What Is Wheat Germ and Where Can I Find It?
Wheat germ is part of a wheat kernel and is responsible for helping the plant reproduce and spawn new wheat. While it’s removed from most processed wheat products, it is a major nutritional component of whole grain wheat.
Wheat germ, along with the husk, is removed from refined wheat products — like those that use white flour — so that they can be stored for longer.
Wheat germ is added to some granolas, cereals, and cornbread, and is also available raw. It is a popular topping for fruit pies, yogurt, ice cream, and hot or cold cereal. It can be a healthier alternative for breadcrumbs in meatballs, meatloaf, and breading for meats.
Wheat germ is also available in liquid and gelcap form. It can be used as a food additive or as a nutritional supplement.
What Can Wheat Germ Do for Me?
Wheat germ has excellent nutritional value as a food supplement, experts say. It’s an excellent source of vegetable proteins, along with fiber and healthy fats. It’s also a good source of magnesium, zinc, thiamin, folate, potassium, and phosphorus.
Wheat germ is also high in vitamin E, an essential nutrient with antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are believed to decrease free radicals in the body, and research suggests natural sources of antioxidants are best in preventing disease.
Some suggest that wheat germ can aid in boosting your immunity and help to keep your heart and cardiovascular system healthy. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that half of a person’s daily carbohydrate intake come from whole grains, natural sources of wheat germ. Research suggests that whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease and help you keep a healthy weight.
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), there’s enough evidence to suggest that wheat germ oil can help control cholesterol levels. They say, however, that there isn’t enough evidence to back up some other claims, such as suggestions that it can protect the skin against premature aging, help blood pressure, aid in brain function, or aid in digestion.
Wheat germ and flaxseed have both been used to maintain heart health in menopausal women. Some research suggests that wheat germ can also help treat menopausal symptoms, but the research is not conclusive.
Avemar, a fermented wheat germ extract, is being explored as a treatment for cancer and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Are There Any Side Effects?
People who are gluten intolerant or have gluten allergies should avoid wheat germ supplements, as it contains glutens.
People who are on a low-carb diet may also want to avoid wheat germ, as one cup of wheat germ contains nearly 60 grams of carbohydrates.
Wheat germ oil is rich in triglycerides, a type of fat. People with heart disease, as well as people at a high risk of heart disease, should monitor their intake, as high triglycerides levels are linked with adverse health effects.
Wheat germ extract can cause mild side effects in some patients. That includes diarrhea, nausea, gas, and dizziness.
You should talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of adding forms of wheat germ into your diet.