What is Wheat Germ?
A grain of wheat is also known as the ‘wheat kernel’ or ‘wheat berry’. This is the seed that grows into wheat grass as we see it in fields.
Wheat germ is a very small part of a grain of wheat – approx 2.5% of the weight.
The word ‘germ’ refers to germination, which is the reproductive part of the kernel that germinates and forms the wheat grass.
As you can see from the image below, the wheat kernel is divided up into 3 distinctive parts:
1. Bran: The bran is the outside layer of the kernel and is approx 14% of the kernel weight. It contains the most fiber and protects the inner parts of the wheat kernel.
2. Endosperm: The endosperm makes up approx 83% of the kernel weight and the source of white flour. The endosperm contains the greatest share of protein, carbohydrates and iron, as well as the major B-vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and iron. It is also a source of soluble fiber.
3. Germ: The germ is the part of the wheat kernel that germinates and turns into a plant. The majority of the kernel’s fat is found in wheat germ. It is the most nutrient-rich part of the wheat.
Due to the high levels of nutrients contained in the wheat germ, it is extracted from the kernel and used as a supplement to create healthy meals.
You can purchase wheat germ from health stores or online and add them to foods like protein shakes, cereals, salads, toast or as part of general cooking.
Health Benefits of Wheat Germ
If you ask any nutrition expert or dietitian you will no doubt receive a glowing indictment on the many benefits of wheat germ.
However, if you ask a doctor you may or may not receive such a positive response. As with any food that contains healthy vitamins and/or minerals, doctors will always argue with how much of a health benefit is actually derived from the substance.
The good news is that wheat germ does contain many of these vitamins and minerals that are needed to maintain a healthy body – no matter how small.
Millions of people take mineral and/or vitamin supplements every single day. Most people don’t actually need these supplements as they are usually found in a normal healthy diet.
In today’s hectic lifestyle it is not always possible to maintain a healthy daily diet and we often look to supplements to top up any deficiencies we may have.
Wheat Germ Can Be Used As A Natural Supplement
As with vitamin or mineral supplements, wheat germ can be used in the same way, but in a natural form, and is much cheaper to buy.
Wheat Germ is a Good Source Of:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The concentrated oil or fat, found in wheat germ is made up primarily of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.
They are known as ‘essential’ because the body is unable to make them itself and relies on food intake for its source.
Essential fatty acids are also known as mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats (the “good” fats) and are needed in the body.
Omega-3 in particular has been proven to help high cholesterol level patients. It does this by raising the beneficial High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), which in turn removes your bad cholesterol, Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), by escorting it to the liver where it is broken down and excreted.
Unfortunately most Western world diets contain too much saturated fats and not nearly enough unsaturated fats in the form of omega-3. It explains why heart disease is still the biggest killer in these countries.
While fish provides us with omega-3, there are a number of drawbacks to consuming it, such as potentially high mercury levels and other pollutants found in fish.
Wheat germ on the other hand comes from a cheap, sustainable plant and just 1 tablespoon is enough to provide us with our entire recommended daily intake of omega-3.
The essential fatty acids found in wheat germ also help to lower high blood pressure as well as being important for nervous system functioning, and help elevate mood.
B vitamins are classed as ‘water soluble’ which means they all dissolve in water. Being water soluble means the body cannot store large quantities of these vitamins. Any excess is flushes away in our urine.
So it is important we must consume enough B vitamins each day to protect ourselves against deficiencies.
Wheat germ contains nearly every B vitamin our body needs, including thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, folate and pantothenic acid.
B vitamins are important for many functions in the body especially for the brain and may help prevent depression, stress and anxiety.
They also boost the body’s metabolism, increasing energy levels and in the production of red blood cell synthesis.
The oil that is extracted from the wheat germ contains essential fatty acids and vitamin E.
Vitamin E is needed by the body for nerves, muscle function and to maintain a healthy reproductive system. It has also been shown to benefit the skin by keeping its elasticity better, reducing the effects of ageing.
More discoveries are also being made about its antioxidant properties. Vitamin E is fat soluble and helps protect every cell in the body from the effects of free radical damage. This protection helps reduce the chances of cancer cell formation.
Vitamin E may help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood by preventing low density lipoproteins (LDLs) from sticking to artery walls and narrowing blood vessels.
Wheat germ is the best source of vitamin E contained in any food. Just 1 tablespoon provides us with 20milligrams, which is 100% of the recommended daily intake – defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Wheat germ is an incredible source of minerals. There are 16 minerals that our body needs to function properly – 10 major minerals and 6 trace minerals.
Wheat germ contains no less than 10 major and trace minerals needed to keep the body in tip-top shape.
These minerals include:
Wheat germ is considered an excellent source of fiber which has many benefits including improved bowel function, which helps prevent constipation and may reduce the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
A high fiber diet has also been shown to be effective in preventing weight gain. A 1 oz. serving of wheat germ provides about 4 g of dietary fiber which is around 15 – 20% of your recommended daily intake.
Protein is an essential nutrient that is present in the outer and inner membranes of every living cell. Our muscle tissue, hair, nails and outer layer of skin are all made up of protein
It’s no secret that bodybuilders and athletes have been consuming wheat germ for its protein content for some time now.
Not only does wheat germ provide a healthy alternative to eating chicken and red meat for our protein, it is also packed with other health promoting nutrients.
A one cup serving of wheat germ provides over 50% of our recommended daily intake of protein.
Carbohydrates are essential part of our diet as they provide fuel to our body and brain.
Simple carbohydrates are carbohydrates that are stripped of their nutrients through the manufacturing process. This includes processed foods like white bread and flour.
Complex carbohydrates retain their nutrients and are a good source of dietary fiber and digested slowly in the body.
Wheat germ is a very good source of complex carbohydrates. (But you knew I was going to say that, right?!)
As you can see the health properties of wheat germ are substantial. This abundant and cheap source of food is a true power house of nutrients that our body needs for optimal health.
As a natural supplement to any form of nutrient deficiencies, or to simply ensure you are getting enough of the nutrients listed above, wheat germ is certainly worth considering.
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To Your Health,