You know that green, leafy stuff you eat in salads and cook with asparagus or broccoli. But do you even know what it actually is?
In the world of botany, plant life has been divided into three categories: vegetables (which includes fruits), fungi, and plants. The term “vegetables” also refers to any part of an edible plant other than its roots, leaves, flowers, seeds and fruit—in other words, anything above ground.
This means you can have carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, turnips, leeks, beets, spinach, cabbage, onions, garlic, bell peppers, celery, parsley, scallions, chives, arugula, fennel, ginger root, hot pepper, radishes, watercress, kale, cilantro, etc., all under the umbrella category of vegetables.
Now let’s talk about one particular type of vegetation: grass. Is this plant like a carrot or a tomato? Let’s break down how we classify some common types of grasses and their relation to our daily food choices.
What organism is grass?
Grass is a flowering plant which belongs to the family Poaceae, meaning they are from the Gramineae group of monocotyledonous species including rice, corn, wheat, rye, sorghum, sugar cane, barley, oats, millet, maize, cotton, cassava, flax, hemp, and tobacco. These flowering plants produce grains, stems, lignified tissues, and stalks through ovaries. They grow by photosynthesis using carbon dioxide for fuel.
The most abundant form of grass is found on earth and produces more oxygen than trees every year. It is called C4-type grass because it uses a special biochemical process during photosynthesis to convert atmospheric CO2 to carbohydrates. While C3-grass converts only 12% of the available sunlight energy into biomass, C4-gasses use up to 90%. A study conducted at University College London concluded that if farmers used C4-photosynthesis instead of C3-photosynthesis there would be enough extra agricultural land left over to feed two billion people worldwide.
Another reason why grass could become so important is that it does not need much fertilizer unlike crops such as cereals, soybeans, and rapeseed oil.
Not only does grass provide us with essential nutrients but it also helps fight climate change since it absorbs greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, and aerosols. And these molecules are stored in the stem and leaf cells of grass while breathing out oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide when the cell dies.
It’s estimated that around 25 percent of global warming comes from agriculture. Most countries depend heavily on livestock production for income, especially those who live close to forests. Livestock emissions are responsible for 50 percent of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
But don’t worry! One way to cut your meat consumption is by switching to vegetarianism. Or better yet, try going vegan. If you’re still interested in buying animals’ products then you should consider purchasing organic animal meat from sustainable farms where the cows roam freely without being confined indoors.
In addition to cutting back on meat production, another solution proposed by scientists is growing edible grasslands closer to cities to help reduce air pollution caused by cars stuck in traffic jams. Edible grasslands could create new sources of nutrition since 70 percent of human diets come from cereal grains.
Is Grass a vegetable?
The word “vegetable” has long had a specific meaning, referring to all edible plant matter, including flowers, fruits, stems, leaves, roots and seeds. “Vegetables” would include anything harvested from plants such as grasses.
Why Doesn’t Grass Grow Into Plants Like Other Veggies Do?
When it comes to classifying grass, many people think that since it grows tall in the springtime that it must be classified as a weed. However, this isn’t true. There are different varieties of grass which include rices, tares, foxtails, bamboo, switchgrass, bluegrasses, cool season grasses, warm season grasses, annuals, biennials, perennials, creeping betweens, sedges, rushes, reeds, and grama.
All of these grasses differ in size, shape, color, texture, height, growth rate, nutrient composition, taste, aroma, and flavor. Some examples of grasses grown commercially are alfalfa, Bermuda, bermudagrass, bent grass, bluebunch wheatgrass, birdseed grass, canola, field peas, timothy, wildrice, kochia, lambsquarters, redroot pigweed, and quinoa.
As mentioned earlier, grass is mainly composed of proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and phytosterols. Grass contains high amounts of beta carotene, vitamin B1, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, selenium, copper, and iodine among others. Grass also provides natural antioxidants which protect against free radical damage.
So next time you go shopping make sure to look for fresh grass before picking up pre packaged frozen foods. Fresh grass will always give you a nutritional edge compared to processed foods. You’ll never stop craving something crunchy, crispy, juicy, chewy, sweet, sour, salty, spicy, pungent, and umami until you start eating real, whole, healthy grass. I’m talking about eating actual cow manure here…
So now you’ve learned what grass is and why it doesn’t fit in the veggie classification. Now let’s get down to business — is grass really safe to consume?
Is Eating Grass Dangerous for humans?
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) there have been no reports of illness linked to consuming toxic elements present in certain kinds of grass. However, the agency cautions consumers to avoid eating large quantities of raw or lightly cooked grass due to possible contamination.
There have been several cases reported where patients developed symptoms similar to allergic reactions after consuming tainted grass. Symptoms may vary depending on the individual and severity of poisoning. According to Health Canada, some of the potential signs of grass ingestion include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, headache, dizziness, weakness, drowsiness, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, skin rash, fever, numbness, abdominal pain, constipation, muscle spasms, seizures, hallucinations, slurred speech, confusion, memory loss, irregular heartbeat, excessive sweating, respiratory distress, increased blood pressure, urinary incontinence, jaundice, chest tightness, wheezing, swelling of lips, eyelid swellings, dry mouth, hyperventilation, shock, coma, convulsions, and sudden death.
A report published by Forbes states that in 2007, a teenager died after drinking beer laced with poison hemlock which was disguised as grass juice. Poison hemlock causes paralysis, disorientation, headaches, blurred vision, and eventually leads to cardiac arrest. People suffering from hay fever allergies shouldn’t eat grass either because it triggers severe inflammation of the nasal passages causing sneezing, runny nose, coughing, sore throat, and congestion. Many health experts recommend avoiding grass altogether if you suffer from asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, liver disease, neurological disorders, pregnancy, hypertension, stroke, cancer, or HIV.
Even though grass may seem harmless, keep in mind that it takes just 1 grain of poisonous pollen from a single head of grass to kill a horse. That said, ingesting small amounts of grass won’t hurt anyone unless they have a hypersensitivity reaction towards them.
Also remember that grass is very rich in omega 3 fatty acids. These acids lower triglycerides levels, improve cardiovascular health, prevent colon cancer, boost brain function, maintain bone density, strengthen muscles, control weight, manage depression, enhance athletic performance, increase libido, aid digestion, promote sleep, and treat eczema. Omega 6 fats however, which are primarily sourced from fish oils, nuts, and seed oils contribute greatly to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, cancers, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, autoimmune conditions, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Therefore, if you choose grass as your preferred source of protein or fat then take note of whether the grass you buy is omega 3 enriched.
To summarize, grass has great benefits for our bodies but it needs proper preparation and cooking techniques. As long as you limit yourself to smaller portions and don’t indulge too often then grass won’t pose any danger to your body. Just make sure that you buy certified organic grass with less pesticides. Also, if you aren’t able to digest grass properly then stay away from it entirely. For example, if you have digestive issues or Celiac Disease then you should consult your doctor before trying grass.
For optimal health, please drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day and strive to eat lots of veggies, fruits, legumes, beans, lentils, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy products, lean meats, poultry, seafood, sea salt, blackstrap molasses, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgar wheat, oatmeal, pastas, and hummus. Lastly, exercise regularly and practice yoga or meditation to stay calm and relaxed.