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Can Humans Eat Grass For Outdoor Survival?

What do you do if you run out of food, your car breaks down, you become lost, or for whatever reason, you are stranded in the woods with minimum or no food. You recognize the three rules, which states that you can only survive without water for three days and food for 21 days. So, you’ve found a stream and purified the water. So, you are good there. To your dismay, you find out that all the food you have on you is a half, stale Cliff Bar.

What are you doing? Suddenly, a light bulb comes on, and you reason cows eat grass, deers eat grass, and many other forest herbivores eat grass. So, it seems reasonable to believe that humans should be able to digest grass? So, is grass edible?  To find out this answer and more keep on reading.

Humans and Grass

Now, I will answer the question: “Can Humans Digest Grass?” To quickly answer your questions, No. The good news is that grass is edible, and it won’t poison you. However, eating grass will not help you either for the following reasons:

  • Digestion Issues– Grass contains cellulose, which cannot be processed by the human digestive system. A human’s digestive system is not able to break down grass and make it useable. As a result, if you eat grass, you will likely become sick to your stomach and may vomit or suffer diarrhea. Personally, I can’t imagine anything much worse than being lost in the woods and having a bad case of diarrhea.

Human Digestion

  • Not Teeth Friendly-This won’t kill you. But, in the long run, too much grass will kill human teeth. Grass contains a lot of silica. Silica is an abrasive substance that will grind down your teeth. Cows and other grazing animals have teeth that continually grow. So, your friendly cow’s teeth will not be destroyed by a grass diet. They’ll grow new teeth. Additionally, cows, sheep, and goats chew differently, which results in less damage to teeth.
  • Nutrition-Even if you could digest grass without having any of the following issues, you still would not want to eat it as grass and leaves have little nutritional value to humans. https://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/digestive/why-humans-dont-eat-grass.htm
  • Too Few Calories-Additionally, if grass did provide nutritional value, the amount you would have to eat would be tremendous. As an example, cows eat up to 30 pounds of hay and grass daily. The average cow weighs around 1,390 pounds. Per the CDC, the average male in North America weighed 202 pounds. 202 pounds divided by 1,390 is roughly 6 pounds. This means that the average person would have to eat at least six pounds of grass and leaves to survive. Even for the most rabid Vegan, eating six pounds of grass would be horrific.

Not All Grass Is Bad- Not all grass is bad for humans and some grass is quite nutritious. I.E., Wheat-grass, Barley Grass, and Alfalfa grass are all non-toxic and edible.

Why is Grass Okay For Cows and Not Humans?

To understand why the grass is not good for survival, it helps you know why cows, sheep, and other grazing animals can live off grass. To make a point, I’m going to state the obvious: Humans and certain plant-eating herbivores have different digestion systems. This difference is not where evident than between humans and cattle. However, this info also applies to other animals like deer, sheep, antelopes, and giraffes.

Ruminant Animals

Each of the above is classified as ruminants. A ruminant animal’s digestion physiology (most easily seen in their stomach) allows them to eat and gain nutrition from grass and leaves. Understanding the fundamentals of a ruminant animal’s stomach will help you better understand why cows, deers, etc. can live off grass and leaves.

Ruminant animals have four stomach sections (human stomachs only have one chamber): the rumen, omasum, abomasum, and reticulum.

  • Rumen– Is the largest section and is located on the left side. The rumen holds eaten grass, leaves, etc. The food source interacts with microbes, which ferments food, which allows for the digestion of grass. For cows, rumen can hold up to 25 gallons of nutrients. All of the four sections of a cow are essential. This fermentation is the main factor of why ruminant animals can digest grass, and humans are not.
  • Reticulum– The Reticulum looks like a pouch and is located in the front and is near the heart. Dense or heavy food and foreign substances drop into this area.
  • Omasum-Is is shaped like a globe and has the primary job of helping absorb water, fatty acids, and magnesium.
  • Abomasum– The abomasum is often called the “true stomach” and is most like a non-ruminant stomach. The abomasum contains acids and enzymes that break down raw leaves and grasses to make it useful.

Cow Stomach

Ruminants Animals Eating Habits

The ruminants way they eat also helps them be able to digest grass. After ruminant animals eat and digest their food, it is then separated into solid and liquid foodstuff. Upon entering the rumen, the solid food will regurgitate back into the mouth and then be chewed again, resulting in more nutrients being processed. Water and other liquids will go from the reticulum straight into the Omasum. The omasum will help facilitate sugar, acids, and other types of protein to be absorbed into the blood.

Can Humans Eat Cooked Grass?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Cooked grass is just as undigestible, for humans as raw grass.

Alternatives To Grass and Leaves

There are plenty of articles that will help you to forage and gather nutritious plants in the wilderness. So, this is just a shortlist of nutritious plants that you can survive on.

Dandelions

Dandelion

Dandelions have a sour taste. But, they are edibles and also have useful for healing. Note-dandelions are high in vitamins. But, they have low calories. So, you will likely need more than dandelions to survive.

Nettles

Nettles are extremely nutritious—TIP-attempt to eat only younger nettles and cook them.

Wild Strawberries and Other Berries

Detail of the forest products – wild strawberries – shallow depth of field

Cattails

 cattails for survival

Common in wetlands and can be either cooked or munched on when raw.

Trees

Pine Tree

Pine Tree

You can even eat evergreen trees like pine, spruce, and Douglass fir. However, you need to be careful (I.e., don’t eat the pine tree) when eating pine. This article will help you learn how to do just that if you want to channel your inner termite.

Miscellaneous Edible Plants

Some of the other edible plants that are commonly found in the wilderness are listed below:

CLOVER

Pennycress

Chicory

Click Here for an excellent article on edible plants that are found in the wilderness.

Watch this video for more info on edible plants in the wilderness.

Avoid the Following Plants

The 2007 movie Into the Wild was based on a book by Jon Krakauer. It was based on a story about a young Christopher McCandless who left civilization to live off Alaska’s land. He wasn’t well prepared and tried to forage and ended up dying. The coroners report initially stated that hed died of starvation. However, based upon a diary that listed the food he ate, Jon Krakauer thought that potato seeds could poison him. This theory was never proven, and quite likely, he could have died from just starvation. Nonetheless, a lesson to learn from this is that you should never let hunger pangs override your sense of caution.

DO NOT EAT ANY PLANTS THAT HAVE THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS

● Sap-Milk-colored or otherwise discolored sap.

● Too Many Leaves-Any plants that have three leaves

● Taste-Soapy or bitter taste.

Click Here for more info on this vital point.

Final Thoughts

Unless you are in Antarctica, there is plenty of edible plants that are available in the wilderness. For example, if you know what you are doing, you can even eat tree bark.    But, you will likely not have to go to those extremes as it is likely you will be able to find nuts, berries, etc., that can keep you full.  Above all, be prepared, and if do run out of food don’t panic and look for the plentiful source of edible plants that will hold you over until you can get back to civilization.