Whole oats contain the bran, the portion of the grain that is rich in essential dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. This nutritious food facilitates healthy digestion and normal bowel function, maintains energy levels and helps to reduce the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Oat bran is found in many cereals, breads and baked goods; add these foods to your regular diet for their beneficial effects.
Bran is the outer fiber covering of oats and other whole grains. This nutrient-rich husk is removed from polished and refined grains such as white flour, depleting much of the fiber, minerals and vitamins that are essential for healthy digestive function. Oat bran contains soluble fiber that absorbs water to become a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. The Mayo Clinic notes that soluble fiber from oat bran slows down digestion for improved nutrient absorption and bowel function.
The soluble fiber in oat bran helps to keep your blood sugar levels balanced by slowing the digestion of carbohydrate foods in the digestive tract and reducing the rate at which glucose is absorbed into the blood. A study published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association" notes that eating oat bran and other foods rich in soluble fiber may help prevent and treat diabetes because blood glucose levels are better controlled. Oat bran may also help increase sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which is needed to transport glucose from the blood to your cells where it is converted to energy.
Adding oat bran to your diet may also help lower high cholesterol levels. The soluble fiber found in oat bran reduces the level of unhealthy fats called low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, according to the National Institutes of Health. This occurs because the soluble fiber in oat bran binds with cholesterol in the intestines and removes it as waste matter before it can be absorbed into the blood. Reducing cholesterol from the blood can help reduce the risk of dangerous plaque buildup in the arteries that leads to heart disease and stroke. The Mayo Clinic recommends eating a minimum of 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day to decrease both your LDL and total cholesterol levels. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal gives you 6 grams of fiber.
High-fiber foods such as oat bran aid weight loss by promoting feelings of fullness. The Mayo Clinic notes that these fiber-rich foods require more chewing and take longer to digest, giving your brain the chance to signal that you are no longer hungry before you overeat. Additionally, oat bran helps keep your blood glucose levels stable and is rich in nutrients such as B vitamins, which aid in energy production.
- MayoClinic.com: Cholesterol: Top 5 foods To Lower Your Numbers
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: Oat Bran Concentrate Bread Products Improve Long-Term Control of Diabetes
- National Institute of Health: Cholesterol-Lowering Effect of Beta-Glucan From Oat Bran In Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Subjects
- Los Angeles Times: Not A Fad: Oats Do Help Hearts
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fiber: Essential For A Healthy Diet
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.