Surprisingly, yes. Here’s why.
Protein powders and smoothies are often fortified with wheatgrass or barley grass. I’m endlessly curious, however, when I see products with wheatgrass or barley grass labeled gluten-free. Since these products come from the wheat and barley plants (grains of which gluten-free people are supposed to avoid), how can wheatgrass and barley grass be gluten-free?
Technically, gluten, the protein that can cause a reaction for those with Celiac, is only present in the seed (also known as the grain) of the wheat and barley, so the grass is totally safe.
According to the USDA, wheatgrass is gluten-free and can be labeled as such in products as long as the product contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Further, their research came to the conclusion that eating wheatgrass has been reported to soothe ulcerative colitis and anemia, ailments which are often symptoms of Celiac or a gluten intolerance. The Celiac Disease Foundation recommends going one step further when reaching for a product containing wheatgrass or barley grass, suggesting that consumers “make sure [the products] are labeled gluten-free to ensure no cross-contact between the seed (gluten-containing part) and the grass (gluten-free part) of the plant.”
Wheatgrass and barley grass are grown and harvested in similar ways, often as simply as spreading seeds throughout a bit of damp soil in a shallow bed. After a week or so of daily watering, the seeds grow into a plant that looks like garden grass; after which the grass can be harvested with scissors and turned into juice. Wheatgrass is known to be a source of numerous vitamins and nutrients, such as potassium, dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6. It also contains iron, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. Barley grass is super-high in omega 6 fatty acids, as well as phosphorus, magnesium, carbohydrates, and fiber.
Ultimately, yes, wheatgrass and barley grass are gluten-free. However, if you avoid gluten for health reasons, it’s best to find out exactly where the wheatgrass and barley grass in your protein powder or smoothie has been sourced. If it’s certified gluten-free pure wheatgrass or barley grass, you’re probably fine. If you’re worried, maybe just skip that superfood add-on at the smoothie shop.