Choosing the Healthiest Oats

There’s oat bran, oat groat, oatmeal, rolled oats — yes, it can get a little confusing to understand the difference between these many terms. But the most common question may be which type of oat is healthiest? Does the way an oat groat is split, steamed or rolled impact its health benefits?

Research shows that the consumption of oats, oatmeal and oat bran provides a number of benefits, including their ability to reduce cholesterol levels, inflammation of arteries and the occurrence of coronary heart disease.

Perhaps oat bran’s biggest attribute is its soluble fiber content. This allows for its ability to benefit your digestion, heart health, weight management and cholesterol levels. Plus, the outer layer of the oat seed is also a good source of plant-based protein and micronutrients.

It’s safe to say that oat bran can be considered a healthy food that can work to benefit your health.


Oat bran - Dr. Axe

What Is Oat Bran?

Oat bran is the outer layer of the oat groat, or seed. To make oat bran, the outer shell of the whole oat groat is removed and separated from the endosperm during the processing phase. The layers of the oat groat are often separated in order to make the grain easier to cook.

Oats come from the Avena sativa plant, which is grown for its seeds. Oatmeal, rolled oats and most other foods made from oats contain bran, but you can also purchase oat bran separately and add it to meals to increase the fiber, protein and micronutrient content.

Is oat bran gluten-free? Technically, oats are gluten free and don’t naturally contain the gluten protein, unlike wheat, barley and rye. However, if you have a gluten intolerance, opt for an oat bran product that’s labeled as organic and gluten-free to be sure that it hasn’t been contaminated with gluten during the manufacturing process.

Nutrition Facts

Oat bran is high in antioxidants, including polyphenols that work to fight off harmful free radicals and prevent damage to our cells, thereby reducing the risk of chronic disease. It’s rich in fiber and protein, plus it contains important micronutrients, including phosphorus, selenium, thiamin and magnesium.

Oat bran also contains beta glucan, which is a type of soluble fiber that’s found in oats and barley. Beta glucans are used to improve a number of health conditions, including diabetes, high cholesterol, skin conditions and weak immune function.

One major reason why oat bran is healthy to eat is because of its beta glucan content. In fact, research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that beta glucan is associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome because of the way it interacts with the gastrointestinal tract.

One cup (approximately 219 grams) of cooked oat bran contains about:

  • 88 calories
  • 25 grams carbohydrates
  • 2 grams fat
  • 7 grams protein
  • 5.7 grams fiber
  • 2 milligrams manganese (106 percent DV)
  • 261 milligrams phosphorus (26 percent DV)
  • 16.9 micrograms selenium (24 percent DV)
  • 0.4 milligrams thiamin (23 percent DV)
  • 87.6 milligrams magnesium (22 percent DV)
  • 1.9 milligrams iron (11 percent DV)
  • 1.2 milligrams zinc (8 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams copper (7 percent DV)
  • 201 milligrams potassium (6 percent DV)
  • 0.5 milligrams pantothenic acid (5 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams riboflavin (4 percent DV)

Oat Bran vs. Rolled Oats

Oat bran is just the outer shell of the oat, while rolled oats are the entire grain. Rolled oats are oat groats that have been steamed to make them soft and then pressed between rollers. Rolled oats are commonly chosen over steel-cut oats (which is when the groat is simply split into pieces) because they absorb water more easily and cook faster.

Compared to rolled oats, oat bran contains more fiber per serving. If you looking to increase your fiber consumption and improve your digestion, then add oat bran to probiotic yogurt or healthy baked goods.

Oat Bran vs. Wheat Bran

Oat and wheat bran are both the outer layers of the groat, or kernel. They both serve as good sources of micronutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium and iron. And while they are both high in fiber, wheat bran provides more insoluble fiber, which cannot be digested by the body and therefore helps to promote regularity.

Oat Bran vs. Oatmeal

Just like rolled oats, oatmeal is steamed, softened and pressed oat groats that are easily cooked and consumed. With oat bran, you get more fiber, protein and micronutrients per serving. That said, oatmeal nutrition also helps reduce cholesterol, improve digestion and boost energy levels.

Health Benefits

1. Helps Lower Cholesterol

Oat bran has cholesterol-lowering properties because of its high fiber content. One study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when adults added 102 grams of oat bran per day to their diets for a two-week period, total cholesterol levels decreased by 14 percent compared to 4 percent among the control group. Also, fecal volume was greater among those consuming oat bran, and energy excretion was increased by 37 percent.

Research shows that consuming oats is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. When researchers conducted a systematic literature review including 64 studies, they found that consuming oats or oat bran was able to reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.

2. Provides Plant-Based Protein

One cup of cooked oat bran contains about seven grams of plant-based protein. We need protein foods to keep our bodies going. They are used to develop, grow and maintain just about every part of the human body, and because they are constantly breaking down, they need to be replaced throughout the day.

For people on a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s important to eat a range of protein foods in order to ensure that you get the essential amino acids, which play an important role in body functions.

3. Aids Digestion

There’s almost six grams of dietary fiber in one cup of cooked oat bran. This allows it to support digestion and relieve issues like constipation. Oat bran is a source of both insoluble and soluble fiber. That means it works to absorb water in the digestive tract, softening your stool and allowing it to pass through your GI tract easily.

When seniors in a nursing home received oat bran for 12 weeks mixed with their daily common diet, researchers found that laxatives were successfully discontinued by 59 percent of those in the group. Oat bran consumption also increased the seniors’ well-being in the nursing home.

4. Supports Heart Health

A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials published in the Journal of Hypertension suggests that higher consumption of beta glucan, the fiber found in oat bran, is associated with lower systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.

Researchers concluded that the review results are consistent with the recommendation to increase the consumption of high-fiber foods, especially those high in beta glucans.

5. Aids Weight Loss

Eating a high-fiber diet has been shown to increase satiety and aid weight loss or weight maintenance. Soluble fiber, which is found in oats, slows the process of food emptying from your stomach, thereby making you feel full for a longer period of time.

Research shows that the beta glucan in oat bran has a positive effect on satiety. Because beta glucan is a viscous soluble fiber, it forms a gel-like substance in the GI tract and slows down digestion. This allows you to feel satisfied for a longer period of time, so you may be less likely to reach for extra snacks in between meals.

6. Helps Regulate Blood Sugar

Because oat bran in high in soluble fiber, it may help to control blood sugar levels. It dos this by slowing the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates that impact blood sugar levels.

Studies show that consuming oat bran is beneficial to people with type 2 diabetes because it works to reduce blood sugar levels and blood sugar spikes after eating carb-heavy meals. One pilot study published in Nutrients found that with each gram of oat beta glucan (the type of fiber found in oat bran), blood glucose was reduced by 4.35 percent. Participants consumed oat bran mixed in water before meals containing white bread to measure their glycemic responses.

How to Use (Plus Recipes)

Oat bran is available in many health food stores and online. It typically comes ground, and it can be cooked on the stove, in the microwave or in a slow cooker.

To make oat bran cereal on the stovetop, you usually allow about two cups of boiling water and a pinch of salt to boil, then add in about two-thirds a cup of oat bran and reduce heat so that it simmers for three minutes or so. This will leave you with a smooth and creamy consistency, similar to oatmeal. Adding toppings like honey, cinnamon or maple syrup can make the taste even more satisfying.

You can also prepare oat bran cookies, muffins, pancakes, breads and other baked goods by combining it with whole wheat or gluten-free flour. And you can add it to smoothies and yogurt bowls.

Here are some healthy recipes that include oat bran:

Risks and Side Effects

Consuming oat bran is considered safe for most people, including women who are pregnant or nursing. For people with a gluten sensitivity, be sure to buy organic products that indicate it’s gluten-free.

If your body isn’t used to consuming a lot of fiber, begin to incorporate oat bran into your diet slowly. If you increase your intake of soluble fiber too quickly, it may cause gassiness, diarrhea, bloating and stomach pain. It’s also helpful to consume oat bran along with a glass of water.

Final Thoughts

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