inFact with Brian Dunning inFact with Brian Dunning


Wheatgrass Juice

Has anyone ever told you that a shot of wheatgrass juice is nature's superfood?

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If your neighborhood is like mine, somebody's making a mint blending up grass and selling it for top-shelf liquor prices to health-obsessed suckers, telling them it has all sorts of too-good-to-be-true health benefits.

Most claims about wheatgrass juice are vague and medically meaningless, like it "detoxifies the body" (without happening to mention what these toxins might be), or it "builds the blood". It's also claimed that wheatgrass juice is a great source of vitamins and minerals. Really?

You'd think "nature's superfood" would deliver at least as many vitamins as, say, a single five-cent Flintstones vitamin pill? Let's have a look. One Flintstones vitamin: pretty good, 100% of the recommended daily allowance of most nutrients. One shot of wheatgrass juice? Hmmm, not so good. Nearly all zeroes. Still think it's worth several dollars a shot?

But it doesn't matter. The very idea of "superfoods" doesn't give our amazing human bodies any of the credit they deserve. All we need are the raw ingredients that come from any balanced diet. Our digestive system breaks down whatever we eat into its most basic amino acids, and our body constructs nearly everything it needs from those. It's an incredible process, and it's a hundred times as amazing as the silly scientific-sounding claims made up to sell you something.

It's also claimed that wheatgrass juice is a great source of oxygen, and of course, your body needs oxygen. But guess what: Your body already has a way to get its oxygen. Can you guess what that is? Wow, amazing how that works! Your body doesn't get its oxygen from what you eat.

I even read an advertisement that the magnesium in chlorophyll "builds enzymes" that "restore your sex hormones". While it's true that magnesium is a factor in some enzymatic processes like forming bones, chlorophyll is not an especially good source of magnesium. Nor do our bodies use enzymes that we eat: They get broken down, and our bodies construct those that we need.

If you want vitamins, take a vitamin pill. If you want oxygen, take a breath. If you want sex hormones, go on a date. But always be wary of claims based on the idea that your body needs any super-special, magical, expensive products, no matter how trendy they are. Eat a balanced diet and exercise, and you'll be just fine.

— Brian Dunning

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References & Further Reading

Alberts, B., Bray, D., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Raff, M., Roberts, K., Walter, P. Essential Cell Biology: An Introduction to the Molecular Biology of the Cell. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998. 12-13, 432-434.

Bidlack, W., Meslin, M. "Nutritional quackery: selling health misinformation." California Pharmacist. 1 Feb. 1989, Volume 36: 34-43.

Jarvis, W.T. "Wheatgrass Therapy." National Council Against Health Fraud Resource Documents. National Council Against Health Fraud, 15 Jan. 2001. Web. 9 Nov. 2006. <>

Lister, C. "Wheat Grass Nutritional Analyses." Crop & Food Research. The New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research Ltd, 12 Sep. 2002. Web. 9 Nov. 2006. <>

Ross, Sharon. "Functional Foods: The Food and Drug Administration Perspective." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1 Jun. 2000, Volume 71, Number 6: 1735S-1738S.

Shermer, M. "How Anecdotal Evidence Can Undermine Scientific Results." Scientific American. 21 Jul. 2008, Volume 299, Number 8.


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