Whole grains contain a starchy endosperm; a nutrient-rich germ; and an outer fiber layer called bran. A whole grain product will contain all three of these elements, while refined flours have the germ and bran removed. Wheat bran and oat bran are each available as segregated food products that can be used as cereal or incorporated into baked goods and entrees. Wheat bran and oat bran both have a variety of nutritional benefits.
Soluble fiber is a soft type of dietary fiber that absorbs water as it moves through the digestive tract. This softens stool, making it easier to pass and reducing the risk of constipation, hemorrhoids and anal fissures. Soluble fiber helps to lower LDL cholesterol and moderates blood glucose levels. Oat bran is high in soluble fiber, according to Leslie Beck, RD. Beta-lucan, a specific type of soluble fiber found in oat bran, may also boost immune function. Soluble fiber may lower blood pressure and help to reduce inflammation, helping to protect cardiovascular health.
Wheat bran is high in insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber bulks up stool and passes through the body in a mostly undigested state. This extra bulk helps move food through the digestive tract more swiftly. Eating insoluble fiber helps you to feel full while consuming fewer calories, and helps your bowel movements to stay regular. High-fiber foods are also usually low in calories relative to their volume. Unlike soluble fiber, insoluble fiber is not associated with lower cholesterol. Wheat bran is beneficial to digestive health, but lacks the cardiovascular, blood glucose and immune system boosts associated with the insoluble fiber found in oat bran.
Both oat bran and wheat bran can be eaten as hot or cold cereal or sprinkled on yogurt, salads or fruit. Either bran can substitute for breadcrumbs in breading fish or meat. They can add bulk and nutrition to a meat loaf or casserole, and can be used as topping for baked fruit crisps. Bran muffins are a nutritious way to start the day that also aid in ensuring bowel regularity. Wheat bran provides iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin A, while oat bran supplies protein, calcium, and vitamins B-1 and B-2. Both brans have similar texture and only slightly different flavor, but complementary nutritional profiles. Choosing them both, in separate dishes or mixed together, maximizes the nutritional benefits of eating bran.
Many commercial baked goods that are claimed to contain oat or wheat bran have too little bran to have a substantive positive impact on health, and may be high in fat and salt, according to the American Heart Association. Read labels carefully and opt for whole grains or 100 percent bran eaten as cereal or incorporated into home cooking. Rapidly increasing the amount of fiber in your diet may cause gas and bloating, so increase fiber slowly and drink plenty of water whenever you eat more fiber. Too much fiber may also interfere with the absorption of necessary minerals or with prescription medications, according to the Colorado State University Extension, so consult a physician before making a significant change in your fiber consumption.
- Colorado State University; Dietary Fiber; J. Anderson et al.; December 2010
- Connecticut State Department of Education; Nutrition Policies and Guidance for the Child and Adult Care Food Program; June 2010
- University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension: Bran Flakes
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute; Fiber; Jane Higdon PhD; December 2005
- American Heart Association: Cholesterol, Fiber and Oat Bran
- Leslie Beck, RD: Oat Bran, January 2009's Featured Food
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.