Wheat germ and flaxseed oil appear to have similar tastes, applications, nutritional values and even appearances. However, they are distinct; deriving from separate plants and containing different constituents, they are not interchangeable. In fact, there are more differences between the two health foods than there are similarities. Nonetheless, they can be used in the same way in foods, rendering them easily confused.
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Wheat germ is a kernel at the center of a wheat seed from which a new wheat sprout develops. The most densely nutritious portion of wheat, it has a mildly nutty taste that is easily overwhelmed by other flavors, making it a versatile ingredient. The most common appearance of wheat germ is in small golden kernels, although its also available as a powder, extract and oil. Wheat germ requires refrigeration to prevent rancidity.
Flaxseed, or linseed, is a seed of the flax plant. It appears as whole seeds yellowish to reddish-brown in color or as a powder. Flaxseed is also available in fermented form, which is reputably more nutritious than its unfermented version. Flaxseed also yields an oil that is comparable to soybean, pumpkin seed, canola and walnut oil. Similar to wheat germ, flaxseed requires refrigeration.
Wheat Germ Nutrition
Wheat germ is one of three constituents of a wheat seed, the other two being the outer hull and the endosperm. Although the outer hull provides fiber and the endosperm is almost entirely composed of starch, the wheat germ is where wheat harbors all of its nutrition. Accordingly, the wheat germ also contains rather small amounts of starch and fiber. Vitamins and minerals that appear in wheat germ include potassium, zinc, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin S, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.
Flaxseed is not dense with nutrients like wheat germ. However, it does contain high amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which have several health benefits, including raising high-density lipoprotein and lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Flaxseed also contains both soluble and soluble fiber as well as mucilage, a gummy material that enhances fiber's digestive effects. As a result, flaxseed is often used as a laxative. Other properties of flaxseed include protein and lignans. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there is evidence that lignans can help prevent or treat high cholesterol, heart disease, colon cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer and menopausal symptoms.