plate and everything in between. If you read my article on fermenting you will know I attended the Orgainc Centre course on fermented food with Hans Wieland and while Hans did a fantastic job turning us into 'fermentistas' it is normally a team effort with Hans's wife Gaby also presenting the course.
uropath, Herbalist and Reiki Master and gives courses on using herbs, wholefood cooking and baking, and living foods. She is closely connected with the Organic Centre in Co.Leitrim where she lectures, she also runs her own practice 'Neantóg" and is author of the Neantóg Cookbook (now in its 5th edition).
I can't pretend to know Gaby (I think we've only met twice) but she is someone whose reputation precedes here and is well known for her expertise in getting the most out of the fresh, organic produce grown in her garden. Gaby has told me before about the kick she got from her first shot of wheatgrass and how she now includes it as part of her diet so I figured she'd be a good person to give a balanced opinion based on experience. Here's what she said:
You are clearly passionate about fresh, organic food and the health benefits it provides. Did you grow up surrounded by an organic ethos in Germany? Growing up, it wasn’t so much an organic ethos rather than an environment at home where everything was cooked from scratch using fresh, seasonal ingredients from the local markets. Later I became part of what we called the “wholefood movement”, centred around “Naturkostlaeden” (health food stores in German), that sprang up in nearly every town.
I'm always amazed at the lack of connection between what we eat and our health in conventional medicine. I know you trained as a nurse; did this have any bearing on your move towards a more holistic approach to health? I always believed that a healthy diet is part of the healing process and that a holistic approach to health is far more successful. I think one of the big challenges in the health sector is improving the food served in hospitals. It was interesting to read in the Sunday papers that under new UK government standards hospitals must now “ use seasonal produce, cook rice and potatoes without salt and that half of all desserts must be fruit”. Wouldn’t it be great if we would have a similar directive here in Ireland for starters.
Tell us a little about Neantóg and the courses you run. Is it all centred around healthy eating? The courses and workshops I run are all based on nearly 30 years of experience at our small organic farm in Cliffoney, growing vegetables and herbs, baking sourdough breads and making cheeses. After becoming a trained naturopath and herbalist I incorporate nutritional advice, healthy eating and cooking in all my clinics. I also teach classes here and at The Organic Centre in raw food, fermenting, gluten/dairy/sugar free cooking, using herbs medicinally and many more. For many years I give cooking classes with community gardens and in schools.
I'm a recent convert to juicing and notice I do feel better and have more energy. Why is juicing so good for us? There are a lot of vegetables in a glass of juice. When the fibre is removed the nutrients are more concentrated and are absorbed instantly, giving you energy far quicker than eating whole vegetables.
There have been some very strong claims made about the health benefits of wheatgrass from managing skin conditions to helping cure cancer. Is wheatgrass the wonder cure it's made out to be? I don’t call it a wonder cure, for me it is one part of a healthy diet or treatment plan to prevent illness or help restore good health. I do believe wheatgrass can help restore high energy levels and I get feedback to that regard. According to the Hippocrates Institute two ounces of wheatgrass juice has the nutritional equivalent of five pounds of the best raw organic vegetables. For example, wheatgrass has twice the amount of Vitamin A as carrots and is higher in Vitamin C than oranges! It contains the full spectrum of B vitamins, as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium and potassium in a balanced ratio. Wheatgrass is a complete source of protein, supplying all of the essential amino acids, and more. Most importantly wheatgrass delivers more oxygen to the blood due to the particularly high level of chlorophyll, which is especially powerful in assisting the body to restore abnormalities and help fight diseases.
What does wheatgrass do for you? How do you feel after drinking the juice, is there a noticeable effect? Trying my first wheatgrass shot in Cornucopia over 15 years ago made me very giggly and I couldn’t sleep all night. Now it gives me more constant energy and makes me feel nourished. My skin is radiant (and I find people commenting on that) and it helps my digestion.
How much is wheatgrass a part of your healthy lifestyle, would you drink wheatgrass every day? Usually I have a wheatgrass shot every day. At home I grow wheatgrass in bulk (6-10 trays) every so often and then freeze the juice in ice cube bags. So I can have wheatgrass shots even if I’m very busy. As part of a detox programme I would drink 3 shots a day.
Is there any difference between wheat, spelt or barley grass as regards their nutritional content? Why would you choose one over other? From my own understanding and the limited research and trials I undertook, I can say that wheat grass grows best for me. Trials with barley were ok, but with spelt didn’t work that well. I think good sprouting spelt is very hard to find. In my view there is very little difference between wheatgrass and barley grass. Some prefer the taste of wheatgrass to that of barley grass while others believe that barley grass produces fewer gastric symptoms compared to wheat grass, though both plants contain similar chemicals and nutrients.
Courses and Books You can attend one of Gaby's courses at the Organic Centre in Co.Leitrim by clicking the link. Unfortunately you have missed the wheatgrass one but there are 3 more courses coming up in 'Cooking without Gluten, Dairy, Yeast and Sugar', 'Cheese Making - An Introduction' and 'From Sourdough Bread to Chapatis - Introduction to Breads around the World'
You can view the full range of courses at the Organic Centre here.
The Neantóg Cookbook is available on Gaby's website.