Wheat Germ and Wheat Bran
Combats colon cancer
Helps stop strokes
Protects against heart disease
The word “germ” probably makes you think of sickness and disease. But put the word “wheat” in front of it, and you have a whole new ball game.
Wheat germ, the heart of the wheat kernel, is packed with protein, fiber, polyunsaturated fat, vitamins, and minerals. It’s the most nutritionally dense part of the wheat kernel, which also includes the endosperm and bran, or outer husk.
Second only to rice as a food staple, wheat was cultivated thousands of years ago by the ancient Chinese, Egyptians, and Greeks. Today, the world grows more wheat than any other cereal crop.
Chances are you get plenty of wheat in your diet since most bread is made with it, but you probably don’t eat much wheat germ or bran, two of the healthiest parts of the kernel, which are often removed during milling. Wheat germ can lower cholesterol and help your heart, while the bran, which is loaded with fiber, can fight constipation and colon cancer.
Three Ways that Wheat Germ and Wheat Bran Keep You Healthy
Cholesterol has the power to clog or block your arteries, trigger heart attacks, and cause stroke. But wheat germ has the raw power to stop it.
A French study found that eating 30 grams, or about a quarter of a cup, of raw wheat germ a day for 14 weeks lowered total cholesterol by 7.2 percent. It also lowered LDL, or “bad” cholesterol by 15.4 percent and triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood, by 11.3 percent.
This is important because, according to another study, reducing cholesterol just 7 percent may lead to a 15 percent lower risk of heart disease.
Wheat germ’s success against LDL cholesterol could stem for the antioxidant powers of vitamin E. Studies show that vitamin E from foods (not from supplements) prevented LDL particles from becoming oxidized. Oxidized LDL presents a much greater danger to your health.
When a fat such as LDL undergoes oxidation, it is more prone to collect in blood vessels to form plaque. Over time, the plaque narrows the blood vessels or unleashes a clot, which can result in a heart attack or stroke. When LDL is not oxidized, it does not seem to cause problems.
Because vitamin E in supplements might not offer the same protection, your best bet is to get vitamin E through your diet.
Fights Heart Disease
The message that whole foods are better than supplements was sounded earlier by a New England Journal of Medicine study on the risk of heart disease in post-menopausal women.
In that study, women who got the most vitamin E from food sources were less than half as likely to develop heart disease as women who ate the least. However, the same relationship didn’t exist for supplemental vitamin E. Another recent study suggested that, even after four to six years, vitamin E, supplements had no effect on the risk of heart disease. Again, a better strategy is to get vitamin E through foods rather than pills.
When it comes to foods, whole-grain foods offer even more protection. A Harvard Medical School study of 75,521 nurses showed that eating about 2.5 servings of whole grains a day could lower your risk of heart disease by about 30 percent, an estimate the researchers said “may be conservative”.
The whole-grain foods they studied included wheat germ and bran. Research data showed that eating about one serving of each per day dramatically reduced the risk of heart disease. People who ate a little less than one serving of wheat germ per day were 59 percent less likely to develop heart disease than people who rarely ate wheat germ. For bran, one serving per day reduced the risk of developing heart disease by 37 percent.
Of course, whole-grain foods have several heart-healthy things going for them, including fiber, folate, vitamin E, and potassium. But the beauty of eating whole foods is you don’t have to figure out how each nutrient helps you – you get the combined benefits of them all.
Defends Against Cancer
When it comes to heavy hitters against colon cancer, wheat bran is Babe Ruth. Time and time again, wheat bran has knocked colon cancer out of the ball park.
A cup of wheat bran gives you a whopping 25 grams of fiber. This kind of fiber, insoluble fiber, adds bulk to your stool and dilutes the carcinogens in it. It also speeds your stool through the gastrointestinal tract so it’s not hanging around causing trouble. This makes wheat bran good for curing constipation and maintaining a healthy gut as well as protecting you against cancer.
But fiber might not be the only hero. Wheat bran also has a lot of phytic acid, a substance with antioxidant properties that may stop tumors. Those who doubt fiber’s anticancer power point to phytic acid as a possible explanation for wheat bran’s effectiveness against colon tumors.
Whether it’s the fiber or the phytic acid, wheat bran works. Studies have shown wheat bran can inhibit both colon and intestinal tumors better than other bran’s such as oat or barley.
You can find wheat germ in both toasted and natural forms. Use it soon after you buy it, though, because its oiliness makes it turn rancid quickly. You can also buy wheat germ oil, but it has a strong flavor and is fairly expensive.
Most wheat flours make use of the wheat endosperm, the main part of the wheat kernel, which contains starch, protein, and iron. Other forms of wheat you can buy include wheat berries (which are whole kernels), cracked wheat, and bulgur. These are usually found in health food stores.
A Word of Caution
Wheat contains gluten, a sticky protein that makes it ideal for baking bread. However, gluten also makes wheat dangerous for people with celiac disease or a gluten allergy.
If you have a gluten allergy, wheat products could give you cramps, diarrhea, and other problems. Celiac disease is even more serious, and eating wheat could severely damage the lining of your intestines. Usually, people with these conditions have to avoid all products containing wheat, rye, oats, or barley.
See also: Defining Whole Grains and Eight Conditions You Can Fight with Fiber from our sister site, Fitness and Freebies