The Health Benefits of Oat Bran

Reduces Disease Risk and Improves Gut Health

Oat bran

 

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Oat bran is a piece of an oat grain. An oat grain is processed to remove the inedible exterior body of the grain. This leaves behind the oat groat, and oat bran is the outer layer of this oat groat kernel, which is right underneath the inedible grain portion.

Due to the way the oat grain structure is, many oat groats and oats (like steel-cut or rolled oats) may contain some oat bran. However, it is also sold and can be consumed by itself as whole oat bran.

Health Benefits

Gut Health

One of the biggest health benefits of incorporating oat bran into your diet is that it’s high in soluble fiber, which clings to water when digested and turns into a gel-like substance that can help regulate digestive health. Eating oat bran regularly has been linked to reducing constipation and providing relief from symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) and Crohn’s disease.

The fiber in oat bran increases fermentation activity in the gut and the production of butyric acid, which is responsible for enhancing probiotic bacteria and aiding in the removal of nitrogen in feces, which is also linked to flare-ups with both of these diseases. Other short-chain fatty acids formed from the fiber in oat bran have been linked to reducing the risk of colon cancer.

Heart Benefits

Oat bran contains beta-glucan (also known as β-glucan), a soluble fiber that has been linked to lowering cholesterol. This was initially discovered in a 1963 study that swapped white bread out for oat bread containing 140 grams of rolled oats.

This study, as well as subsequent research following, found that the consumption of oat bran regularly can help lower LDL cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol, and Apolipoprotein B-100 (otherwise known as apoB)—a protein involved in the metabolism of lipid fatty acids and a contributor to increased LDL cholesterol levels.

Disease Prevention

There are a few ways oat bran can help reduce the risk of diseases. To start, its nutritional profile is high in antioxidants. Oat bran contains polyphenols—plant-based molecules that work as antioxidants to help reduce free radical cell damage. The soluble fiber found in beta-glucan slows digestion as well as the absorption of carbs by creating a thick, sticky solution when mixed with other contents in the gastrointestinal tract and that solution then lines the intestines and helps delay glucose absorption.

This delayed digestion helps keep blood sugar levels stable, which can reduce the risk of diabetes and help those who are diagnosed with diabetes maintain stable blood sugar levels more consistently.

Weight Management

The fiber in oat bran and products that contain oat bran can help you feel fuller for longer, which overall reduces the amount of calories one consumes in a given day.

The soluble fiber in oat bran also helps to regulate ghrelin levels, the hormone responsible for stimulating appetite, increasing food intake, and storing fat. By suppressing this hormone with a diet high in fiber, including oat bran, there is a reduced risk for overeating and the weight gain that comes with it.

Possible Side Effects

While soluble fiber like oat bran is an essential part of a healthy diet, there is such a thing as consuming too much of it. If you haven’t eaten much soluble fiber and quickly add a large amount to your diet, that could cause digestive stress as well.

Signs of Too Much Soluble Fiber

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Constipation
  • Flatulence

In order to prevent the side effects related to a high-fiber diet, make sure to slowly introduce foods like oat bran into your daily diet over a few weeks and be sure to drink plenty of water to combat constipation associated with starting a high-fiber diet. 

Dosage and Preparation

The Dietary Reference Intakes created by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board states that the recommended intake for total fiber for adults 50 years old and younger is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. Men and women over 50 years old should consume 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women.

Most Americans only consume about half of the recommended amount, and eating oat bran is a great way to increase that amount of soluble fiber in your diet.

There are a few ways to prepare oat bran. Hot oat bran can be made for a morning cereal by heating two cups of liquid (such as milk, water, or non-dairy milk like almond or soy) with one cup of whole oat bran. You can also eat oat bran raw sprinkled over yogurt, added to smoothies, or even on top of baked goods like breads and cookies before baking them in the oven.

There are many products that already have oat bran in them such as breads and cereals that can be easily incorporated into your diet for any meal.

What to Look For

With any packaged good, it’s important to look at the label before buying, even if the product has oat bran in it.

You want to make sure there aren’t excess amounts of sugar or sodium, which may negate any effects oat bran may have.

In the case of oat bran breads, some have nuts and seeds mixed in as well, so if you have a food allergy it’s important to look at all of the ingredients before you buy. Oat bran cereals and crackers are also good options for quick and easy foods to have in your pantry, just make sure there’s not a lot of added sugars to reap the full benefits of eating oat bran.

Other Questions

What’s the difference between oat bran and oatmeal?

Both rolled oats (found in oatmeal) and oat bran come from the oat grain, but oatmeal is more processed than oat brain, which ends up stripping some of its nutrition. Oat bran has more fiber than oatmeal (both soluble and insoluble) because it’s a specific piece of the oat, while oatmeal is the whole grain.

The bran from the remaining groat is what gives oat bran such a strong nutritional profile and the added health benefits to go with it.

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Article Sources

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