To protect our health we often try to avoid germs–but wheat germ is one germ we can all embrace! Its name originating from the word germinate, the wheat germ is the embryonic centre of the wheat grain, containing enzymes and nutrients required to start a new plant.
This tiny gem of a germ includes a high concentration of oil, which, while incredibly nutritious, causes the rapid deterioration of refined grain products. As a result, the germ is separated from the bran and starch during the milling process. (The germ is preserved as a vital part of whole grains.) When it comes to wheat, we definitely don’t want to throw the germ out with the chaff.
Waste Not, Want Not
While wheat germ might spoil soft breads and pastries, it contains a treasure trove of nutrients waiting to be used. Containing plenty of minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, wheat germ can help build strong bones and healthy blood.
Essential for the growth of seeds into plants, protein makes up about 23 percent of wheat germ. It also supplies a rich source of vitamins B1 and B3, so wheat germ is a particularly good food choice for vegetarians. Wheat germ is also a good source of dietary fibre.
As for those oils that made it an unwelcome addition to flour: they’re rich in omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA), and offer some omega-3 EFAs as well. The germ also contains fat-soluble vitamin A, and is one of the best food sources of healing vitamin E. Wheat germ derives about 25 percent of its calories from fat–but it’s the kind of fat that helps to create healthy skin, hair, and nails.
Stir It Up
It’s best to take wheat germ with meals. Replace up to ½ cup (125 mL) of the flour with wheat germ in pancake, muffin, and baked-goods recipes. For optimal health benefits, choose raw wheat germ and keep it refrigerated, as the high oil content will cause it to quickly become rancid otherwise.
You can also try organic cold-pressed wheat germ oil, which has a nutty taste. The recommended daily intake is about 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of oil per 100 pounds (45 kg) of body weight. Obviously, you’ll have to avoid wheat germ if you have wheat allergies, and because it contains a small amount of gluten, wheat germ shouldn’t be offered to a child under the age of six months.
Nutritious enough to kick-start life, imagine what wheat germ can do for you!
Wheat Germ Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 100 g
- Calories 360
- Total fat 10 g
- Saturated fat 2 g
- Cholesterol 0 mg
- Sodium 12 mg
- Potassium 892 mg
- Total carbohydrates 52 g
- Dietary fibre 13 g
- Sugars 0 g
- Protein 23 g
–Source: USDA National Nutrient Database
Wheat Germ in Your Diet
- To ensure maximum amounts of wheat germ in your daily diet, avoid bread that is 100 percent whole wheat in favour of 100 percent whole grain. Only whole grain bread includes the entire wheat germ.
- Add raw wheat germ to your morning routine by sprinkling it on yogourt, cereal, or oatmeal.
- Replace up to 1/2 cup (125 mL) of flour with wheat germ in baked goods and morning starters such as muffins and pancakes.
- Get an extra boost by adding 2 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 60 mL) of wheat germ to your morning smoothie.
- Wheat germ can be substituted for up to half the breadcrumbs when making dinners such as meatloaf and casseroles.
- Try mixing wheat germ into the topping when making a fruit crumble for dessert.