The health benefits of wheat germ include a boost to the immune system and a preventative measure against cardiovascular diseases and cancer. It has anti-aging properties, and can positively affect mental agility, muscle development, stamina, and the healing rate for wounds. The nutrients in wheat germs can also aid in digestion, prevent damage to the arteries, and help in losing weight.
Wheat germ is the small, nutrient-containing center of a wheat kernel, comprising only about 2.5% of the weight of the kernel, but packing a very beneficial list of attributes.
Certain food can be nutritious ‘overall’ implying that every part is healthy for consumption. Wheat is one of those, and wheat germ is the healthy part that contains the majority of the nutrients. A wheat kernel consists of the outside shell (wheat bran), the starchy endosperm (used to mill flour), and the wheat germ (the reproductive element).
What Is Wheat Germ?
A wheat germ is the part of each kernel that helps in reproducing the plant, so naturally, it contains the nutrients needed to grow and develop into a healthy, new organism. For years, wheat kernels were used mainly to mill flour, in which case the bran and germ parts were casually thrown away and white flour was produced, which held little or no nutritional value. In fact, once synthetic vitamins and bleaches are added to the flour, it actually does more harm than good.
When it is extracted from the kernel and isolated into natural oils, or when the grain is eaten entirely, the nutritional benefits of the germ can be passed into our body. It is often turned into cooking or baking oil for highly concentrated doses of wheat germ on salads or in pasta sauces, but it should not be used as a frying oil because most of the nutrients are lost when heated to that level.
It can act as an additive in desserts or smoothies, or even as a replacement for breadcrumbs or flour in many recipes, conferring a wealth of nutritional benefits on those that choose to add it to their diet.
In the current situation, where people are more careful about their health, nearly every store will sell raw wheat germ in or around the cereal aisle, so get creative, and get cooking.
Wheat Germ Nutrition Facts
Although the wheat germ is small, a number of nutrients it contains is impressive and formidable. The outer shell of the wheat kernel, the bran, is beneficial as well, but the germ has more necessary nutrients that make it desirable.
Wheat germ is a great source of energy, fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates, all of which interact in numerous ways with the body’s internal systems. Important vitamins like folate, vitamin E, vitamin B3, thiamin and vitamin B6 can also be found in high levels in wheat germ. In terms of minerals, wheat germ provides high levels of potassium and iron, as well as very good levels of zinc, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium.
It also has omega-3 fatty acids, one of the necessary and beneficial forms of cholesterol found in the body that needs frequent replenishing from dietary sources like wheat germ.
Health Benefits Of Wheat Germ
Wheat germ provides a great range of nutritional benefits which can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Let’s take a detailed look at them.
- Boosts Immune System
By adding wheat germ to your diet, you can positively boost your immune system to fight against a number of diseases and conditions like heart disease and cancer. Wheat germ protein, hydrolysates, have been shown to positively increase the antioxidant activity in organic systems. Antioxidants seek out and destroy free radicals and other disease-causing microorganisms in the body, reducing or eliminating the chances of serious illness. It has been shown to naturally contain high levels of these hydrolysates that stimulate the antioxidants within the immune system.
- Improves Cardiovascular Health
Studies have shown that the regular intake of whole grain wheat and wheat germ can reduce risk factors associated with coronary heart disease and can increase the health of the entire cardiovascular system. LDL cholesterol is the cholesterol that has been oxidized and therefore, swells in the arteries and veins. This is a common sign and risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. Including wheat germ in your diet increases the amount of dietary fiber, which has also been scientifically linked to a reduction in heart disease. High levels of omega-3 fatty acids in wheat germ also work to cancel out the negative effects of omega-6 fatty acids, further protecting your cardiovascular system.
- Cancer Prevention
Adding wheat germ or certain types of wheat germ extracts to your diet can help you reduce the risk factors for multiple types of cancer. It has been shown to interrupt glucose metabolism at a fundamental level and inhibit the expression of various kinases, which stimulate cancerous activity in the cells. The study shows that test subjects with wheat germ extract in their diet have increased TNF secretion by the macrophages and stimulating NK cell activity (Natural Killer cells). Both of these benefits result in apoptosis (cell death) for cancerous and tumorous cells. The small germ inside the wheat may not look very impressive, but its effects are very powerful.
- Anti-aging Properties
Wheat germ is packed with nutrients and vitamins in such high levels that it can have significant effects on various anti-aging effects like skin quality and hair loss. As a dietary supplement, wheat germ is a natural way to get these benefits, but some people also choose to go for a more cosmetic approach, using its extract directly or mixing it with other cosmetic materials. Vitamin E is packed into it as well, and studies have shown a wide range of benefits to people who fill their daily requirements of this vitamin. When eaten regularly, the proteins and vitamins within wheat germ can positively affect people with conditions like psoriasis, sunburn, eczema, wrinkles, dull complexion, and receding hairlines.
- Increases Athletic Performance
Recent popular studies have shown wheat germ to have high levels of naturally occurring octacosanol, a chemical component found in some plants, which enhances physical performance. This means that when taken as a part of a regular diet, it can increasestamina by regulating the biochemical pathways that produce energy, which in effect streamlines the saving of energy reserves in the body. These effects have been shown multiple times, but so many variables come into play, which confirms the scientific backing for wheat germ as a performance-enhancing dietary choice is moderate to weak.
- Improves Cellular Metabolism
Another beneficial vitamin found in wheat germ is Vitamin B, which consists a number of different vitamins. The most common types found in wheat germ are niacin, thiamin, and folates. These vitamins are vital for cellular metabolism, helping to transform nutrients from carbohydrates, lipids, and glucose into consumable energy for the cells. Thiamine can also fight against metabolic disorders like chronic obesity. A higher functioning metabolism means more natural energy, as well as more successful weight loss, strength, and alertness. B vitamins can be found in many whole grains as well as in wheat germ.
- Boosts Muscle Health
One of the best sources of protein in a diet can come from wheat germ, and protein has a laundry list of beneficial attributes. Protein is integral in maintaining healthy muscles, repairing damaged tissues, regulating energy levels within the body, and aiding in homeostasis and overall system balance. Protein is also an essential dietary requirement for people wanting to get in shape and increase their muscle mass.
- Supports Pregnancy
Wheat germ is loaded with folic acid, which is an important factor in ensuring a healthy infant for pregnant women. Women who have healthy levels of folates in their system have a greatly reduced chance of their child having neural tube defects and other complications. Adding it to your diet when pregnant can be beneficial in many ways, given its nutrient-packed nature, but the high levels of folic acid make it particularly attractive and popular.
- Prevents Diabetes
The presence of high folic acid in wheat germ has a secondary effect for people at risk of diabetes. Folic acid is negatively correlated with a compound called “homocysteine” in the body, which is closely linked to a number of harmful conditions, like vascular disease, diabetes, and heart disease. Folic acid is present in many whole grains, and in particularly high levels in wheat germ. Therefore, if you add normal, healthy doses of wheat germ to your diet, you will reduce the levels of homocysteine in your body, and reduce your chances of contracting these dangerous or lethal conditions.
A Few Words of caution
- Gluten-free Diet: A growing number of the population can no longer eat gluten, which is a primary component in grains like wheat. This gluten intolerance can often be caused by diseases, like Celiac disease. Eating gluten can be painful and harmful to the digestive tract, and even fatal in some extreme conditions. Despite the other nutritional benefits of wheat germ, if you are required to maintain a “gluten-free” diet, do not consume wheat germ or wheat germ extract.
- High in Calories: Besides being nutrient-rich, wheat germ is very high in calories. The positive benefits of wheat germ can be canceled out if the intake of other daily calories is not monitored because weight gain and subsequent health issues can occur regardless of how healthy the food is, that contributed to your high caloric intake.