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Wheatgrass: A Sprout Made From Grains, but Are the Benefits Worth the Risks?

Sprouts are one of the healthiest vegetables you can grow. Essentially, they're young plants that have recently emerged from their seeds that you can eat right away. At first, it may be weird to harvest them at such a young age, but they're actually concentrated with beneficial nutrients. Furthermore, they're quite easy to grow since you don't have to wait until the plants reach maturity.

There are many types of sprouts you can consume as part of your regular diet. Beneficial choices include broccoli, sunflower, beets, basil, kale, mung beans and arugula. In fact, I grow my own sprouts at home to add to my other foods because they help me meet my daily nutritional requirements. 

One type of sprout, wheatgrass, has been gaining popularity because of its minimal effort to grow, as well as its diverse nutrient profile. You may have heard about it before, and you may even be curious to try it out, but is it a good choice for your health?

What Is Wheatgrass and How Is It Used?

Wheatgrass, quite simply, comes from the cotyledons — the first leaves that emerge from the seeds — of the common wheat plant1 Triticum aestivum.2 They are sometimes called "seed leaves" due to their very young age, and they are considered to be the bridge between the seed and the plant.3 Wheatgrass is typically available in three forms:4

• Raw wheatgrass — Wheatgrass can be juiced and mixed into smoothies or other juiced vegetables. To juice wheatgrass, cut at the base of the blade and insert the tips into the juicer.

• Wheatgrass powder — You can pour a scoop of wheatgrass powder into your drinks or smoothies to get the nutrients if you don't have a juicer at home.

• Wheatgrass supplement — This is usually preferred by those who don't like the flavor of wheatgrass products.

If you wish to follow the juicer route, here are two ways you can do it:

Add prepared wheatgrass and enough water to allow the grass to liquify in the blender.Feed the wheatgrass into the juicer and run according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
Blend the wheatgrass and water just long enough to liquify.Capture the juice. With a manual grinder, passing the pulp through a second time can help to extract as much of the juice as possible.
Pour into a clean tight-weave towel or fine-mesh strainer, set over a clean glass or bowl.
If using a towel, gather up the corners to make a bag.
Squeeze the liquid from the blended grass into the glass, being sure to get as much out as possible.
Discard pulp and enjoy wheat grass juice.

Aside from drinking a big glass of wheatgrass juice, you can prepare wheatgrass shots for those who are not used to the taste and texture of wheatgrass yet. Remember that when making wheatgrass juice or wheatgrass shots, add other green vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit for extra flavor and nutrients.

Growing Your Own Wheatgrass at Home

Planting wheatgrass requires little effort. All you need are four items: organic wheatgrass seeds, high-quality potting soil, a plastic gardening tray and a spray bottle.5 You should plant wheatgrass seeds indoors because they are fragile and can be exposed to animals, birds and bugs if planted outdoors. But, if your garden is clean and is not on the path of predators, planting outdoors is fine.6

Start germinating your seeds by rinsing them in clean water and then soaking them in a container for eight to 10 hours, then repeat the process twice. If done correctly, you will notice that the seeds have sprouted.7

Next, fill the tray with an inch of soil. Water the soil gently using the spray, then sprinkle the seeds around the container evenly and cover everything with a loose layer of soil again. Water the sprouts daily carefully until they reach a height of 6 to 7 inches. Afterward, they will be ready to be juiced or added to foods.8

Here's an important tip when it comes to growing wheatgrass: If your harvest tastes bitter, it may be because you placed the tray under direct sunlight. I suggest placing your produce under indirect sunlight and harvesting it right at the jointing stage for a sweeter flavor.

Another thing to be aware of when growing wheatgrass is that it is susceptible to contamination and mold because the seeds are tightly clumped in moist soil, which is the perfect breeding ground for undesirable pathogens. If you consume moldy wheatgrass, it can make you sick. To lower your risk of disease, lessen the seeds planted on the soil, lower the humidity and keep a gentle breeze going around the tray.

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