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Wheat has been a food source for humans for more than 10,000 years. The grain is a staple in the human diet, and 22 percent of the cropland worldwide is dedicated to growing wheat, according to Michael T. Murray and Joseph E. Pizzorno, authors of "The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods." Hiding inside a wheat berry is the wheat germ, which is the part of wheat that germinates the grain and provides a wealth of essential nutrients.
Wheat Germ 101
The wheat germ makes up about 2 percent to 3 percent of the whole wheat berry. When a product claims to be whole-wheat or whole-grain, it means that the wheat germ in included. Wheat germ can also be consumed separately from the rest of the wheat stalk, and it can be added to a variety of other foods to boost the nutritional value.
Wheat germ is a good source of fiber with 3.8 grams per 1/4 cup. That's 15 percent of the 25 grams of fiber women need each day and 10 percent of the 38 grams men need daily, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Diets rich in fiber promote healthy digestion and might reduce your risk of heart disease. Wheat germ supplies several B vitamins, which help you convert food to energy, as well as large doses of protein, iron, potassium and zinc.
Where Can I Buy It?
Wheat germ is readily available in most large supermarkets and health food stores. The grain is available prepackaged, but you can also find it in the bulk section of health food stores. You'll get the freshest wheat germ if you buy if from covered bins in stores that have a high turnover rate, according to Murray and Pizzorno, in "The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods."
Incorporating Wheat Germ into Your Diet
Eat a bowl of wheat germ of milk for a high-fiber, nutrient-dense breakfast, according to Evelyn Roehl, author of "Whole Food Facts: The Complete Reference Guide." Keep in mind, however, that a cup of wheat germ has 414 calories, so you'll need to factor that into your daily total. Substitute a portion of the flour in baked goods with wheat germ to increase the fiber and nutrient content. Use wheat germ in place of breadcrumbs in breading for meat and in meatloaf. Add wheat germ to homemade granola or smoothies as additional ways to use it. Store your wheat germ in an airtight container and use it within three months to prevent it from going rancid.
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