Wheat bran is one of three layers of the wheat kernel.

It’s stripped away during the milling process, and some people may consider it nothing more than a byproduct.

Yet, it’s rich in many plant compounds and minerals and an excellent source of fiber.

In fact, its nutritional profile may improve your health and lower your risk of certain chronic diseases.

Here is everything you need to know about wheat bran.

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A wheat kernel is made up of three parts: the bran, endosperm and germ.

The bran is the hard outer layer of the wheat kernel, which is jam-packed with various nutrients and fiber.

During the milling process, the bran is stripped away from the wheat kernel and becomes a byproduct.

Wheat bran has a sweet, nutty flavor. It can be used to add texture and a full-bodied taste to bread, muffins and other baked goods.

Summary Wheat bran is the protective outer shell of the wheat kernel that is stripped away during the milling process.

Wheat bran is chock-full of many nutrients. A half-cup (29-gram) serving provides (1):

  • Calories: 63
  • Fat: 1.3 grams
  • Saturated fat: 0.2 grams
  • Protein: 4.5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 18.5 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 12.5 grams
  • Thiamine: 0.15 mg
  • Riboflavin: 0.15 mg
  • Niacin: 4 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0.4 mg
  • Potassium: 343
  • Iron: 3.05 mg
  • Magnesium: 177 mg
  • Phosphorus: 294 mg

Wheat bran also has a decent amount of zinc and copper. Additionally, it provides over half of the daily value (DV) of selenium and more than the DV of manganese.

Not only is wheat bran nutrient dense, it’s also relatively low calorie. Half a cup (29 grams) has only 63 calories, which is minuscule considering all the nutrients it packs.

What’s more, it’s low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as a good source of plant-based protein, offering about 5 grams of protein in half a cup (29 grams).

Arguably, wheat bran’s most impressive trait is its fiber content. Half a cup (29 grams) of wheat bran provides almost 13 grams of dietary fiber, which is 99% of the DV (1).

Summary Wheat bran is a good source of many nutrients and protein and relatively low in calories. It’s a very good source of dietary fiber as well.

Wheat bran offers many benefits for your digestive health.

It’s a condensed source of insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to your stool and accelerates the movement of stool through your colon (3).

In other words, the insoluble fiber present in wheat bran can help relieve or prevent constipation and keep your bowel movements regular.

In addition, studies have shown that wheat bran can reduce digestive symptoms, such as bloating and discomfort, and is more effective in increasing fecal bulk than other forms of insoluble fiber like oats and certain fruits and vegetables (4, 5).

Wheat bran is also rich in prebiotics, which are nondigestible fibers that act as a source of food for your healthy gut bacteria, increasing their numbers, which, in turn, promotes bowel health (6).

Summary Wheat bran bolsters digestive health by providing a good source of insoluble fiber, which can help prevent or treat constipation. It also acts as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria.

Another health benefit of wheat bran is its possible role in preventing certain types of cancers, one of which — colon cancer — is the third most common cancer worldwide (7).

Numerous studies in both humans and mice have linked wheat bran intake to a reduced risk of colon cancer (8, 9, 10).

Furthermore, wheat bran appears to hamper tumor development in people’s colons more consistently compared to other high-fiber grain sources, such as oat bran (11).

Wheat bran’s effect on colon cancer risk is likely attributable in part to its high fiber content, as multiple studies have associated a high-fiber diet with a reduced risk of colon cancer (12, 13).

However, the fiber content of wheat bran may not be the sole contributor to reducing this risk.

Other components of wheat bran — such as natural antioxidants like phytochemical lignans and phytic acid — may play a role as well (3, 10, 14).

Wheat bran intake has also been shown to significantly increase the production of beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) in test-tube and animal studies (15).

SCFAs are produced by healthy gut bacteria and a major source of nutrition for colon cells, keeping them healthy.

Though the mechanism is not quite understood, lab studies demonstrate that SCFAs help prevent tumor growth and prompt the death of cancer cells in the colon (15, 16, 17, 18).

Wheat bran may also play a protective role against the development of breast cancer due to its content of phytic acid and lignan (19).

These antioxidants have inhibited breast cancer cell growth in test-tube and animal studies (20, 21).

Additionally, the fiber found in wheat bran may also help decrease breast cancer risk.

Studies have shown that fiber may increase the amount of estrogen excreted by your body by inhibiting estrogen absorption in the intestines, causing a reduction in circulating estrogen levels (3, 22, 23 24).

Such a decrease in circulating estrogen may be related to a reduced risk of breast cancer (25, 26).

Summary Wheat bran is high in fiber and contains lignan phytochemicals and phytic acid — all of which may be associated with a reduced risk of colon and breast cancer.

Several observational studies have linked high-fiber diets with a decreased risk of heart disease (27, 28, 29).

One small, recent study reported a significant decrease in total cholesterol after consuming a wheat bran cereal daily for a three-week period. Additionally, no reduction in “good” HDL cholesterol was found (30).

Research also suggests that diets high in dietary fiber may slightly lower blood triglycerides (31).

Triglycerides are types of fat found in your blood that are associated with a greater risk of heart disease if elevated.

Therefore, adding wheat bran to your daily diet can increase your overall fiber intake to help prevent heart disease.

Summary As a good source of fiber, wheat bran may help lower total cholesterol and triglycerides, which may decrease your risk of heart disease.

Though wheat bran is a nutrient-dense food with many potential health benefits, there may be some disadvantages.

Contains Gluten

Gluten is a family of proteins that is found in certain grains, including wheat (32).

Most people can ingest gluten without experiencing adverse side effects. However, some individuals may have difficulty tolerating this type of protein.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly targets gluten as a foreign threat to the body, causing digestive symptoms like abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Gluten ingestion can also damage the lining of the gut and small intestine in celiac patients (33).

Some people also suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, in which they do not test positive for celiac disease but still feel digestive discomforts after consuming gluten (33, 34).

Therefore, people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity should avoid grains that contain gluten, including wheat bran.

Contains Fructans

Fructans are a type of oligosaccharide, a carbohydrate made up of a chain of fructose molecules with a glucose molecule at the end.

This chain carbohydrate is indigestible and ferments in your colon.

This fermentation process can produce gas and other unpleasant digestive side effects such as belching, abdominal pain or diarrhea, especially in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (35).

Unfortunately, certain grains, such as wheat, are high in fructans.

If you suffer from IBS or have a known fructan intolerance, you may need to avoid wheat bran.

Phytic Acid

Phytic acid is a nutrient found in all plants seeds, including whole-wheat products. It’s especially concentrated in wheat bran (36, 37, 38).

Phytic acid may hinder the absorption of certain minerals such as zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron (38).

Thus, absorption of these minerals may decline if consumed with a food high in phytic acid like wheat bran.

This is why phytic acid is sometimes referred to as an antinutrient.

For most people who consume a balanced diet, phytic acid doesn’t pose a severe threat.

However, if you eat high-phytic-acid foods with most meals, you may develop a deficiency in these vital nutrients over time.

Summary If you have an intolerance to gluten or fructans, its best to avoid wheat bran, as it contains both. Wheat bran is also high in phytic acid, which may impair the absorption of certain nutrients.

There are many ways to add wheat bran to your diet.

When it comes to baked goods, this versatile product can be added or replace some of the flour to boost flavor, texture and nutrition.

You can also sprinkle wheat bran on smoothies, yogurt and hot cereals.

Adding too much wheat bran to your diet too quickly could cause digestive distress due to its high fiber content. Therefore, it’s best to start out slow, increasing your intake gradually and allowing your body to adjust.

Also, be sure to drink plenty of fluids as you elevate your intake in order to digest the fiber adequately.

Summary Wheat bran can be mixed into baked goods or sprinkled on smoothies, yogurts and cereals. When adding wheat bran to your diet, do so gradually and be sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Wheat bran is highly nutritious and an excellent source of fiber.

It may benefit digestive and heart health and could even reduce breast and colon cancer risk.

However, it’s unsuitable for people with gluten or fructan intolerances, and its phytic acid content may inhibit the absorption of certain minerals.

For most individuals, wheat bran provides a safe, easy and nutritious supplement to baked goods, smoothies and yogurts.