The Health Benefits of Oat Bran

Reduces Disease Risk and Improves Gut Health

cereal grain

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

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 their structure, many oat groats and oats (like steel-cut or rolled oats) may contain some oat bran. However, whole oat bran it is also sold and is simple to add to your diet.

Health Benefits

Oat bran offers several health benefits due to its fiber and antioxidant content.

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 in 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, found that the regular consumption of oat bran 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

Oat bran can help reduce the risk of diseases in a few ways.

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.

In addition, the soluble fiber in beta-glucan slows digestion and the absorption of carbs by creating a thick, sticky solution when mixed with other contents in the gastrointestinal tract. 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 with diabetes consistently maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Weight Management

The fiber in oat bran and products that contain oat bran can help you feel fuller for longer, which can reduce the number of calories you consume in a given day.

The soluble fiber in oat bran also helps to regulate levels of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for stimulating appetite, increasing food intake, and storing fat. Suppressing this hormone with a high-fiber diet reduces your risk of overeating and the prevents the weight gain that comes with it.

Possible Side Effects

While soluble fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet, you can eat too much of it. If you quickly add a large amount to your diet, it could cause digestive stress, with symptoms including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Constipation
  • Flatulence

To prevent these side effects, make sure to slowly introduce foods like oat bran into your diet over a few weeks. Drinking plenty of water can combat the constipation associated with starting a high-fiber diet. 

Intake and Preparation

Most Americans only consume about half of the recommended amount of soluble fiber, and oat bran is a great way to get more. The Dietary Reference Intakes report, created by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board, provides recommendations on total fiber intake.

Recommended Daily Total Fiber Intake
Women 50 and under 25
Men 50 and under 38
Women Over 50 21
Men Over 50 30

You can prepare oat bran in several different ways.

For hot cereal, heat a cup of whole bran with two cups of milk, water, or non-dairy milk (e.g., almond, soy). You can add raw oat bran to smoothies, mix it into yogurt, or sprinkle it over breads and cookies before baking.

Many products already have oat bran in them, including breads and cereals that can easily be incorporated into any meal.

What to Look For

With any packaged goods, it’s important to look at the label before buying. Just because it has oat bran in it doesn't mean it's good for you.

Avoid products with high amounts of sugar or sodium, which may negate any positive health benefits oat bran may have. If you have food allergies, remember that some oat bran breads contain nuts and seeds.

Oat bran cereals and crackers are good options for quick and easy foods to have in your pantry.

Oat Bran vs Oatmeal

Rolled oats (found in oatmeal) and oat bran come from the same grain, but oatmeal is more processed than oat bran and the processing strips out some of its nutrition.

Also, oat bran has more fiber (both soluble and insoluble) than oatmeal because it’s a specific piece of the oat, while oatmeal uses the whole grain.

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

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