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Ask the Diva: How to Add Oat Bran, Chia, and Flax to Your Diet?

Nutrition Diva's easy tips on how to incorporate these healthy ingredients into your meals and recipes.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,

Q. How can I use oat bran, flaxseed, and chia seeds? I see them in the store and know that they are healthy but I don't know how to work them into my meals. 

A. I think a lot of people can relate to this question! They read good things about a new food or ingredient and dutifully pick some up at the store - but then these items sit unused in the cupboard. Here are a few ideas to get you started with each of the three foods you asked about - as well as links to more information about each.

Oat Bran is a good source of soluble fiber, which can help normalize cholesterol levels and blood sugar. (See also: Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber). Compared with regular oatmeal (rolled oats), oat bran is higher in fiber and lower in carbohydrates - as you might expect. But I was surprised to learn that oat bran is also higher in protein than regular oatmeal.  You can cook it as a hot breakfast cereal. Bring a cup of water and a pinch of salt to a boil. Whisk in 1/3 cup oat bran and cook briefly, stirring frequently. That's it! Top with fruit, nuts, a little milk or nondairy milk, and/or a touch of sweetener.  You can also add oat bran to cookies, breads, or muffins. Substitute 3/4 cup flour plus 1/4 cup oat bran for every 1 cup of flour in the recipe.

Flaxseed is a good source of plant based omega-3 fats, as well as insoluble fiber. (See also: Benefits of Flax).  In order to get the nutritional benefits of flaxseed you need to break the hard outer shell of the seed. You can do this by grinding the seeds in a coffee mill or by chewing very thoroughly. Once it's ground up, flaxseed can go rancid, so keep your ground flaxseed (flaxmeal) in the fridge and try to use it quickly. You can add whole flax seeds to smoothies or add ground flax to cookies, breads, and muffins. Substitute 3/4 cup flour plus 1/4 cup ground flax for every 1 cup of flour in the recipe.  

Chia seeds are similar to flaxseeds in their nutritional makeup, offering similar amounts of omega-3s, protein, and fiber. (See also: Chia vs. flax vs. hemp.) The big difference is that chia seeds don't need to be ground up. You can add them whole to smoothies or baked goods or simply sprinkle them on top of cereal or yogurt . My favorite way to use chia seeds, however, is to make chia pudding. Here's a quick video that shows you how. 

How about you, Nutrition Diva fans? What are you favorite ways to use these healthy foods? Post them in the comments below.

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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