Dig In: Wheat Germ (Quickest, Super Nutritious Banana Pecan Oatmeal)

March 23, 2009

Photo: The Bitten Word

Wheat germ reminds me of the 70’s. I have vague memories of walking around natural food stores with my feathered-haired mom as she stocked up on natural peanut butter, shockingly dense bread, and wheat germ. I don’t remember eating wheat germ, though I must have. In fact, I didn’t think of it again until Isaac started eating solids.

Super Baby Food was one of the first resources I turned to while gearing up to feed my hungry 6-month-old. The author, Ruth Yaron, turned me on to wheat germ, which I began adding to our diets when Isaac was around 8-months-old. I haven’t stopped since because, as it turns out, wheat germ packs quite the nutritional punch. So what’s the scoop on wheat germ?

What’s the scoop on wheat germ?

Wheat germ is a part of the wheat kernel that is removed when wheat is processed into refined grain products like white flour. It is the reproductive part that germinates (hence the name) to form wheat grass. Though the germ is only a very small part of the kernel, it is the most nutritious part.

Why is it good for you?

Wheat germ contains an astounding 23 nutrients–that’s more per ounce than any other vegetable or grain! It is also very high in protein, fiber, an excellent source of folic acid, and contains a phytonutrient called L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant not destroyed by cooking.

Wheat germ also contains:

  • Potassium (more than any other single ingredient food source)
  • Iron (more than any other single ingredient food source)
  • Riboflavin
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamins A, B1, and B3 (which help maintain energy, healthy muscles, organs, hair, and skin)
  • Vitamin E (an important antioxidant that boosts immune and helps prevent aging and heart disease, too)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (they are fond naturally in wheat germ oil)

Storing wheat germ

Because of it’s unsaturated fat content, wheat germ can go rancid (just like flax seed). Unopened it can last up to a year on shelves. Opened containers should be stored in the fridge, sealed tight, for up to 9 months. You can also freeze wheat germ and (kind of like pine nuts) pull out portions as you need them. If you’re unsure if your wheat germ is good, use your proboscis: it should smell nutty. It you detect a musty odor, it’s no good.

Using wheat germ

Wheat germ is super versatile. With a mild, nutty flavor, it’s easy to add to everything from baked goods to yogurt to meatballs to breading (the last two in lieu of or in addition to breadcrumbs). When adding wheat germ to baked goods or quick breads, simply use it to replace one-half to one cup of the flour. Because wheat germ tends to absorb moisture, you may want to add one to two tablespoons of water for every quarter cup of wheat germ you add to a recipe.

We add wheat germ to our oatmeal every morning. It’s a way for me to make sure that we all get a dose of this good stuff everyday, without having to think about it. In fact, this is so low maintenance that it isn’t so much a recipe (no measurements!) as a delicious combo to kick start your day.

Banana Pecan Oatmeal
(can be adapted for kids 6+ mos)*

wheat germ
flax seed, ground
pecans, finely chopped*
plain whole milk yogurt
banana, sliced
ground cinnamon
agave syrup or honey*

1. Cook oatmeal according to package directions.

2. Mix in everything else! I use small palmfuls of wheat germ, flax seed and chopped pecans, about 2-3 heaping spoonfuls of yogurt, a 1/2 banana, dash of cinnamon and small drizzle of agave or honey per serving.

*Note: There is a lot of disagreement about when it’s safest to introduce tree nuts. Some pediatricians—and I—believe that it is best to introduce nuts to children without a family or personal history of food allergies early on (even before 12 months). Speak to your pediatrician about what’s best for your child and, if you’re not yet feeding tree nuts, simply skip them in this recipe. Also, be sure to avoid honey (use the agave instead) if serving this to children under 12 months.

Related post:
Tips for Picky Eaters

11 Responses

  1. Chrissy says:

    I got turned on to wheat germ when I was pregnant. Now Eamon asks for “sprinkles” on his yogurt, berries, etc… My husband says that I have our boy brainwashed and maybe I do!:)

    Oatmeal is one of Eamon’s favorite breakfasts. I use the steel cut oatmeal, which takes alot longer to cook, so I just make a big batch in the beginning of the week and reheat in the microwave as necessary. I cook it with whatever dried fruit I have on hand and when I reheat it add whatever I feel inspired to add (or whatever I have in the fridge).

  2. stacie says:

    you’re so good cooking oatmeal the real way! i only do that on the weekends. sigh!

    i know what you mean about feeling like you’ve brainwashed your kid. Isaac asks for wheat germ and flax seed by name. lol!

  3. michelle says:

    i do cold oatmeal during the week. and have turned a bunch of friends on to this method, too. check it out.

    put your whole regular slow cook oatmeal in a bowl, cover with milk, and stick it in the fridge overnight. i even add the raisins the night before. when you wake up in the morning, the oats have soaked up all the liquid and it is ready to eat (or garnish and eat, as the case may be).

    its a great way to avoid the more processed quick oats and still enjoy the convenience. it’s also a cool way to enjoy oatmeal in the summer.

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  10. Thank you for taking the time to write this

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