From scientists to food bloggers to ordinary women, everyone is suddenly buzzing about… wheat germ. Why? The health benefits of the nutrient-rich inner core of the wheat kernel are impressive. Packed with significant amounts of fiber, wheat germ also offers plenty of healthy fats, protein, and vitamins, including vitamin E, folate, thiamin, and niacin. Eating as little as a teaspoon of wheat germ a day has been linked to healthy digestion, regularity, and a sweet little boost in energy. And new research suggests that the particular blend of compounds in this little powerhouse make wheat germ for over-50 weight loss a no-brainer!
What is wheat germ?
The easiest way to think of wheat germ is to compare the whole wheat kernel to an egg. The bran is like the outer shell. The endosperm (starchy middle layer) is like the egg white. And the wheat germ is like the yolk. In making white flour, both the bran and the germ are stripped away, leaving only the endosperm, which has little fiber and vitamins. “Wheat germ is a nutrient bomb that’s stripped from wheat to make white flour,” explains George Washington University nutrition expert Neal Barnard, MD. “There are only upsides to getting more.” And some of those wheat germ benefits in include surprise weight loss.
What nutrients are in wheat germ?
The nutrients in wheat germ that support new plant growth in the whole grain also have tremendous benefits for the people who eat it. A single spoonful of wheat germ delivers significant quantities of fiber, good fat, folate, vitamin E and contains more than double the protein in chickpeas. The protein, fiber, good fat, and antioxidants in wheat germ all team up to improve blood sugar. The effect is so significant that when researchers gave mice wheat germ daily, the animals’ levels of insulin fell by half, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. That’s a nice weight loss result for just a small add-in!
Why is wheat germ especially good for women over 45?
The protein content alone is a huge boon for those of us in mid-life and older because the latest findings show the more plant protein we get as we age, the hotter our metabolism burns. Case in point: A University of Rome study demonstrated that postmenopausal women who get lots of plant protein may actually begin losing weight faster than premenopausal women. Plant protein is the great equalizer! What about wheat germ specifically? When researchers asked a group of perimenopausal women to nosh on wheat germ as part of a daily breakfast treat, those women lost midsection fat almost five times faster than women of the same age who didn’t incorporate the wheat germ treat into their diet. They also felt happier and had fewer urinary problems.
How are scientists taking wheat germ to the next level?
Experts like University of Southern California anti-aging researcher Valter Longo, PhD, have begun spreading the word that wheat germ is the richest source of a cutting-edge compound with a weird name. Called spermidine, this compound is made up of amino acids that spur cell growth and renewal. There’s early evidence that regularly consuming spermidine triggers a special process that “replaces old or damaged parts of your cells with new versions,” according to nutrition guru and Super Human author Dave Asprey. This turns back the clock on every aspect of health. Notably, the little energy furnaces inside cells called mitochondria appear to be renewed and fat burning spikes. In one animal study published in the journal Gut Microbes, the fat cells of mice fed spermidine shrank by more than half in just 16 weeks. That’s connection between a compound in wheat germ and weight loss that made us stop in our tracks. The hitch? Spermidine is a bit pricey, so unless you’re really committed to delving into the world of super-longevity, it’s easier and less expensive to stick with good old wheat germ.
How much wheat germ do you need a day?
How much wheat germ do you need to experience measurable weight loss? Very little! “Aim for at least one tablespoon daily,” suggests the Dr. Barnard, who says there’s no upper limit, though you should stop eating when pleasantly full. As far as calories go, you’d need to eat four tablespoons to hit just 100 calories so there’s little cause for worry.
What’s the best way to eat wheat germ?
While the typical ways to incorporate wheat germ into your diet are sprinkling a little on your morning oatmeal or blending it into a smoothie, some of the women we spoke to got creative.
Take Carolyn Strickland. Worried about her family history of diabetes, the 59-year-old Food for Life cooking instructor wanted to find wholesome swaps for all the processed food she ate. She was thrilled to discover wheat germ. “It’s an easy way to increase the nutrition in things like pancakes, muffins and casseroles,” shares Carolyn, who notes you can replace up to half a cup of flour in most recipes with wheat germ. “It adds a nutty taste.” Bonus: The stuff turns ordinary healthy fare into super-superfoods. “It’s great on salads and in homemade granola!”
Carolyn told us that the more nutrients and fiber she consumed, the less hunger and fewer cravings she felt — making wheat germ an excellent partner to a diet built around whole plant foods. “I always eat until I feel full, and I’m down four sizes,” she enthuses, “I weigh less than I did at 16!” Her frequent migraines and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are gone. “It helped my 84-year-old mother, too. She lost 25 pounds and is no longer pre-diabetic.” A plant-based diet and a little wheat germ can trigger big weight loss results!
For more meal ideas from Carolyn and her doctor husband, check out Stricklands & Friends: A Seasonal WFPB Cookbook YouTube channel.
Is there any proof of wheat germ’s menopause magic?
After a lifetime of diets, Robin D. Everson was taking up to 20 pills a day to control type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high cholesterol. Then, inspired by a documentary, “I started drinking green juice in the morning,” recalls the Texas food writer, 57. “Instead of being sluggish when I woke up, I jumped out of bed with energy to conquer my day.”
Robin was soon on a mission to learn about the power of plants. One great discovery? Wheat germ for weight loss! “I like to add a little to my blender when making smoothies or sprinkle it on steel-cut oatmeal. It has a nice nutty flavor,” she says. “And as I found ways to make my meals more nutrient-dense, I wasn’t hungry all the time. Now, I usually don’t even snack.”
Robin continued sampling restaurant dishes for work, but built meals at home around nutrient-dense plant foods. Results were immediate. “My blood glucose levels dropped 100 points in the first week and I lost 15 pounds in three weeks,” she shares. She’s since lost over 50 pounds and 30 inches, mostly from her waist, and gotten off all her meds. “Plants can do amazing things for our bodies. Add some wheat germ and see how it goes. When you find little ways to make your health a priority, your body responds. I’m proof you can do it!”
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.