Health Benefits of Wheat Germ
Learn why wheat germ is so nutritious
Medically reviewed by Melissa Nieves, LND, RD
Wheat germ is a small yet incredibly nutrient-dense part of the wheat kernel. Wheat germ contains plant-based protein, fiber, folate, thiamine, and vitamin E. Its nutty, sweet flavor makes it a versatile ingredient in many recipes.
Learn about wheat germ, its nutritional profile, good sources, recommended intake, and more.
What Is Wheat Germ?
Whole grains, like whole wheat, contain three parts: the bran (outer, fibrous layer), the germ (an embryo that is very nutrient dense), and the endosperm (the germ's food supply, the largest and starchiest part).
Wheat germ is the germ of the wheat grain (or kernel); it has the potential to sprout a new grain. During the flour milling process, the germ is separated from the endosperm. When this happens, the grain is no longer a whole grain, and white bread products and other refined starches are made from this form of the grain.
Wheat Germ Nutritional Profile
Wheat germ is a concentrated source of antioxidants such as polyphenols, carotenoids, and tocopherols (vitamin E). Wheat germ proteins contain amino acids, particularly methionine, threonine, and lysine. Wheat germ contains polyunsaturated fats, B vitamins (folic acid and thiamine), minerals, potassium, phosphorous, selenium, and zinc.
One serving, equal to about 2 tablespoons (Tbsp) of wheat germ contains roughly:
1.6 grams (g) fat (1 g polyunsaturated fat, 0 g monounsaturated fat)
0 g saturated fat
4.3 g protein
8 g carbohydrate
2.3 g fiber
1 g sugar
0 g added sugar
0.6 g sodium
0 milligrams (mg) cholesterol
It also contains a wide range of micronutrients, including (approximate amounts):
1.36 mg iron (17% daily value for men and 8% for women)
48 mg magnesium (9% for men and 15% for women)
72 mg phosphorus (25%)
142 mg potassium (4% for men and 6% for women)
2.5 mg zinc (22% for men and 31% for women)
0.3 mg thiamine (25% for men and 27% for women)
53 micrograms (mcg) dietary folate equivalents (DFE) folate (13%)
9.8 mcg selenium (18%)
130 mcg vitamin A (14% for men and 19% for women)
2.4 mg vitamin E 2.4 (16%)
The Daily Value explains how much of a specific nutrient contributes to the daily recommended intake. Nutrient needs are based on age, gender, and other variables. Food manufacturers must list certain micronutrients, including vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.
Wheat Germ Benefits
Wheat germ contains many beneficial nutrients, including vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin that can prevent the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can damage cells. Most research on wheat germ and its effect on health has been conducted on animals or in test tubes. More research is needed on humans.
Good Source of Plant-Based Protein
Wheat germ can serve as a good source of plant-based protein, a type of iron called nonheme iron (found in plant foods), and healthy fat for people who follow a vegetarian or vegan eating plan. When animal products (containing heme iron) are eliminated from the diet, closer attention to iron intake is needed because nonheme iron is not as readily absorbable.
Adding foods with vitamin C to your meal can help with iron absorption. If you add wheat germ to your oatmeal, pair it with berries for better absorption.
May Contribute to Improved Gut Health
Nutrition is one of the most significant modifiable factors contributing to gut health. In one study, participants who consumed wheat germ–enriched bread had beneficial changes to healthy bacteria in the gut and reported better quality of life in terms of gas and bloating.
Researchers concluded that short-term ingestion of 6 g of wheat germ–infused bread vs. regular white bread improved gut health. However, more research is needed to determine the long-term effects.
There is no magic food for weight loss, but adding wheat germ to your diet may help with feelings of fullness due to its high fiber and protein content. Being full for longer may result in eating less at meals, which can yield weight loss.
Blood Sugar, Cholesterol, and Triglycerides
Because wheat germ is rich in heart-healthy fat and fiber and low in calories, it is plausible to think that when consumed with a healthy diet, it can help to improve markers of heart health.
However, in a 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis (research analyzing many studies on the topic), researchers investigated the effects of wheat germ on disease biomarkers for metabolic syndrome (a group of conditions that occur together and can contribute to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes), including blood glucose (sugar), cholesterol, and triglycerides. They found no credible evidence to suggest a benefit.
Researchers recommend further investigation with a large sample size and a longer duration.
Sources of Wheat Germ
Wheat germ can be purchased in its original flake form (toasted) or as wheat germ oil that's extracted from the germ, or as fermented wheat germ.
Wheat Germ Oil
Wheat germ oil is extracted from the germ and is a rich source of polyunsaturated fats. The oil does not have fiber but contains vitamin E and other potential anti-inflammatory compounds. It can be taken in capsule form as a supplement, in salad dressings, drizzled on vegetables, or as a topical agent for hair, skin, and nails.
Fermented Wheat Germ
Fermented wheat germ (whose brand name is Avemar) is a mix of natural compounds derived from an extract produced through the fermentation of wheat germ. It is available in film-coated tablets or granulated powders.
A chemist in Hungary created it to help improve the quality of life in people with cancer or autoimmune diseases. It's been used to support conventional cancer treatments. Human research is limited, so speak with a healthcare provider before taking wheat germ extract.
How Does Wheat Germ Compare to Ground Flaxseed?
Wheat germ, like ground flaxseed, is an excellent source of heart-healthy fats and fiber. However, flaxseed contains more omega-3 fatty acids.
Both are nutritious additions to meal plans and can be added to foods such as meatballs or in smoothies, yogurt, and oats.
People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should not eat wheat germ or other wheat products. If you have histamine intolerance, you may want to avoid wheat germ, as it can trigger the release of histamine (a messenger in the immune system).
Recommended Daily Wheat Germ Intake
The serving size of most commercial wheat germ flake products is 2 Tbsp (15 grams). It is unclear how much yields the most benefits, but research has examined doses ranging from 6 to 80 grams.
Most wheat germ oil capsules contain over 1,000 mg of wheat germ oil. They are believed to have anti-inflammatory effects due to their high polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, and other plant-based compounds.
If you want to add wheat germ to your diet, contact a healthcare provider or registered dietitian for counseling, education, and guidance.
How to Use Wheat Germ
Wheat germ's nutty yet sweet flavor makes it a great addition to breakfast choices, like pancakes, French toast, oatmeal, and baked goods. You can also use it as a topping for meat dishes or mixed into burgers, meatloaf, and meatballs. For meatless options, consider adding wheat germ to veggie burgers and sprinkling it over vegetables, grain dishes, or salads.
Wheat germ is the germ of the wheat kernel and is high in nutrients, including plant-based protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Often used as a nutrition booster, wheat germ has a nutty but sweet flavor. It can be added to sweet and savory foods. Although more research is needed, wheat germ may help improve gut health. People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should avoid wheat germ. Consult a healthcare provider if you want to add wheat germ to your diet.