One of the best things you can do for your body, brain and well-being is to eat a satisfying, nutritious breakfast each morning. Food manufacturers often market oatmeal as a heart-healthy food that can help keep your LDL cholesterol low, reducing your risk of heart attack or stroke. Rolled oats, widely available in grocery stores, give you a healthy source of fiber, protein and nutrients, but cooked oat bran is richer in most vitamins and minerals.
If you're trying to lose a few pounds or maintain your current weight, oat bran might be the better choice for you. Each cooked cup has only 88 calories, but provides 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of fat. A cup of cooked rolled oats has nearly twice the calories, with 166, plus 6 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fat. Both are rich in fiber, which can make you feel full and help keep your cholesterol low, but oat bran has more, with nearly 6 grams of fiber per cup, while the same amount of rolled oats has 4 grams of fiber.
B vitamins boost your metabolism by helping your body use fat, protein and carbohydrates to make energy. Oats supplement your diet with these nutrients, but oat bran is richer than rolled oats. A cup of oat bran provides one-third of the thiamine you need each day, as well as 7 percent of the riboflavin and 4 percent of the vitamin B-6 you should get daily. Rolled oats, which contain less than half as much thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin B-6 as oat bran, have twice as much niacin, however. That's 4 percent of your recommended daily intake of that nutrient.
Oat bran and rolled oats each have about 2 milligrams of iron, but rolled oats provide 30 percent of your daily requirement for zinc, doubling the amount of that mineral in oat bran. Cooked oat bran, however, is richer in magnesium and phosphorus, nutrients that benefit your bones and nerve function. A cup of oat bran has 28 percent of the magnesium and 37 percent of the phosphorus you need each day, compared to a serving of rolled oats, which has 20 percent of your recommended intake for magnesium and 26 percent for phosphorus.
To make a bowl of oat bran or rolled oats creamier and more appealing in taste and texture, you can stir in other ingredients, but be careful not to load your oats with too many calories. A pat of butter adds 36 calories and 4 grams of fat, mostly saturated, to your cereal. Ingredients like brown sugar and maple syrup can increase the sugar content of your breakfast by 3 to 6 grams. To keep it healthy, mix in some fresh or dried fruit to flavor it and use reduced-fat milk.
Maia Appleby is a NASM-certified personal trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry. Her articles have been published in a wide variety of print magazines and online publications, including the Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, New Moon Network and Bodybuilding.com.