At one point in time, not too long ago, the only place you could purchase things like granola, natural peanut butter, stone milled whole wheat flours and local organic produce was in a “health food store”. These stores catered to what was then a slightly alternative crowd, discriminating members of the purchasing public that were tired of canned goods, highly processed foods and convenience based products of dubious provenance and even more questionable nutritional value. These hippies were on the fringes for a time, but thankfully things eventually started to change.
As more consumers became more aware, supermarkets began to stock “health food” and whole, fresh and local foods to meet the growing demand. Nowadays it is common to be able to buy an organically raised free-range hen, some chia seeds and kale chips in the same store where you get your Kraft Dinner and Fruit Loops.
There have been food fads, diet crazes and expert nutritional advice, often in the name of health and well-being, that have come and gone, bunked and de-bunked. Yesterday’s darling is tomorrow’s ugly step-sister. The Scarsdale Diet, margarine, carob powder (shudder) the gluten-free experiment, “lite” anything (and its attendant reliance on carcinogenic chemical sweeteners that eked their way into generic terminology, like saccharin) are just minute examples of our expanding desire to eat the right thing gone wrong.
Through it all, from the first saw-dust decorated hardwood floors of the early hippie health food stores to today’s super-dupermarkets, a few items have survived the whims and comings and goings of well-intended health-consciousness and desultory foodie faddery.
Wheat germ, for example. Not very sexy, really. Would you like some more germ in your salad? Can I sprinkle some germs on your porridge? Wheat germ, like rapeseed, is one of those foodstuffs that suffers from an ungainly if not altogether off-putting name. Perhaps it could benefit from a more appealing name, like Wheat Heart, after all, we don’t call white flour ground “endosperm,” which is what it is…
Wheat germ is the part of the grain of wheat that reproduces and becomes another plant, like the embryo of an egg. It only accounts for 3% of the grain, and while it germinates and grows it feeds off the endosperm of the grain, the carbohydrate that we grind into flour that accounts for 83% of the grain, with the bran, the papery husk that wraps the grain taking up the other 14% of the grain. Refined white flour only uses the endosperm, and thus lacks the nutrients that the power-packed little germ possesses, or the protein, fibre and iron of bran. Whole wheat flour on the other hand, well it’s called “whole wheat” for a reason.
So what’s in the germ? There is gluten in wheat germ, so do not eat it if you are gluten intolerant. For the rest of us it’s a whole lot of good. With zero cholesterol, wheat germ contains several essential nutrients including thiamin, zinc, phosphorous, vitamins, magnesium,potassium essential fatty acids, protein and fibre in the following quantities per 100g
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,598 kJ (382 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||15.1 g|
|Thiamine (B1)||(145%)1.67 mg|
|Riboflavin (B2)||(68%)0.82 mg|
|Niacin (B3)||(37%)5.59 mg|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||(28%)1.387 mg|
|Vitamin B6||(75%)0.978 mg|
|Folate (B9)||(88%)352 μg|
|Vitamin C||(7%)6 mg|
|Vitamin E||(107%)15.99 mg|
Wheat germ, because of its high oil content can go rancid if kept in the cupboard, so it is best to keep it in the fridge. And use it! It will do you more good in your body than in the fridge.
This nutrient dense food is high in calories, but they are good, useful calories, and after all, calories are fuel, so wheat germ is a great food source for fueling activity and is often sough after by athletes to sustain them during training and performance. Non athletes still benefit from a daily allotment of 15 g (3 teaspoons), maybe the best sixty calories you will ingest today! Most wheat germ is lightly toasted and has a nutty flavor that lends itself well to baked goods like breads, muffins and pancakes, so you can “power-pack” these items with wheat germ for an extra boost. Try mixing in a couple teaspoons with your next smoothie. or use it as a thickener in soups and gravies, and the next time you make spaghetti sauce sneak some in. No one will know and it’s a great way to sneak it past picky eaters.
Help to dispel wheat germs hippy “health-food” connotations with this delicious recipe for pizza crust that features lots of this important ingredient.