We’re talkin’ about oat bran. Ok, so maybe it’s not exactly made from oatmeal, but it’s made from oats like oatmeal is, they’re just processed differently. Now, when I say that oatmeal and oat bran are “processed”, I don’t mean twinkies or pink slime processed. To make regular rolled oats, which is what most of us refer to as oatmeal, the husk is removed from whole oats which are then steamed and flattened. This process simply makes them easier to cook, adds nothing, and removes nothing but the husk (which would be like eating bark…yuck.) Oat bran, however, is just one portion of the oat kernel – so technically, an oat bran breakfast is not a whole grain breakfast. Let’s refer to a diagram:
To give a bit of information on the different parts of the grain, I’ll pull from an article I wrote for the Wellness Center at UMass Campus Recreation:
Endosperm The endosperm is the starchy kernel of the grain, which would provide nutrients (mainly carbohydrate, but also some protein and fat) for the growing plant if it were to sprout.
CONTAINS: carbohydrate, protein, fat
Bran The bran is an outer husk that surrounds the grain and protects it, and provides lots of dietary fiber, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
CONTAINS: fiber, carbohydrate, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals
Germ The germ is the reproductive portion of the seed that germinates. The germ is packed with essential fatty acids and vitamins.
CONTAINS: essential fatty acids, vitamins
The relative size of each of these is important as well: there is far more endospore than anything else, and more bran than germ in a single grain. When grains are refined into white flour or white rice, the bran and germ are removed, leaving just the high-carb, low-fiber endospore. That’s why in America we have enriched flour – they add back some but not all of the vitamins that are taken away in the refining process because they are so essential to our health. The reason whole grains are so important is because it’s that bran and endospore that contain essential nutrients, as well as fiber that slows digestion to keep you full longer, and can improve cholesterol (think: Cheerios commercials).
Now, I said previously that oat bran isn’t a whole grain, but it contains all of that important stuff. So, by eating a bowl of oat bran, you’re getting all of the nutrients that you want from whole grains; just not the extra carbohydrate from the endosperm. That’s not to say that it’s more nutritious than oatmeal – oatmeal includes the bran! It’s just got some other stuff too. When we compare the macronutrient breakdown of the two, it looks like this (per 1 cup cooked with water)
Oatmeal Oat Bran
Calories 195 183
Total Carbohydrate (g) 28 25
Dietary Fiber (g) 4.0 5.7
Protein (g) 5.9 7.0
Fat (g) 3.55 1.88
Here you can see that oat bran has slightly less calories and carbohydrate, and slightly more protein and dietary fiber.
It’s pretty obvious from this website that I love oatmeal, but yesterday on my epic Rouses grocery trip, I decided to pick up some oat bran to give it a whirl. I cooked it on the stovetop since I’ve never had it before and I thought the microwave would be more risky. To the oat bran, I added a chopped apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, and mixed in pumpkin, ground flax, and walnuts at the end like I normally do with my oats. The texture is like grits – smooth and creamy (I forsee a shrimp and grits recipe makeover in the near future). In this respect, I prefer oatmeal. I like to have something to chew on. It also tasted bland in a way that my oatmeal never does, but I added extra spices and it was pretty good. One thing about the oat bran that I liked is the texture of the leftover cereal. Maybe I’m just weird.
So which should you choose? Well I can say that I’m not going to get rid of my oatmeal any time soon. However, the extra protein and fiber is a good bonus in the morning. Perhaps on the days that I don’t run in the morning (aka every day for the forseeable future…heal legs!) I’ll reach for the bran rather than the oats. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference.