10 Health Benefits of Bran - Why You Need Bran in your Diet

Bran is among the most inexpensive food products around, and also one of the best for your health. Bran is a component of whole grains that, along with the germ, is removed to create refined "white" rice, bread, or other grain products.

As such, a large quantity of bran is produced, while the nutrient value of grains go down in refinement. Often these refined grains are "enriched" with most of the vitamins the removed bran provided, but man-made synthetic nutrients cannot match bran's natural power.

Bran contains many phytochemicals such as such as phenolic acids, lignans and flavonoids all of which confer numerous health benefits that "enriched" grains do not.

Are phytic acids in bran bad?

Phytic acid in bran is a supposed "anti-nutrient" that can block absorption of iron and zinc. It is of particular concerns to vegans and vegetarians. However, phytic acid is not a concern, even for vegans, if they eat a variety of foods. Further, phytic acid in bran might confer some of its cancer-fighting benefits, so at worst, it is a mixed blessing, and not a total negative.

The health benefits of bran listed below far outweigh any trouble brought on by phytic acid, and bran should be a part of almost everyone's diet. Health benefits of bran include reduced cancer risk, lower cholesterol, weight regulation, lower risk of type II diabetes, and alleviation of constipation. Read on below for the top 10 health benefits of bran, and reasons to add more to your diet.

Bran Health Benefits

1. Bran is High in Fiber

Bran is the number 1 food highest in fiber (1). One tablespoon of bran provides up to 6% of the daily value of insoluble fiber. Dietary fiber, like that from bran, actually changes the way you digest food (2), and absorb nutrients.

Fiber from bran also helps increase diversity of good bacteria in your digestive tract,helping you get the most of what you eat (3).

2. Bran Can Help Alleviate Constipation

Helping to keep your bowels moving is probably bran's most famous (or infamous) health benefit. It has been known since at least the early 1940s when bran was used to keep British Navy officers regular (4).

Taking one teaspoon to two tablespoons of bran each day before a meal is the best way to fight off constipation, and has the added weight loss benefit of making you feel full. As a word of warning, bran is more effective when taken regularly, and a one-time dose of bran is less likely to be effective in treating constipation.

Note: Be sure you increase your intake of liquids, like water, as your increase your fiber intake. This is because fiber like bran absorbs water and can aggrevate constipation if you do not also increase your liquid intake.

3. Bran can Lower Your Risk of Cancer

Studies show that bran can lower the risk of a variety of cancers, and particularly those of the colon and breast (5).

The anti-cancer benefits are theorized not only to be due to fiber in bran, but also other nutrients and phytochemicals such as such as phenolic acids, lignans and flavonoids (5,6).

3 bran muffins on a plate

4. Bran Lowers Your Cholesterol

Studies have shown that intake of bran (particularly oat bran) can help lower your cholesterol (7,8).

The studies did adiminister quite a lot of oat bran, between 25g to 100g per day. The study which gave participants 25g (about 4 tablespoons) of oat bran saw 5-8% reductions in cholesterol.

The second study gave participants 100 grams (1 cup) of oat bran per day, and saw declines of up to 13% in cholesterol.

To attempt to get these benefits it would be best to start eating 2-4 tablespoons of bran a day and slowly add more to your diet.

Bran (particularly rice bran) is high in niacin, which further lowers risk of heart and cardiovascular disease.

5. Bran is a Good Source of Protein with All the Essential Amino Acids

If you were to eat the 1 cup of oat bran listed in the cholesterol-lowering study, you would get up to 16 grams of protein and all the essential amino acids (9). This makes bran a complete source of protein for vegans and vegetarians.

Bran's protein content is one of the main reasons why whole grains are a good source of protein.

6. Bran Helps You Feel Full and Eat Less

American's only eat half of the recommended daily intake for fiber, and this is a big part of the reason for the obesity epidemic in America (10).

This study shows that whole grains in addition to bran help to reduce weight gain, and can promote weight loss (11).

Consuming 1-2 tablespoons of fiber before each meal is a good way to improve digestion, help you feel full, and eat less. Fiber can be consumed with water, milk, or unsweetened soy milk.

Note: Increase your liquid intake with your fiber intake.

A bowl of oatmeal

7. Bran is High in Magnesium

Bran and whole grains are high in magnesium (12). Magnesium is an essential mineral required by the body for muscle and nerve function, maintaining a healthy immune system, regulating heart rhythm, and building strong bones.

Other help benefits of magnesium include reduced risk of heart disease, regulation of blood pressure, and alleviation of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

8. Bran Can Help Prevent Type II Diabetes

Studies show that bran and whole grain consumption can reduce risk of type II diabetes by 20% (13).

This requires eating at least 2 servings of whole grains per day, and over a period of at least a year. The diabetes health benefits of bran found in whole grains can only be seen over the long-term.

9. Bran is Rich in Folate

Bran is a great source of folate (vitamin B9) (14) which is required for numerous body functions including DNA synthesis and repair, cell division, and cell growth.

Other benefits of folate include protection and repair of DNA to reduce cancer risk and slow aging. Folate also lowers risk of Alzheimer's. Bran consumed in whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat bread is a great way to boost your folate intake.

10. Bran is a great source of Manganese

Bran and whole grains are a great source of manganese (15). Manganese is required by the body for proper enzyme functioning, nutrient absorption, wound healing, and bone development.

Health benefits of manganese include strengthening weak bones, anti-oxidant protection, alleviating premenstrual syndrome (PMS), anemia, arthritis, alopecia (spot baldness), and prevention of epileptic seizures.

Pinnable Infographic

Health benefits of bran include reduced cancer risk, lower cholesterol, weight regulation, lower risk of type II diabetes, and alleviation of constipation.

Nutrient Info For Bran

Serving size: 1 cup

Top 10 Nutrients by %DV
  • Manganese838% DV
  • Vitamin B6240% DV
  • Magnesium230% DV
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)217% DV
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)201% DV
  • Phosphorus198% DV
  • Iron122% DV
  • Fiber99% DV
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)87% DV
  • Potassium50% DV

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database - Release 28.
See the complete nutrition facts with over 150 nutrients, or the nutrition facts comparison of Bran vs other foods.

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Bran Fun Facts

  1. In Japan fermented bran is used to pickle vegetables which are called nukazuke.
  2. In Western culture, bran is most famously found in muffins. However, this is hardly a healthy source and whole grains or low sugar cereals would be a better option.
  3. Fermented wheat bran is used in soup in parts of Eastern Europe, like Romania.
  4. Bran comes in many types, with rice, wheat, corn, and oat bran being common varieties.
  5. While wheat bran is more popular in Western countries, rice bran is probably the most plentiful due to Eastern nations preference for the grain. Both China and India are large producers of rice and rice bran.

How Can You Get More Bran In Your Diet?

Here are some easy ways to get more bran into your diet:

  • Choose whole grains. Whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat bread naturally contain bran.
  • Add bran to hot and cold cereals like oatmeal and bran flakes.
  • Sprinkle bran on top of salads and sandwiches.
  • Mix 1-2 tablespoons of bran with water, soy milk, or in fruit smoothies.

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Data Sources and References

  1. High Fiber Foods
  2. DIETARY FIBER: How Did We Get Where We Are?
  3. Review article: dietary fibre-microbiota interactions
  4. Natural Bran for Constipation
  5. Protection against cancer by wheat bran: role of dietary fibre and phytochemicals.
  6. Lignans Are Involved in the Antitumor Activity of Wheat Bran in Colon Cancer SW480 Cells
  7. Oat-bran intake selectively lowers serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations of hypercholesterolemic men.
  8. Oat-bran cereal lowers serum total and LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic men.
  9. Bran Nutrition Facts
  10. Dietary fiber and body weight
  11. Changes in whole-grain, bran, and cereal fiber consumption in relation to 8-y weight gain among men
  12. High Magnesium Foods
  13. Whole Grain, Bran, and Germ Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Cohort Study and Systematic Review
  14. High Folate Foods
  15. High Manganese Foods