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Oat Bran: The Unsung SuperFood

on October 14, 2013

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Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach

Oat bran (not to be confused with oatmeal) has long since been an unsung health hero, for its original use was to feed livestock after oats were processed.   Oat bran looks like ground oat flour (not whole oatmeal grain flakes) and is what’s left over once the bran is removed from the actual oat (the outer covering of the oat is stripped for a more “appealing” look).  Because of its rich bran content, oat bran contains about 50% more fiber and soluble fiber than oatmeal, which as we know, helps to lower cholesterol and promote healthy digestion.  That’s not all, however.  This delicious “alternative” grain adds fluffiness and a punch of powerful nutrients to foods, such as protein, selenium, calcium, iron, thiamin, phosphorus, riboflavin, magnesium, and zinc, which is why more and more people are incorporating them into their recipes.  It’s a good thing the smarty-pants at MySuperFoods were wise enough to include this super grain in with their MySuperSnacks Granola Bites!

Here are the other health highlights to this wonder food:

–        FIBER: as aforementioned, a 1-cup cooked serving of oat bran provides 5.7 g, which is about 25% of your daily recommended intake of fiber.

–        POWER PROTEIN: Oat bran also supplies a significant amount of protein, which is important for adult and growing bodies alike to make and repair cells.  Additionally, protein is essential for healthy fetal, childhood and adolescent growth and development.  Our bodies require the essential amino acid phenylalanine, which is plentiful in oat bran.

–        SELENIUM: The important dietary mineral that helps reduce the effects of free radicals and lowers your risk of heart disease and cancer is present in a hefty amount of just 1 cup of cooked oat bran – you can fulfill 31% of your daily recommended dietary allowance!

–        THYROID HEALTH & BRAIN BOOSTER: The essential amino acid mentioned above – phenylalanine – is critical in maintaining neurological health and thyroid function.  Phenylalanine deficiency can cause confusion, lack of energy and studies have even linked it to anorexia, which is why it’s important you get enough…and you certainly will by eating oat bran.  Selenium combines with proteins to produce selenoproteins which combat the effect of free-radicals, disease (like heart disease and cancer), and also boosts thyroid and immune health.

–        HELPS TO REDUCE CHOLESTEROL: the high fiber and soluble fiber content help to lower bad cholesterol levels and raise healthy levels.  The soluble fiber in oat bran helps to reduce the low-density lipoprotein (LDL), a.k.a. the “bad” cholesterol.  This fiber also reduces the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream and is considered much more efficient than oatmeal, which contains 50% less fiber than oat bran.

–        FIGHT INFLAMMATION: the high fiber content also attributes to lowering inflammation in the body, which can help those suffering from arthritis, high blood pressure, or auto-immune diseases.

–        FEEL FULLER LONGER: there is no better way to keep your belly full longer than to fill it with a high-fiber food that takes longer to digest and travel through the digestive system (which is also really helpful at cleaning out all of the “junk” left behind in your body!).  Many people have added oat bran to their foods to help them stay fuller longer and burn energy slower.  Once consumed, oat bran enters the digestive tract where its soluble fiber absorbs water, “takes up space”, and forms a gel-like substance, creating a feeling of fullness.  Interestingly enough, oat bran absorbs about 25 times its volume in liquid, so you can imagine how much space that takes up in your stomach.  To be exact, a tablespoon of oat bran (about half an ounce) forms a 13 ounce ball in the stomach.

–        BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR AND HELP BEAT TYPE II DIABETES: help combat blood sugar spikes by eating foods higher in fiber, which oat bran definitely promises.  Because it takes longer for the body to digest fiber (or not break it down at all), blood sugar levels stay stabilized longer and do not experience the “crash” that happens when high-sugar or carbohydrate foods enter the body.  As a result, this definitely helps keep blood-sugar diseases like hypoglycemia and Type II diabetes from standing a chance.   The gel-like ball that forms once oat bran is eaten passes through your digestive system and is broken down into a mix of fatty acids, amino acids, and glucose (all for energy, growth, and repair).  This process also slows down the break-down of sugar and further helps to remove calories from the body by reducing the absorption of dietary fat, while keeping your blood sugar levels low and stable (remember….unused sugar in the body turns to and is stored as fat).

–        CONSIDERED GLUTEN FREE: While oat bran is gluten-free by nature, it all depends on how and where it is processed, packaged, etc.  True gluten-free products need to be manufactured/packaged in a facility that is completely sterile from gluten (ANYTHING that contains wheat, barley, or rye).  You can find specially manufactured brands of oat bran that are certified gluten free.  Regardless, what a great alternative for those who suffer from gluten sensitivities or intolerances!

–        RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTS: Who knew that a bran could be rich in free-radical, aging, and disease-fighting antioxidants!??!  Another bonus for oat bran and all of its ways to keep the human body healthy.

How to Use Oat Bran

Oat bran has a natural nutty taste and texture.  There are many different ways to incorporate oat bran into your family’s diet, but here are some of the more common and delicious ways:

  • You can eat it by itself as a hot cereal made with water and/or milk (or nut milk).  Combine 1 part oat bran with 2 parts liquid (milk or nut milk) and cook over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Toss with fresh or dried fruit and drizzle with honey for a wholesome breakfast.
  • Try mixing it in with yogurt or cottage cheese to add fiber with your calcium.
  • Add a scoop to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, cookie, or other baked good recipe.  The possibilities are endless with what you can add oat bran to.
  • Add a tablespoon or two into a smoothie.
  • Bread meat or fish in egg and then coat with oat bran for a crunchy texture and nutrient boost without added fat.
  • Add 1/3 cup of oat bran to meat loaf.

Storage

Like flaxseed, oat bran contains a little naturally-occurring fat that is susceptible to going rancid.  When buying in the store, look for products in well-sealed containers.  If you’re buying in bulk, buy from a store that moves its stock quickly and be sure the product is free from any moisture (the oat bran will be clumpy looking) and has a faint nutty smell (this is natural).  Because oat bran has a tendency to go rancid quickly if not stored properly, take precautions to prolong its shelf-life.  It should be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place.   Even better, store it in the freezer in a tightly sealed container.  You can cook with oat bran directly out of the freezer in recipes or on its own – no thawing required.

 

 

Nutrition Information (Per 3/4-cup of cooked oat bran)

Calories 66 kcal
Protein 5.3 g
Fat 1.4 g
Carbohydrate 18.8 g
Fiber 4.3 g
Sodium 2 mg
Calcium 16 mg
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) 0.26 mg
Vitamin B2 0.06 mg

 

Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching.  Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us or feel free to send her an e-mail at: megan@empowerhealthcoach.com.Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 3.23.32 PM

 

References:

http://www.healthyeating.sfgate.com

http://www.dukandiet.com

http://www.allaboutoatbran.com

Priyanekeshu Parihar (Yahoo Contributor)

Leslie Beck, RD

 

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