Key Ingredient
Eleanor Nakama-Mitsunaga

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Wheat germ

Little flakes pack big nutrition


It is sometimes called a "super food," rich in vitamins and minerals. It has a comparable amount of fiber to wheat bran, but is easier to digest and consume.

Wheat germ is a tiny food product that packs a huge nutritional punch.

The basics: Wheat germ is the embryo of the wheat berry, essentially the reproductive area where the seed germinates to form wheat grass. A byproduct of milling white flour, it is one of the most nutritious parts of the wheat kernel. More than 50 pounds of wheat are needed to produce a pound of wheat germ.

Wheat germ has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor with a very light, powdery texture. It is used primarily on or incorporated in foods for its rich, concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and proteins.

The germ is a good source of vitamin E and B vitamins and is believed to improve colon function, lower cholesterol and boost the immune system.

Selecting: Wheat germ is sold in bottles, vacuum-packed packages or by bulk. It generally comes toasted or raw (toasted wheat germ has a slightly nuttier flavor). Wheat germ oil is also available in some health food stores.

Storing: Because wheat germ has a high concentration of oils it will quickly turn rancid. After opening, it may be refrigerated for a few weeks, or freeze for longer storage.

Use: Wheat germ can be sprinkled on almost anything, from cereals to yogurt. It can also be mixed in with doughs and batters or incorporated in soup, stew and casserole recipes.

A teaspoon or two can be added to hamburger meat, sandwiches or any floured recipe, such as fried chicken, fish or pork chops. Give baked goods a boost of nutrition from wheat germ, or how about a sprinkle on ice cream?

Where to buy: Wheat germ is available at most supermarkets in the cereal section or near health food products. Health food stores and specialty food stores also carry various brands made with organic wheat.

Prices range from $2 to $3 for 10 to 12 ounces.

Eleanor Nakama-Mitsunaga is
a free-lance food writer. Contact her
online through features@starbulletin.com

E-mail to Features Desk


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