And how do you eat it?
EC: What Is Wheat Germ?
Credit: Photo by Roger Dixon via Getty Images

You can do worse for your health than eat grains for breakfast, but if you're getting a little bored of the same old oatmeal recipe, it might be time to start looking at some other options—like wheat germ. Now what is wheat germ? Well, wheat germ, as the name suggests, comes from wheat. More specifically, wheat germ is one part of the wheat berry, or the whole wheat kernel. You're probably most familiar with the wheat berry in its ground-up, or milled, form: wheat flour. But the wheat berry doesn't come off the plant all pulverized. It's actually a little round berry, made of three different parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ.

You wouldn't see the wheat germ unless you cut into the whole wheat berry. It's technically the wheat berry's embryo, the part that germinates and sprouts and grows into a plant, according to Merriam-Webster. But calling the wheat germ the plant's reproductive organ makes it sound weirder or grosser than it is.

Practically, wheat germ is removed from the rest of the wheat berry during the milling process. It's the one of the main byproducts of the wheat milling industry, even though the wheat germ only constitutes about 1.5 percent of the whole seed. A lot of wheat germ is sent to animal feed or oil production, according to experts from a British oil extraction company New Holland Extraction—but you can also find wheat germ in your local health food store or well-stocked grocery store. It'll look kind of flaky, almost like half-size oats, but with more of a yellow hue.

Even wheat germ doesn't sound super appetizing so far, you'll probably be convinced by the health benefits of wheat germ. According to the Mayo Clinic, wheat germ is, "an excellent source of thiamin and a good source of folate, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc." Our friends at Cooking Light add, "Wheat germ also provides dietary fiber and healthy fats to help balance blood sugar levels, control cholesterol levels, and promote intestinal health." And this nutritional boost comes without that many calories. According to the United States Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database, a quarter cup of crude wheat germ has only about 103 calories.

So how do you eat wheat germ? Well, you've got a few options here. The folks at Bob's Red Mill, which manufactures and sells wheat germ, recommend using it as a topping for pies, yogurt, even ice cream. You can add it to a regular bowl of oatmeal or a fruit and veggie smoothie. You can also use wheat germ when baking. According to Bob's Red Mill, you can replace up to one half cup of standard, all-purpose flour with wheat germ, which cuts down on calories slightly and bumps up the nutrition. There are recipes for wheat germ muffins, wheat germ banana breads, even wheat germ cookies.

However, unlike wheat flour or even wheat bran, you have to be very careful about how to store wheat germ. Wheat germ has a relatively high oil content, which is part of the reason it's so nutritionally packed, but that also means it can go rancid quickly. The best way to store wheat germ, then, is in the refrigerator, in an air-tight container. But since you can add it to basically any breakfast recipe, I'm sure it'll go pretty quickly.

By Maxine Builder and Maxine Builder