Oat bran and flax both have a number of uses in a health-conscious kitchen -- they add texture and flavor to hot or cold cereal, mix well into homemade granola or energy bars, and help thicken smoothies. However, while they occupy a similar niche in your kitchen, they differ in their nutritional value. Use both foods in a healthful diet to consume a range of essential nutrients.
Flaxseed offers nutritional benefits over oat bran due to its higher fiber content. Fiber helps regulate your blood sugar after a meal, and it keeps your stomach full for longer after you eat, helping you fend off hunger between meals. Consuming fiber also offers long-term health benefits, including a lower risk of some types of cancer, as well as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A quarter-cup serving of oat bran contains 3.6 grams of fiber, while an equivalent serving of ground flax offers 7.6 grams, which is 20 percent of the daily intake for men and 29 percent for women, according to recommendations from the Institute of Medicine.
Both oat bran and flax contain healthy unsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat that reduces the amount of harmful cholesterol in your bloodstream. Flax, but not oat bran, also provides you with omega-3 fatty acids, a specialized type of unsaturated fat that you need to get from your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids fight excess inflammation in your body, support healthy vision and nervous system function, and make up a part of your cell membranes. A quarter-cup serving of ground flax contains 6.4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, providing the entire recommended daily intake for men and women, as set by the Institute of Medicine. Whole flax is not a good source of omega-3s, because your body can't break down the seed coating to access the fatty acids in the seeds.
Manganese and Selenium
Oat bran and flax also provide you with minerals, but oat bran contains more selenium and manganese. Both of these minerals activate antioxidant enzymes that shield your cells from damage. Selenium also plays a role in supporting your immune system, while manganese promotes bone health and aids in wound healing. A quarter-cup serving of oat bran contains 1.3 milligrams of manganese, which is 72 percent of the daily recommended intake for women and 56 percent for men, according to the Institute of Medicine. The same serving of oat bran also has 11 micrograms of selenium, or 20 percent of your recommended daily intake. Flax contains 0.7 milligrams of manganese and 7 micrograms of selenium.
Both flaxseed and oat bran boost your intake of several B-complex vitamins. Collectively, these vitamins fuel your day-to-day activities by helping you convert food into energy. They also nourish your skin, help your body produce red blood cells, and support healthy nerve function. They serve as particularly rich sources of thiamin, or vitamin B-1, which helps regulate your appetite. A quarter-cup serving of flax provides 0.46 milligrams of thiamin, approximately 38 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and 42 percent for men, according to the Institute of Medicine. An equivalent serving of oat bran offers 0.28 milligrams of thiamin.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Oat Bran, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Seeds, Flaxseed
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Fiber
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Essential Fatty Acids
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Manganese
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Selenium
- Colorado State University Extension: Water-Soluble Vitamins: B-Complex and Vitamin C
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.