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Are Wheatgrass and Barley Grass Gluten Free?

Many gluten-free dieters are confused if wheatgrass and barley grass are truly gluten-free. In this article, I'll explain these confusing ingredients.

Key Takeaways

  • Wheatgrass and Barlet Grass are often used in superfood green powders because it contains a variety of nutrients in an easily digested manner
  • If wheatgrass and barlet grass are gluten-free depends
  • Those suffering from celiac disease may need to avoid gluten-based products, including some greens powders

Many people suffer from food allergies, and some can be life-threatening, such as nut allergies.

However, when it comes to gluten, the effects of an allergy to this protein that is found in wheat and other grains build over time, causing digestive upsets and general ill health.

What does and does not contain gluten can be confusing, but it is vital to those with celiac disease, which is the name given to those who have an allergy to this protein.

This is because complete gluten avoidance is the most effective treatment for this allergic condition over anything else.

Avoiding wheat can mean missing out on many foods, but some decent gluten-free alternatives exist. However, they are not always the healthiest of foods because wheat is usually substituted for corn, rice, and potato flour.

In addition, foods made from these flours can have a high glycemic index score, making them unsuitable for people with diabetes.

So what about grasses such as wheatgrass and barley grass which are often common ingredients of green powder?

Do they contain gluten, is wheatgrass gluten-free and is barley grass gluten-free?

What is Wheatgrass?

Wheatgrass is the fledgling grass from the wheat plant.

This plant is common in Europe and America and can be grown indoors and outdoors. It has an impressive nutritional profile which includes vitamins C, A, and K. It also contains calcium, iron, selenium, and magnesium.

Some nutritionists even attribute the high levels of chlorophyll, which gives wheatgrass its green color, to helping increase the oxygen levels in the human body.

This is why wheatgrass is often included in superfood green powders, as it contains various nutrients in an easily digestible form.

wheatgrass juice

Is Wheatgrass Gluten-Free?

Does wheatgrass have gluten?

Surprisingly, wheatgrass is gluten-free despite it being from the wheat plant. This is because only the young shoots are harvested well before the gluten-containing wheat seeds sprout.

As a result, the grasses are not part of the grains. Therefore, despite the name, wheatgrass is, in fact, gluten-free and safe to consume by those on a gluten-free diet.

Timing is the key when harvesting wheatgrass; the grass itself needs to be old enough to contain all the nutrients but young enough not to have any gluten-containing seeds hidden within it.  

What is Barley Grass?

Barley grass is similar to wheatgrass because it is also the young grass shoots that are harvested before the barley seeds are produced. It is also referred to as a superfood, much like wheatgrass, because it contains fiber and vitamins C, A, and K.

Barley grass is a source of flavonoids and polyphenols, also known as antioxidants. These reduce oxidative stress and, by doing so, can help protect the body against diseases such as cancer.

Is Barley Grass Gluten-Free?

Barley grass is sometimes thought to be gluten-free, but this misconception exists because it is a more complex matter than whether wheatgrass does or does not contain gluten.

Again, the early grass shoots of the barley plant contain the nutrients that make barley grass so sought after.

However, some barley plants sprout seeds very early in the plant’s life cycle, making it impossible to totally avoid the gluten-containing sprouts from mixing with the barley grass itself.

The consequence is that this often leads to barley grass being contaminated with gluten and not being gluten-free after all.

This means that, unlike wheatgrass, it is highly likely that barley grass is not suitable for celiacs.

Gluten tests often underestimate or overestimate the amount of barley in a product and, therefore cannot be relied upon to accurately assess how much barley has been used during the manufacturing process.

Unless the manufacturers can be contacted directly about their processing methods, it is advised that people living with celiac disease avoid products that contain barley grass because barley sprouts a lot quicker than wheatgrass, making gluten contamination far more likely to occur.

For consumer reassurance, it is best to get super greens supplements that have been tested by a third party, such as the Food and Drug Administration.

They will test and confirm whether a supplement containing barley grass is gluten-free. If it is, then the supplement manufacturer has kept to the strict guidelines regarding avoiding gluten contamination of supplements.

barley grass

Why is Barley Grass Popular in Super Greens Supplements?

Avoiding products containing barley grass is best if you are after a super greens supplement and suffer from celiac disease.

This is easier said than done because barley grass is a very popular ingredient in today’s super greens supplements, mostly because it is a grass that contains many important nutrients.

As already mentioned, it contains vitamins and antioxidants, but it also contains amino acids and enzymes.

Moreover, barley grass is also prevalent amongst the health-conscious public in its other forms, such as barley grass juice. Therefore, there is already an existing market out there for all things barley grass related.

Barley grass is also widespread, like wheat, and is very easy to grow, unlike some of the more exotic plants and fruits that are sometimes included in these super greens supplements.

There are very few side effects associated with barley grass, and it has been consumed safely for years, making it a very attractive proposition for supplement manufacturers.

However, it does contain high levels of potassium and vitamin K, which may not be suitable for individuals with kidney problems, and super greens should be avoided by pregnant and lactating women.

Any side effects, such as digestive upsets or flatulence, are usually mild and pass, but if they continue, then the supplement can be stopped entirely, or the dose halved. Apart from this, barley grass continues to grow in popularity in the health industry.

Research into its health benefits, such as whether it can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, will only increase interest and the inclusion of barley grass in more and more health products in the future.

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Christine VanDoren, NSCA, ACE Nutritionist
Christine VanDoren, NSCA, ACE Nutritionist

Christine VanDoren is an NSCA-certified personal trainer and ACE nutritionist, she started spending her time training in the gym and online. She spends her time working to be better, and in turn, hopes to help others better themselves too.

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