Should You Eat Grass to Avoid Starvation?

If you find yourself in the middle of a survival scenario where you run out of food and are facing starvation, you’ll be considering all kinds of things that you never would have dreamed of eating previously.

Plenty of survival experts and survival manuals will recommend you scavenge for various kinds of plant life to supplement your calorie intake, but one that never seems to be mentioned is grass. It is all around us and certainly easy to harvest.

grass on dinner plate
grass on dinner plate

But will eating grass let you avoid starvation? Unfortunately it will not.

Human beings cannot eat grass and derive any nutrition from it. Though you can consume it more or less safely, it may make you sick and even if it doesn’t, grass contains a lot of cellulose, which is indigestible. Eating grass might make you feel full if you’re able to consume enough of, but you’ll still be starving.

There is a lot more to learn about this topic, and surprisingly there are a rare few exceptions when it comes to eating grasses, as a couple of them can actually supply nutrition. We will learn about them just below.

Common Grass is Not for Human Consumption

The vast majority of grasses that you will see out in the world are not toxic, and they are certainly edible in the strictest sense of the word, meaning you can chew and then swallow them without any deadly effect.

But if you do manage to quaff down the stuff, you are liable to get sick and vomit. Assuming that you don’t get sick from chowing down on grass clippings your body will be unable to process any nutrition in any meaningful quantity from it.

Even though there are plenty of mammals that eat grass as a major or even primary component of their diet, humans are not one of them. Animals that are able to consume grass and live off of it have specially adapted biology that allows them to.

Their stomachs and intestines are able to break down the tough, durable cellulose in grass over a long period of time, and even their teeth are adapted for chewing the hardy plant life without wearing down.

But surely there must be some benefit to eating grass, right? If it isn’t poisonous, then there has to be something in there that your body can extract that is helpful, some vitamins or minerals, right? Unfortunately no, again, not in any meaningful quantity.

Consider other large mammals that are able to eat grass must consume dozens and dozens of pounds of it every day to subsist on it. This should furnish a better understanding of just how little nutrition there is to be had in grass.

More Bad News about Grass

The hits just keep on coming when it comes to grass as a potential survival food. Aside from its total indigestibility and near complete lack of nutrition, grass is also very difficult for human teeth to deal with. Sure, it is soft and springy and fibrous and definitely not palatable, but you can chew it.

And therein lies the problem: Grass contains minerals that are very hard on the enamel of your teeth, with silica being the chief offender. You might not notice it straight away, but if you attempt to eat grass for any length of time, your teeth will get torn up in the process.

Also, I would ask you to consider how filthy grass is likely to be. Everything under creation walks on grass, poops and pees on grass and dies on the grass.

It is highly likely that any given patch of grass is crawling with bacteria, and though you might be so delirious with hunger, you can deceive yourself into thinking it is a crisp, fresh salad it will be nowhere near as sanitary.

Please believe me when I say that grass, at least the vast majority of common grasses, are completely useless as a survival food. That is because they aren’t food at all, at least not for humans!

Can Grass Be Improved by Processing?

I could admire your determination to get some benefit out of grass in a survival situation, but there is nothing you can do to improve it as a foodstuff.

Cooking it will make the grass softer, but does nothing to reduce or alter the cellulose content that makes it so hard for our bodies to digest it. It certainly doesn’t do anything to improve its already non-existent nutritional profile.

Cooking grass for any purpose, even to just improve its flavor if you are desperately hungry, is nothing but a waste of time and resources.

You are far better off using that time and whatever energy you are spending to try and improve the grass looking for bugs or other nutritious edible plants instead.

It is time to face the facts. Grass is just not for human consumption. You’ll just have to be content to enviously watch your cows and goats eat it.

But There Is Always an Exception

But despite everything you have just learned about grass and its complete inadequacy as a survival food, even in an extremely desperate situation, you are avowed and determined to eat grass or at least make use of it somehow to stave off starvation.

Well, you are in luck because there are a few edible types of grasses, and even the inedible types might furnish you a few, scant calories if you are dedicated enough to harvesting them.

Regarding edible varieties of grass, you have several options although they do not grow just anywhere, and are only viable and reliable emergency foodstuffs in certain places.

You’ll be able to choose from alfalfa, wheat grasses, and potentially even barley grasses depending on where you live and the season.

But for every other kind of grass if you pay attention you might find grass that is germinating, and has sprouted seed heads.

Though you cannot eat the grass itself the seeds are edible, even though they have the slightest amount of nutrition imaginable and you’ll have to gather and eat a ton of them to make any of your effort worthwhile in harvesting them.

However, if you plan on employing the strategy however marginally successful it is likely to be you must take the time to learn the various species of grass in your area.

First, certain varieties of grass produce seeds that are toxic even if there is no toxin in the blades of grass themselves. This could make for a rude awakening if you harvest seeds for eating.

Second, sprouting grass seeds are vulnerable to mold, including several species of mold that can make you terribly sick, potentially even kill you. You should never harvest or eat any grass seeds that have obvious signs of mold or have a fuzzy appearance.

Also stay away from any grass seeds that have a black or purplish appearance.


There is no way to effectively eat common grasses in order to stave off starvation. If you are able to keep down a sufficient quantity you might be able to reduce your pains of hunger, but your body will not be able to drive any nutrition whatsoever from grass clippings.

Exceptions exist in the forms of certain species which have viability as a crop and scarce nutrition can be derived from germinating grass seeds, though eating these seeds entails its own risks.

You are better off avoiding grass entirely as an emergency survival food.

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1 thought on “Should You Eat Grass to Avoid Starvation?”

  1. Alfalfa is a legume not a grass. It’s more like a clover. You can eat clover. But alfalfa is better.

    You might be able to juice the grass by chewing a large amount, then swallowing the juice. And get some sugars from it. Beware of the cyanide too! Ouch!

    Has a lot of historical information on this important topic. The comments are interesting too.

    I think I’ll just have a nice cup of pine leaf tea, and a lightly toasted slab of pine cambium, thank you… (Folds and sets down the menu on the edge of the tarp;;)


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