Wheat germ is the embryo of the wheat kernel which constitutes 2.5% of its weight.

Wheat Germ

What is Wheat Germ?

Wheat germ is the embryo of the wheat kernel which constitutes 2.5% of its weight. In baked goods, this provides valuable nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and minerals.  Toasted wheat germs can also impart a pleasant crunch and nutty taste.1

Commercially, this is available as:

  • Wheat germ flakes
  • Sprouted wheat germ
  • Non-sprouted wheat germ
  • Defatted wheat germ


Wheat (Triticum aestivum) is one of the oldest crops which dates back to the Stone Age. Its domestication started in the Tigris and Euphrates River Valley. 2 Today, China, India and the US are among the main producers of wheat in the world.2

Using this in baked goods is fairly recent and is associated with its added nutritional value. 2


It is commonly added to baked goods for:1

  • Flavor: provides a nutty flavor when toasted
  • Texture: imparts a characteristic crunchy texture
  • Binding: aids in water binding when partially substituted for flour
  • Added nutritional value


Wheat germ nutritional value per 100g serving is:3

Component Grams
Carbohydrate 53.33
Protein 26.67
Water 13.33
Lipid 6.67

This provides 400 kcal and 13.3 g fiber per 100 g serving. Consumption is associated with several health benefits such as: reduced risk of heart disease, weight control, cancer prevention, and lowering cholesterol.1,3

Commercial production

Wheat germ flakes are produced commercially using the following process: 1,2

  • Cleaning: removal of foreign materials using a combination of blowing air and sieves.
  • Tempering: moisture is adjusted to aid in the removal of the bran and germ from the endosperm.
  • Crushing: corrugated rollers are used to break or crush the kernel to loosen the endosperm from the bran and germ.
  • Separation: bran, germ and endosperm are separated using different size sieves.

       For wheat germ flakes

  • Dryng: crushed germ is dried in a roller drier to form the flakes.
  • Enzyme deactivation
  • Packaging: flakes are packed in bags and later stored.


Similar to flaxseed, ground sunflower seed and oat bran, wheat germ can be added to several baked goods such as: breads, muffins, cookies and biscuits. At low substitution levels, it imparts desirable sensorial properties.1

Enriched baking flours can incorporate a maximum of 5% based on flour weight.5

Common usage levels and impact on baked goods:4

Baked Good Usage Level Effect
Bread At 50% wheat flour replacement
  • Decreased volume
  • Increased crumb hardness
  • Enhanced nutritional value
Cookies At <15% substitution
  • Decreased cookie hardness
  • Acceptable Sensorial properties.


Wheat germ is considered GRAS by the FDA, and it can be commonly used up to a 5% level to enriched wheat flour.5

In the EU, wheat germ is considered safe and its usage is regulated by the Organisation of Grain Markets established by the EU Commission 1308/2013.6


  1. Figoni, P. How Baking Works: Exploring The Fundamentals Of Baking Science. 3 rd ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011, p.p 81 & 141.
  2. Mir, S. A., Manickavasagan, A and Shah,M.A .Whole Grains: Processing, Product Development, and Nutritional Aspects. 1 st ed., CRC press, 2019, p.p 238 – 250.
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 08 March 2020. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1417024/nutrients . Accessed 04 March 2021.
  4. Paucean, A., S. M. Man, and S. A. Socaci. “Wheat germ bread quality and dough rheology as influenced by added enzymes and ascorbic acid.” Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai, Chemia 2016, 61 (2): 103-118.
  5. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). US Department of Health and Human Services. CFR Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Part 126 Bakery Products, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=136.115  , Accessed 04 March 2021.
  6. European Commission (Ec). Commission Regulation (Eu) No 1308/2013 Of The European Parliament And Of The Council Of 17 December 2013 Establishing A Common Organisation Of The Markets In Agricultural Products And Repealing Council Regulations (Eec) No 922/72, (Eec) No 234/79, (Ec) No 1037/2001 And (Ec) No 1234/2007. Official Journal Of European Communities, 17 December 2013.