One of the most popular health-food superstars of the 1950s is staging an amazing comeback among medical experts and weight-loss gurus alike. What’s so great about this oldie-but-goodie? For one thing, it’s as effective as it is simple. As Mehmet Oz, MD, host of The Dr. Oz Show, told his audience, “My Oz-approved superfood for super weight loss is so small, it’s hard to imagine it revs up weight loss in such a big way.” What’s got Dr. Oz so excited? Wheat germ! “Here’s what I love about wheat germ,” he says. “It’s easy to add to your diet and doesn’t cost very much.”
Dr. Oz’s favorite nutrient-dense kernel is key to both warding off and melting off fat, thanks to its appetite-easing fiber, fat-burning omega-3 fatty acids and bevy of vitamins that boost mood and metabolism. Plus, wheat germ is packed with zinc, which is crucial for skin-cell generation, and vitamin E, which protects nerve and brain cells. Nutrition guru Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, explains the hype: “Wheat germ oil is oxygenating for cells, and there aren’t many substances that produce natural oxygen, which knocks out free radicals to promote fat breakdown.”
Emerging science points to another reason people are rediscovering wheat germ: It’s the richest source of a special blend of amino acids that speed fat burn. When consumed routinely, these compounds have been found to activate autophagy, the body’s cellular detoxification process in which old or damaged cells are replaced by new ones. This microscopic makeover helps restore metabolic processes, strengthen weight-regulating organs and rebalance hormones, leading to released fat. The only other way to trigger autophagy is through extended fasting — so by using wheat germ, you get the benefits of fasting without the hard work!
Why does it reverse signs of aging?
Staying sharp for years to come may be as easy as reaching for a roll, according to new research from Austria. In the study, dementia patients who ate rolls made with spermidine — an active ingredient in wheat germ — improved their memory by 56 percent in three months. In a similar study, participants getting spermidine from food and following a Mediterranean diet increased the size of their brain’s memory region in just six weeks. Study author Claudia Schwarz, PhD, says, “Our data suggest that higher spermidine intake might preserve brain health in older adults.”
In one study, animals on a high-fat diet given wheat germ decreased belly fat by 16 percent. And in a Harvard study, people who ate two to three servings of wheat germ–rich whole grains a day were 30 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who rarely reached for grains. What’s more: Wheat germ lowers fat-storing insulin levels by 50 percent and reduces cholesterol absorption (via the same mechanism by which some prescription medications lower cholesterol) by percent.
Despite wheat germ’s multitasking superpowers, many women are missing out on its slimming benefits. One reason: To lengthen the shelf life of flour, modern food processing routinely strips away the nutrient-dense wheat germ from the wheat plant, meaning refined breads and pastas no longer contain this powerhouse ingredient. Another reason: The recent popularity of grain-free diets among folks both gluten-sensitive and not. For women who can tolerate gluten, Joel Kahn, MD, author of The Plant- Based Solution and founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity, says, “Wheat germ is one of those foods that should be on our daily list.”
Dr. Oz’s new plan optimizes wheat germ’s fat-burning ability by adding two other proven strategies: Enjoying a Mediterranean diet and delaying breakfast a few hours. No strict fasting is required: Just eat a brunch-style first meal of the day. What’s more: Experts at London’s Queen Mary University found that Dr. Oz–style fasting leads to significant weight loss even if used only five days a week! And one woman FIRST talked to lost 14 pounds in a week simply by eating delicious foods and narrowing her daily eating window.
On this plan, you’ll feast on greens, beans, fruit, dairy, meat, and fish, eating the bulk of your calories in the middle of the day, and you’ll incorporate wheat germ through food or supplements. Emily Hall, 44, lost 94 pounds in 11 months with the help of fiber-rich wheat germ, which she sprinkled on her cereal every morning. She says, “I have so much energy. I feel 20 years old!” And Judy Halone, 61, lost 64 pounds after adding non-GMO, nutrient-dense whole-grain breads to her diet.
Wheat germ does more than dial down the scale, it turns back the clock, leading to improved memory, increased energy, thicker hair, more youthful skin, and stronger immunity. Judy shares, “My doctor said my blood work is ‘beautiful’ now — 60 is the new 30!”
What do wheat germ-rich foods look like?
The wheat germ in these Dr. Oz– inspired soups speeds weight loss and boosts well-being.
LENTIL CHILI: Digestion-slowing fiber in lentils is proven to cut starch absorption in the gut by up to 66 percent. Plus, each cup of lentils delivers 71 milligrams of magnesium, a mineral that relieves stress and promotes deep sleep. To make: Mince and combine 1 onion, 3 garlic cloves, 1 zucchini, and 3 carrots in a soup pot. Stir in 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 2 cups of lentils, 1 can of roasted tomatoes, and 1 quart of veggie broth. Cook 30 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of wheat germ oil on top.
MUSHROOM SOUP: Folks who consumed a mushroom-based soup in one study ate 29 percent less at their next meal. Mushrooms also boost immunity, thanks to their B vitamins and anti-inflammatory properties. To make: Bring 1⁄2 cup of chicken stock, 1⁄2 cup of whole milk, 6 ounces of diced cremini mushrooms, 1 ⁄4 cup of diced onion, and 2 minced garlic cloves to a boil. Serve with a drizzle of wheat germ oil on top.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First for Women.