9 Amazing Benefits of Wheat Germ

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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A wheat germ is a part of the wheat kernel that helps in reproducing the plant. Naturally, it contains the nutrients needed to grow and develop into a healthy, new organism. Wheat germ is the small, nutrient-containing center of a wheat kernel, comprising only about 2.5 percent of the weight of the kernel, but packing a very beneficial list of attributes.

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 wound healing. The nutrients in wheat germs can also aid in digestion, prevent damage to the arteries, and help in weight loss.

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?

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 who add it to their diet.

In the current climate, 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!

Close-up shot of wheat germ flakes

Wheatgerm flakes Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Wheat germ, crude
Serving Size :
Water [g]11.12
Energy [kcal]360
Energy [kJ]1506
Protein [g]23.15
Total lipid (fat) [g]9.72
Ash [g]4.21
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]51.8
Fiber, total dietary [g]13.2
Calcium, Ca [mg]39
Iron, Fe [mg]6.26
Magnesium, Mg [mg]239
Phosphorus, P [mg]842
Potassium, K [mg]892
Sodium, Na [mg]12
Zinc, Zn [mg]12.29
Copper, Cu [mg]0.8
Manganese, Mn [mg]13.3
Selenium, Se [µg]79.2
Thiamin [mg]1.88
Riboflavin [mg]0.5
Niacin [mg]6.81
Pantothenic acid [mg]2.26
Vitamin B-6 [mg]1.3
Folate, total [µg]281
Folate, food [µg]281
Folate, DFE [µg]281
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]1.67
14:0 [g]0.01
16:0 [g]1.59
18:0 [g]0.06
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]1.37
16:1 [g]0.03
18:1 [g]1.33
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]6.01
18:2 [g]5.29
18:3 [g]0.72
Tryptophan [g]0.32
Threonine [g]0.97
Isoleucine [g]0.85
Leucine [g]1.57
Lysine [g]1.47
Methionine [g]0.46
Cystine [g]0.46
Phenylalanine [g]0.93
Tyrosine [g]0.7
Valine [g]1.2
Arginine [g]1.87
Histidine [g]0.64
Alanine [g]1.48
Aspartic acid [g]2.07
Glutamic acid [g]4
Glycine [g]1.42
Proline [g]1.23
Serine [g]1.1
Sources include : USDA

Wheat Germ Nutrition Facts

Although the wheat germ is small, the nutrients it contains are 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 bountiful source of energy, fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates, all of which interact in numerous ways with the body’s internal systems. Important daily vitamins like folate, vitamin E, and vitamin B (Niacin, Thiamin, and B6) can also be found in high levels in it. 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 germs to your diet, you may positively boost your immune system to fight against a number of diseases and conditions like heart disease and cancer. Experimental results using wheat germ protein hydrolysates suggests that may 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. Wheat germ has been shown to naturally contain high levels of these hydrolysates that stimulate the antioxidants within the immune system.

Improves Heart Health

Studies have shown that the regular intake of whole-grain wheat and wheat germ can reduce risk factors associated with coronary heart diseases 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 attack and stroke. Including wheat germ in your diet increases the amount of dietary fiber, which has also been scientifically linked to a reduction in heart diseases. The presence of octacosanol in wheat germ has also been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, thereby decreasing the chances of strokes and other harmful issues. High levels of omega-3 fatty acids in wheat germs work to cancel out the negative effects of omega-6 fatty acids, further protecting your cardiovascular system.

Anticancer Potential

Adding wheat germs or certain types of wheat germ extracts to your diet can help you reduce the risk factors for multiple types of cancer. A study led by Patricia Judson, MD, et. al., noted the chemopreventive effects of wheat germ extract against advanced-stage epithelial ovarian cancer

Another study by Hungarian researchers supports the anticancer benefits of Avemar (wheat germ extract). 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) of cancerous and tumorous cells. The small germ inside the wheat may not look very impressive, but its effects are very powerful.

A recent 2018 review study suggests that fermented wheat germ extract can be a promising component in cancer treatment.

Anti-aging Properties

Wheat germ is packed with nutrients and vitamins and can have a significant impact on various anti-aging effects like skin quality and hair loss. 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

Studies have shown wheat germ to have high levels of naturally occurring octacosanol, which has certain ergogenic qualities. This means that when taken as a part of a regular diet, it can increase stamina and performance by regulating the biochemical pathways that produce energy, which in effect streamlines the saving of energy reserves in the body. It should be noted that while these effects have been scientifically proven multiple times, as many variables come into play, the scientific backing for the wheat germ as a performance-enhancing dietary choice is moderate to weak.

Improves Cellular Metabolism

Other beneficial vitamins found in wheat germ are B-vitamins, which consists of a number of different vitamins. The most common types found in wheat germ are niacin, thiamine, 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 such as 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

Protein has a laundry list of beneficial attributes, and luckily, one of the best sources of protein in a diet can come from wheat germ. 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 Healthy 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.

Reduces Diabetes Risk

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 likely reduce the levels of homocysteine in your body, and reduce your chances of developing these medical conditions.

Side Effects of Wheat Germ

Not Gluten-friendly: A growing number of the population can no longer eat gluten, which is a primary component in grains such as wheat. This gluten intolerance can often be caused by diseases like Celiac’s 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 this germ can be canceled out if the intake of other daily calories is not monitored because weight gain and subsequent health issues can occur.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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