Wheatgrass and barley grass are confusing ingredients, leaving many people on the gluten-free diet to wonder if these “food” items are gluten free. In this post, I’ll shed light on these confusing ingredients. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
People with celiac disease are clear on their marching orders: No gluten!
Gluten is a sneaky protein found in wheat, rye barley and sometimes oats. It’s hidden in so many confusing products, and avoiding the popular protein can be a chore for those suffering from celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
That said, there is a fuzzy line when it comes to products with the words “wheat” and “barley” in them. Are they off limits too? Should they be avoided if you’re on a gluten-free diet?
In this article, I’ll get to the bottom of whether or not wheatgrass and barley grass are safe for people to consume on the gluten-free diet, or whether they should be avoided like the plague.
Is Wheatgrass Gluten Free?
Wheatgrass is a superfood that offers potent health benefits to those who consume it. It offers an extensive and impressive list of vitamins and nutrients, and it’s mainly found in cold-pressed juices, smoothies and in an edible powder.
Wheatgrass has been known to aid in digestion, boost the metabolism, and give your immune system an edge, among other health benefits.
Wheatgrass comes from the freshly sprouted first leaves of the wheat plant. This means wheatgrass comes from the sprouts before the seed, where gluten is found, forms.
The seed of the wheat plant is where the gluten protein resides; but if the wheat plant doesn’t produce a seed, then there can be no grain or gluten. This means that, technically, wheatgrass is gluten free.
But before you indulge in a wheatgrass-filled smoothie bowl, take this information with a grain of salt.
While many farmers will harvest the wheatgrass before the seed has time to form to prevent any gluten contamination in their final products, if a farmer doesn’t time things right, and even just one seed sprouts, that particular crop is at high risk of gluten contamination.
Therefore, a farmer would have to be extremely diligent during harvesting and production of the wheatgrass to ensure no seeds, where the gluten protein would reside, gets into the final product.
I recommend only consuming wheatgrass products that are labeled gluten free. This will ensure the final product meets the FDA guidelines of containing less that 20 ppm of gluten, the legal threshold a product can contain to be labeled gluten free.
As you can see, the above Garden of Life wheatgrass juice powder is certified gluten free by the NSF and therefore it’s safe to consume if you’re on a gluten-free diet.
Keep in mind, however, that people with a wheat allergy should avoid wheatgrass altogether just as they would avoid all products that contained wheat.
Is Barley Grass Gluten Free?
Like wheatgrass, barley grass is a potent superfood with numerous health benefits. It, too, is found in juices, supplements and powders, and it’s often combined with other greens like wheatgrass, spinach and spirulina.
Also like wheat grass, barley grass is the leafy part of the barley plant, not the seed where the protein, gluten, resides.
While barley grass, itself, it free from gluten, there is a high risk of the grass coming in cross contant with the seed, therefore, people on a gluten-free diet should use caution when consuming products containing barley grass.
One product that you may consume regularly is Suja’s green juices. Some of the juices contain barley grass but are certified gluten free by the GFCO.
I tested a wheatgrass shot from Jamba Juice for hidden gluten using my Nima Sensor, a portable gluten-detecting device, and the Nima Sensor did not detect any gluten. (Read more about the Nima Sensor in this article.)
As you can see, wheatgrass and barley grass are both gluten free, as they do not contain the seed part of the plant, and the seed is where the protein (gluten) resides.
That said, anyone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance should read labels carefully and look for a gluten-free label before consuming anything with either of these ingredients due to the high risk of the grass coming in contact with the seed (gluten).
Did you enjoy this article? If so, please check out these other great articles from Good For You Gluten Free!
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