Like the significance of a 1st down, a love for Hank Bauer, and the spoiling of man’s best friend, one of the many things I’ve learned by osmosis from my father was the importance of wheat germ. Growing up, I would occasionally ask, “Why wheat germ?” My Dad’s insightful mumble, “I don’t know.” But there it was, the red labeled Kretschmer’s a permanent fixture in our refrigerator with a second jar “on deck” in the pantry. We would never be forced to go without.
As the official Food Buyer in my home (I remember from my marketing days that I should proudly refer to myself as “gatekeeper”), I make sure that we always have our wheat germ. To this day, I sprinkle it on my cereal every morning and I’ve found ways to incorporate it into some of the other things we eat. I must admit that for the longest time I was doing this out of habit. I knew enough to know that wheat germ was good for me but I didn’t know why. Sure, the label boasts, “An Excellent Source of Vitamin E & Folic Acid” but there had to be more.
Turns out that wheat germ is a nutritional powerhouse. It is the embryo of the wheat kernel and has many health benefits. Yes, it’s one of the best sources of folic acid, recommended for all women of childbearing age to prevent neural-tube birth defects, but folic acid also reduces a compound in your body called homocysteine. Lower levels of homocysteine have been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis bone fractures, and dementia. Wheat germ is also full of fiber, protein, and other nutrients like calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids.
But wait, there’s more! Wheat germ also contains vitamin E and a phytonutrient called L-ergothioneine, both which are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cell membranes, brain cells, and cholesterol molecules from free radical damage. Free radical damage greatly contributes to plaque build-up in the arteries, called atherosclerosis. Vitamin E is also important for good liver detoxification, immune function, and blood glucose control.
Wheat germ goes rancid easily, therefore an opened jar should always be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. It should smell slightly nutty, which would also describe its taste.
Here are some of the easiest ways to incorporate wheat germ into your diet, and don’t say I didn’t tell you why!
1. Sprinkle 1-2 Tbls on top of cereal, oatmeal or yogurt.
2. Replace up to 1/2 cup of flour in baked goods such as, muffins, pancakes, breads.
3. Add wheat germ to your smoothies, juices or protein shakes.
4. Substitute up to 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs in recipes for breaded chicken, meatloaf, stuffed mushrooms, and casserole toppings.
5. Mix some into crumble topping for fruit desserts.
Please note: I am not a nutritionist, just a person that makes incorporating healthy foods into my diet–and that of my family–a lifestyle choice. The information included in this post was garnered from several sites including doctoroz.com and Discovery Health.