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What Is Defatted Wheat Germ?

By Linda Tarr Kent

Defatted wheat germ is created by extracting the oil from wheat germ. Solvents such as hexane or petroleum ether are used. Wheat germ is found at the base of the wheat kernel and is considered the embryo that will produce a new plant. Defatted wheat germ often is used to enrich products such as spaghetti noodles and macaroni, the top two selling pastas in the United States.

High in Protein

Defatted wheat germ has a high protein content--30 percent or more--according to the “Foods and Nutrition Encyclopedia,” by Audrey Ensminger. Defatted wheat germ also contains several amino acids. They include lysine, serine, proline, alanine, leucine and tyrosine.

Flavor and Texture Enhancer

Defatted wheat germ is primarily used to enhance flavor in grain-based products. It is often found in low-fat snacks, bakery mixes, crackers and cereals. Defatted wheat germ manufacturers also promote it as a way to improve texture, stability and nutritional value in processed foods.

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Longer Shelf Life

Whole wheat germ is more perishable than defatted wheat germ because the oils, or fats, in the germ spoil quickly. Extracting the oil improves shelf life.

Some Vitamins Lost

When the wheat germ’s fatty portion is removed, some vitamins and nutrients are taken out as well. Wheat germ oil is high in vitamin E and essential fatty acids. Natural wheat germ has about 10 percent fat.

Partly Defatted Wheat Germ

Food labels that say “enriched” may contain partly defatted wheat germ, which helps to supply prescribed amounts of riboflavin, iron and thiamine. Macaroni, for example, may be “enriched” in this manner.

Animal Feed

Defatted wheat germ was used solely in animal feed before food manufacturers began to use it to supplement the nutritional value of cereals. Using 15 percent defatted wheat germ in rice, barley, oat and wheat cereals boosts their nutritional value by 31 to 69 percent, according to “Advances in Food Research” by G.F. Stewart.

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