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Wheat germ is the nutrient-rich embryo of the wheat kernel that is removed during the processing of whole wheat grains to white flour and only makes up about two to three percent of the entire wheat kernel . Although not technically a food, wheat germ is considered to be one of the top 10 healthiest foods to include in a balanced diet because it is such a good source of so many essential vitamins and minerals and healthy fats.Nutrients in Wheat Germ
Wheat germ contains many essential nutrients and is a good source of:
B vitamins such as folate, niacin, thiamin, and vitamin B6Calcium Complex carbsFiberIronMagnesiumManganeseOmega-3 fatty acidsPhosphorousPotassium ProteinSeleniumVitamin EZincHealth Benefits of Wheat Germ
Wheat germ contains phytosterols which have been shown to lower cholesterol and promote heart health. In addition, wheat germ contains high amounts of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect the body from damaging free radicals. Wheat germ is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids promote heart health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, are important for nervous system functioning, and help elevate mood. Wheat germ is also a good source of fiber which has many benefits including improved bowel function and may reduce the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes and prevent weight gain.
How to Use Wheat Germ
Wheat germ is inexpensive and can be easily incorporated into the diet. Toasted wheat germ, because of its texture and nutty, slightly sweet flavor is usually preferred over raw wheat germ for use in recipes or sprinkling on food. Toasted wheat germ can be added to:
Breakfast cerealsOatmealPancake and waffle mixes SmoothiesYogurtBreads and muffin mixesCottage cheeseHomemade protein barsCasserolesToasted wheat germ can also be used as a substitute for bread crumbs in many recipes.Buying and Storing Wheat Germ
Certain cereals and other prepackaged food now contain added wheat germ, and wheat germ oil is also available. Raw and toasted wheat germ can be found in health food stores and regular supermarkets. Since it can become rancid quickly, wheat germ should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator after opening. Wheat germ can also be frozen, which makes for a longer shelf life.
George Mateljan Foundation. (n.d.). Whole Wheat and Wheat Germ. Retrieved February 17, 2009 from World's Healthiest Foods.
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18. (2008.) Accessed February 17, 2009 from USDA.gov.
Pratt, S. & Matthews, K. (2004). Superfoods RX. New York: Harper Collins.
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