Wheat Germ Benefits – Separating the Wheat from the Chaff
There’s been a lot of hype about adding wheat germ to the diet. Some of it is true, some based strictly on testimonials, and some just hype. In this post, I’ve attempted to ferret out the facts from the fiction. The testimonials, though not considered of much value in the world of science, do make some fairly consistent claims about wheat germ benefits. A couple of the most common include an increased sense of well-being and an increase in energy levels.
What is wheat germ?
The wheat kernel, the part harvested from the plant, is actually the seed that will produce new wheat plants. Inside is the germ, which is actually the embryonic portion of the seed. It is the part that sprouts and makes up only about 1 ½ percent by weight of the kernel. It is removed along with the wheat bran (the outer portion of the kernel) to make white flour.
Whole wheat is the finely ground whole kernel including the bran and germ. However, when you eat whole wheat, you are only getting a very small amount of the wheat germ per serving.
What are the wheat germ benefits?
Wheat germ offers a full complement of amino acids (proteins). One serving (about 1 ¾ teaspoons) is worth 6 grams of protein, 202 mg omega 3 and 1481 mg omega 6 fatty acids and numerous vitamins and minerals. To see what’s in a serving, you might want to check out http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5743/2.
Many claims of wheat germ benefits can be substantiated by science. However, the claims are based on the individual constituents of wheat germ such as omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and minerals.
The fact is that the wheat germ benefits come from its nutrient dense properties. It has been credited with reducing cholesterol, relieving menopause symptoms, alleviating depression, lowering blood pressure, increasing energy and more.
That said there are scientific studies that report specific benefits in using fermented wheat germ extract (FWGE). When wheat germ is fermented with yeast, benzoquinones are produced which early studies indicate are anti-carcinogenic. You should not use FWGE if you are pregnant, nursing, have an organ or tissue transplant, have conditions of the gastrointestinal tract or are taking prescription medications without consulting a physician. In other words, by creating FWGE, wheat germ is no longer a wonderful whole food and is converted into another bioactive form.
Wheat germ oil is another derivative of wheat germ. Wheat germ oil is one of the richest sources of a long-chain fatty alcohol known as octacosanol. As a nutrient, wheat germ oil is about as close to zero as you can get save for its high vitamin E and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Topically, wheat germ oil is helpful in treating scars, stretch marks and various skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It has strong antioxidant properties and is used extensively in skin and hair care products as both a cell rejuvenator and preservative.
The octacosanol in wheat germ oil is currently being evaluated for numerous possible benefits including cardiovascular health, fat metabolism, Lou Gehrig’s disease and other conditions.
Wheat germ on the market today
Wheat germ can be purchased in its raw form or toasted. The raw form is considered to be the most nutrient rich, but its two main drawbacks are that it’s not as taste appealing as the toasted and it tends to go rancid very rapidly. Toasted wheat germ will last longer. Store raw wheat germ sufficient enough for a week in the refrigerator in a baggie. Make sure you express as much air as possible from the baggie before you seal it. Larger quantities should be stored in the freezer. Do not use if it becomes rancid. You can tell if it’s rancid by a change in odor and taste (usually bitter).
- Tip: You can toast raw wheat germ yourself and thus control the amount of heat and time. This can help you retain many of the nutrients often destroyed by too much heat.
How to use wheat germ
Wheat germ can be sprinkled on cereals, mixed in gravies, soaps and stews and added to fruit drinks and frosties. Toasted wheat germ makes a fun and tasty topping for ice cream. Actually, you can add it to almost anything. Use your taste buds as a guide. The recommended daily dose is from 1 – 3 teaspoons. Be cautious not to use too much as this has been associated with diarrhea.
I hope this post has been helpful in your understanding of wheat germ benefits. As you can tell, the jury is out on many of the claimed benefits, but without a doubt it is one of the most nutrient packed foods you can find and, in my humble opinion, well worth adding to your diet.
Now go have fun and relax.