Among the extensive range of beneficial oils available in the stores, a member to join the limelight in the recent years is wheat germ oil. Wheat is no stranger in the Indian household. While the refined variant – maida – is shunned upon by many, whole wheat flour is lovingly used to make a range of Indian breads like stuffed parathas, fluffy rotis, baturas and the like. Experts have always said that the nutritional contents of wheat are mostly enclosed in the germ of the grain. The more the grains are refined, the more we lose the benefits.
Wheat germ refers to the embryo of the seed, which germinates into a plant. The germ is loaded with essential nutrients such as plant proteins, fiber, vitamins, minerals (phosphorus, zinc, iron, selenium and potassium) and fatty acids which have proven to be beneficial for hair, skin and overall health. Wheat germ oil is extracted from the germ and is said to be equally as beneficial.
“Wheat germ (WG) is widely recognised as a nutritious raw material for incorporation into food product formulations or as a food in its own right. Typical applications are in germ-enriched bread, snack foods, and supplements to breakfast cereals, and for production of wheat-germ oil. Wheat germ, containing about 8% – 14% oil (average 10%), is mainly used in food, medical and cosmetic industries as a source of oil,” as stated in a research paper done by Faculty of Agriculture of Fayoum University, Egypt.
Here are a few benefits of wheat germ oil –
1. A Rich Source of Antioxidants
Wheat germ oil is a great source of Vitamin E, which is said to be a powerful antioxidant. “It helps fight against free radical damage. Coming from the centre of the wheat kernel, wheat germ is known for at least 23 odd nutrients, including Vitamins A, B, D and E,” says Shonali Sabherwal, a Macrobiotic Nutritionist, Chef and Instructor based in Mumbai. These vitamins all contribute to various functions of the body, particularly skin health.
“Vitamin E travels throughout the body neutralising free radicals which would otherwise damage fat-containing structures like cell membranes and brain cells,” says Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja, Fortis Hospital. It also helps prevent oxidative stress.
2. A Great Face Cleanser
“Wheat germ oil is a natural oil which helps in cleansing the face efficiently. It helps seal moisture back and also gets rid of excess sebum, which could lead to other skin problems like acne, pimples, etc. It does not clog pores as it is non-comedogenic,”says Shilpa Arora, a Health Practitioner, Nutritionist and certified Macrobiotic Health Coach based in New Delhi.
A few drops of the oil can be used on your skin or added to your face packs or masks. You can also take a few drops and message gently onto your face and let it rest. Those with oily skin condition must get in touch with a skin care expert before applying the oil.
3. Lowers Cholesterol
“It is rich in Octacosanol, which is a long chain fatty acid with alcohol that promotes and aids physical performance, including strength and stamina. Research also shows Octacosanol’s ability to affect fat metabolism, decreases cholesterol production (helps to bring down LDL) and prevents hardening of arteries, which could account for the cardiovascular benefits,” says Dr. Anju Sood, a renowned Nutritionist based in Bangalore.
She further adds, “Wheat germ oil contains the goodness of omega-3 fatty acids, which help in regulating the nervous system systematically.”
4. Treats Skin Scars
Because of its high Vitamin E content, wheat germ oil helps in building collagen, the most abundantly found protein in the body that provides the skin its strength and structure. “The oil repairs, heals and prevents scarring. In fact regular application on scars can completely banish them. Make sure the oil is 100% organic and cold pressed else it will lose most of its nutrients,” says Shilpa.
“Vitamin A, D and fatty acids present in wheat germ oil help with cracked, scarred skin, giving it an even tone. It also provides natural hydration to the skin,” adds Shonali.
5. Acts as a Hair Nourisher
Wheat germ oil is a useful ingredient for maintaining healthy hair. “It is rich in linoleic acid and acts as a hair nourisher. Use it in the ratio 10:1 with other carrier oils such as olive and sesame (10 parts carrier oil and 1 part wheat germ oil) and apply on the scalp. Leave it on for some time before rinsing the hair,” says Dr Ashutosh Gautam, Clinical Operations and Coordination Manager at Baidyanath.
6. Has Anti-Ageing Properties
Being a great source of vitamins – B6, Folic acid and E, wheat germ oil is said to act as an anti-ageing agent for the skin. “Vitamin E is a strong anti-oxidant and it promotes healthy skin as it prevents many skin problems like psoriasis, eczema and dry skin. Vitamin B, on the other hand, helps in repairing tissue damage and promotes tissue growth,” adds Dr. Sood.
Note: If using wheat germ oil for consumption, it is advisable to do so in little quantities. You can use it to drizzle on to salads or in pastas, but it shouldn’t be used for deep-frying.