Optimizing the Bioactive Potential of Oat Bran by Processing
Oats have attracted consumer, research, and commercial interest due to the health benefits associated with their consumption. β-Glucans are major dietary constituents in oats that have been linked to reduced serum cholesterol concentrations in humans, and foods containing oats are allowed to carry a health claim related to the ability of the soluble fiber in oats to reduce the risk of heart disease. However, to receive the recommended amount of β-glucans (3 g/day) from whole oat groats may require consumption of large quantities of oat products. Thus, the production of oat fractions enriched with higher levels of β-glucans is desirable. The most common commercially available oat product with an increased concentration of β-glucans is oat bran. In addition to higher concentrations of β-glucan, other physical and physicochemical properties of oat bran preparations should be considered as part of their production to achieve the optimal and expected health benefits from consumption of such products. Conventional and novel processing methods offer extensive possibilities for the production of oat bran fractions with improved functional properties. Positive effects of processing can include increased β-glucan content in oat bran fractions and improved molecular and physical properties of these polymers, such as molecular weight and viscosity-building properties. Conventional dry processing methods can also be optimized to modify the physical structure of bran particles and improve certain functional properties, such as the water solubility of dietary constituents, swelling, water-holding capacity, and bioaccessibility of compounds with potential or proven health benefits.