Many are not familiar with wheat germ or its healthy benefits. Once I was asked if wheat germ was some type of virus catchable by eating infected wheat products. This is farthest from the truth! It is not a bacterium by any means. It is actually an excellent source of many essential nutrients for your body bundled together. According to a Mayo Clinic ranking, it is also considered to be one of the top 10 healthiest foods.

I was first introduced to wheat germ as a child. Mom used it as one of her ingredients in her morning power drinks that she created in the blender. She would also add wheat germ to pancake batter, sprinkled it in our cereal, hid it in baked cookies and breads, and put it in break crumb mixture to coat chicken for dinner. Anywhere she could include it, she would.

So what is it? Well, wheat germ is not a food per se. It is actually the nutrient-rich embryo of the wheat kernel, removed during the processing of whole wheat grains to white flour, making up only about 2-3% of the entire wheat kernel. It is a very concentrated source of nutrients, containing numerous vital vitamins and minerals and healthy fats. Packed with power, two tablespoons a day of wheat germ provide an excellent source of protein, fiber, unsaturated fat, vitamin E, vitamin B1 B2, B6 phosphorus, zinc, thiamine, magnesium and pantothenic acid. Wheat germ also contains gluten. So if you are allergic to gluten, avoid it.

Wheat germ has many other health benefits. It can lower cholesterol, fight cancer and heart disease, prevent constipation and strokes, and improve digestion. It also helps to improve the storage of energy in muscles, boosts endurance and the overall stamina of the body, enhances body reflexes and improves overall alertness. Wheat germ additionally contributes in strengthening the immune system, balancing metabolism, and increasing the ability to cope with stress. It fights diabetes, prevents weight gain, protects the muscles, blood, lungs, and eyes, and, as an added bonus, slows down the aging process. What else can you possible ask for?

What is also great about wheat germ is that you can add easily it to a lot of the foods and drinks you already eat, such as yogurt, salads, casserole dishes, baked goodies and more. You can cook with it, bake with it, mix with it and sprinkle it in a favorite recipe.  Below are some of my own favorite wheat germ recipes.

Wheat Germ Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes: In a medium bowl, mix 2 eggs with 1/4 cup canola oil and 2 cups buttermilk. Stir in 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 cup wheat germ, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour; mix until blended. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides, turning once. Yields 12 pancakes.

Wheat Germ Cinnamon Pumpkin Waffles: Preheat a waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions. Combine 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup wheat germ, 1/3 cup white sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon baking powder in a bowl. Set aside. Beat together 3/4 cup milk, 1 /2 cup pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1 egg, and 1 egg white. Stir flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture along with 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Ladle the batter onto the preheated waffle iron. Cook the waffles until golden and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Yields 8 waffles.

Wheat Germ Cookies: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). In a large bowl, cream together 1 cup butter (softened), 1 cup white sugar and 1 cup brown sugar until smooth. Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time then stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant oats), 1 cup wheat germ, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture. Finally, mix in 1 cup flaked coconut, 2 cups chopped pecan s and 1 cup chopped pitted dates. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for a couple minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. This allows them to flatten and firm up. Yields 5 dozen cookies.

Wheat Germ Double Chocolate Muffins:  Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease 12 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners. Combine 1 cup whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup ground flax seed, 1/2 cup wheat germ, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat 1 cup low-fat buttermilk, 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until smooth. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing just until combined. Spoon equal amounts of batter into muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 to 30 minutes. Yields 12 muffins.

Enjoy these recipes or add wheat germ to one of your own favorite. You can find wheat germ in any grocery story. It’s typically next to the cereals. I buy the Quaker® Kretschemer Honey Crunch Wheat Germ and store it in my fridge once I open it. If kept in a sealed jar and refrigerated, wheat germ can last nine months.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.