Most grains, like wheat and oats, have a hard outer layer. When they are processed, this layer becomes a byproduct, and is called bran. In the case of processing wheat to make wheat flour, one gets miller’s or wheat bran. It is packed with nutrition, and offers many dietary benefits.
Wheat bran is commonly found in certain cereals, like Raisin Bran or Bran Flakes, as well as bran muffins, which rose to popularity in the 1980s. Wheat bran is beneficial toward providing digestive regularity and ending constipation because it is very high in dietary fiber. Some also claim that foods containing bran provide a feeling of fullness. This claim may be true, since it tends to absorb water and expand in the digestive system.
The nutritional benefits of wheat bran are mainly undisputed. For a time, it was thought that it might fight cancer, but this remains largely unproven. However, a cup (58 g) of wheat bran does offer significant nutritional pluses. One cup contains 99% of the US recommended daily allowance (RDA) of fiber, nine grams of protein, and 34% of the RDA for iron. It is also high in protein, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin B6, and is low in fat, with no cholesterol, and no sugar or sodium.
It's possible to purchase wheat bran in bulk, which makes it quite easy to add to cereals like granola or to baked goods. Adding it to muffins is a natural choice, but it can also be added to pancakes, biscuits, waffles, or even cookies is a great way to bulk up the nutritional value of a food. Some people even take powdered bran to get their needed dietary fiber each day. A small amount of wheat bran can be added to smoothies, especially when it is finely powdered.
Wheat bran has a sweet taste, but not all find it appealing. It’s also important to start slow when adding it to foods. A little too much can easily translate to diarrhea. Further, as with all wheat sources, those who have celiac disease should not use it.
It's important to note that just adding bran to food doesn't make it that healthy. For example, some wheat bran cereals may be high in high fructose corn syrup or sugar, and bran muffins may contain a lot of fat. Pancakes with bran may lose a bit of their nutritional value if slathered with butter and syrup.
Wheat bran cannot be stored like regular wheat flour. It tends to get rancid and is best stored in the refrigerator, especially if one plans to store it for long. Alternately, it may be stored in a vacuum-sealed canister at a moderate temperature. If you note that it tastes bitter, it is probably rancid, and should be discarded.