A healthy and nutritious breakfast should kick-start your metabolism and boost your energy levels for the coming day. Cereals such as bran flakes are a popular choice for a quick breakfast, but are they a healthy choice?
We’ve taken a look at the nutritional content of several popular bran flakes brands to discover if they are good for you—and the results are surprising. Read on to find out which bran flakes provide the healthiest start to your busy day.
What are the main ingredients of bran flakes?
While the ingredients vary slightly between different bran flake brands, the main ingredient in all of them is wholewheat.
The word ‘whole’ is the key thing to look for, as it means that the kernel of bran has been left intact and not mixed with any other grains. Wholegrain wheat is a healthier choice than refined wheat.
Wheat bran is the outer layer of the wheat kernel and is rich in minerals and a good source of fibre. It is used in cereal as it has a slightly sweet, nutty taste that sweetens the flavour naturally. Despite this, many brands have added sugar in their bran flakes, which adds empty calories to the cereal.
Barley malt extract is found in all of the brands we researched. It is used to enhance the flavour and sweeten the otherwise bitter taste of high-fibre cereals.
All the bran flake brands we checked also contained some level of salt.
Here is an overview of the ingredients used in the brands we looked at, along with the vitamins and minerals each brand delivers.
|BRAND / SUPERMARKET||MAIN INGREDIENTS||VITAMINS & MINERALS|
|Kellogg’s||Wholewheat (59%), Wheat Bran (18%), Wholemeal Flour, Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Barley Malt Flavouring, Salt, Natural Flavour||Niacin, Iron, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12|
|Tesco||Wholewheat (80%), Wheat Bran, Sugar, Barley Malt Extract, Salt||Niacin, Iron, Pantothenic Acid, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12|
|Waitrose||Wholegrain wheat (63%), wheat bran (20%), sugar, oat flour, barley malt extract, glucose syrup, salt||Iron, Vitamin E, Antioxidant ascorbyl palmitate and alpha-tocopherol, niacin, Emulsifier mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Thiamin (B1), folic acid, citric acid, riboflavin, Vitamin B6|
|Harvest Morn (Aldi)||Wholegrain WHEAT (80%), Wheatbran (20%), Sugar, Malted BARLEY Extract Salt||Niacin, Iron, Pantothenic Acid, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12|
|Asda||Whole Wheat (80%), Wheat Bran (20%), Sugar, Malted Barley Extract, Salt||Niacin (B3), Iron, Pantothenic Acid (B5), Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B6, Folic Acid (B9), Vitamin B12|
|Morrisons||Wheat (80%), Wheat Bran (20%), Sugar, Malted Barley Extract, Salt||Niacin, Iron, Pantothenic Acid (B5), Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12|
The nutritional values of bran flakes
Depending on the brand of bran flakes you choose, the exact nutritional values vary. To give a fair comparison, we looked at the nutritional values per 100g of the branded variety as well as the supermarket’s own brand versions.
Are bran flakes high in sugar?
Comparing to other brands, Kellogg’s Bran Flakes have the highest sugar content, at 14g per 100g. Other brands that we researched for this article contain between 10.8g and 12g of sugar.
High sugar foods are classed as foods containing 22.5g or more sugar per 100g while low sugar foods are those containing less than 5g of sugar per 100g. Bran flakes come somewhere in the middle – they are not low in sugar but they are also not classed as high sugar food.
The NHS website recommends no more than 30g of sugar a day for an adult—this is roughly seven cubes of sugar.
If you eat 50g of bran flakes (which is a big portion), then you will have between 22g and 28g of sugar, depending on the brand of bran flakes you choose. This is not far from the recommended daily sugar intake by NHS. For this reason, we can safely say that bran flakes are pretty high in sugar and therefore should be consumed in moderation (watch your portion size!).
The best is to choose an unsweetened wholegrain breakfast cereal that contains no added sugar for a healthier alternative—especially if you are trying to lose weight or reduce the amount of sugar you consume.
If you opt for a bowl of bran flakes for your breakfast do not add any more sugar—instead, use fresh berries for a sweeter taste and get one of your five-a-day too!
Are bran flakes a good source of fibre?
Wholewheat cereals such as bran flakes are high in fibre. This is good news as there is strong evidence that consuming plenty of fibre lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. It’s also vital to aid digestion and prevent constipation.
Choosing fibre-rich foods can also help to keep us feeling fuller for longer, which can aid weight loss and stop you from snacking between meals.
Government guidelines say that an adult should include 30g of fibre per day in a balanced diet. However, most adults only consume an average of 18g daily.
Bran flakes are high in fibre—a 50g portion will deliver around a quarter of the recommended daily fibre intake. To increase your fibre intake, try using bran flakes to add crunch to a fat-free yoghurt at lunchtime, or as a topping to a fruit pie instead of pastry.
What is the fat content of bran flakes?
Bran flakes are very low in fat, with the Tesco variety having the least fat at just 2.4g per 100g.
However, it is important to remember that brand flakes are very rarely eaten without milk, so the nutritional content of a bowl of bran flakes will change when milk is added.
A serving of bran flakes with milk will increase the fat content depending on your choice of full-fat, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk.
Protein content in bran flakes
The protein content of the brands we looked at ranges from 10.6g to 12g per 100g.
Protein is key to building and maintaining our body tissue and muscles and the NHS website states that an average adult should aim to consume 50g of protein per day.
If you have a big portion of bran flakes for breakfast (50g) then you will have around 5-6g protein but this excludes any milk added to your bowl. For an added protein boost, top them with a spoonful of fat-free Greek yoghurt.
An overview of the vitamins and minerals in bran flakes
There are many important vitamins and minerals in bran flakes, including Niacin (Vitamin B3). Niacin is important to keep your nervous system and skin in good condition. It also helps your body turn food into energy.
Vitamins and minerals are added to bran flakes, making them a fortified cereal to help you meet your recommended daily intakes.
Niacin is not the only form of Vitamin B in bran flakes; in the brands we researched there was also the following present:
- Pantothenic Acid (B5): Helps the body to release energy from food. Prevents fatigue and helps the body to withstand stress.
- Thiamin (B1): Helps the body to break down food and release its energy. Vital for maintenance of a healthy nervous system.
- Riboflavin (B2): This cannot be stored in the body, so a daily intake is needed to maintain skin, eye and nervous system health.
- Vitamin B6: Helps form haemoglobin that carries oxygen around the body. Important for a healthy immune system.
- Vitamin B12: Involved in the production of red blood cells. Necessary for a healthy nervous system. Improves memory and concentration.
- Folic Acid: A ‘man-made’ form of folate, which can help to reduce the risk of birth defects in unborn babies. Necessary for red-cell production and vital for all cell divisions.
Iron features in all the nutritional values of the bran flakes we checked. Iron is important in making red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body.
The iron content of bran flakes varies—Kellogg’s bran flakes contain 8.0mg of iron per 100g, which is 57% of an adult’s recommended daily intake. Tesco bran flakes are higher in iron with 14mg per 100g. If you want to increase your iron intake, then the Tesco variety is the better choice.
What is the calorie count of bran flakes?
There is very little difference in the number of calories from brand to brand. On average, a 30g serving of bran flakes provides 119 kcals. The calorie count will rise by the following amounts if 100ml of milk is added:
- Whole Milk = 68 kcal
- Semi-Skimmed Milk = 46 kcal
- Skimmed Milk = 35 kcal
Consumed with skimmed milk, a portion of bran flakes are unlikely to cause weight gain if eaten as part of a balanced and healthy breakfast. However, if you regularly eat big portions of bran flakes and the rest of your diet is not very healthy, then this type of cereal can easily contribute towards weight gain.
The benefits of bran flakes
- High-fibre cereals such as bran flakes may help with weight loss if consumed in moderation and as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
- A good source of fortified vitamins.
- They are low in saturated fat and high in fibre, so they may help to reduce cholesterol. However, the sugar content means they should not be consumed frequently.
- Fibre found in bran flakes is essential for a healthy digestive system.
Bran flakes with little sugar are the best choice. Waitrose is the best choice for anyone looking to reduce the amount of sugar in their diet. However, we looked online and found organic varieties such as Wholefood Earth with just 2g of glucose and Healthy Supplies with 3.1g of sugar.
Are bran flakes low GI?
Foods with a rating of over 70 on the glycaemic scale are considered high GI. Bran flakes have a GI of 74 so no, they are not low GI.
Are bran flakes good for weight loss?
The high-fibre content of bran flakes can aid weight loss but avoid having big portions of bran flakes as this could contribute towards weight gain. The key is to eat bran flakes in moderation and as part of a varied and healthy diet.
Are bran flakes healthy in pregnancy?
The folic acid in bran flakes can help to prevent birth defects in an unborn baby but watch your portion size to avoid excessive sugar intake and weight gain.
Final thoughts… are bran flakes healthy?
Bran flakes are healthier than many other cereals, as they are not frosted or coated with sugar. However, they do contain sugar, so we advise researching some low sugar alternatives to the mainstream brands available.
The high-fibre content of bran flakes is a great reason to enjoy a bowl as part of a balanced diet. If consumed with skimmed milk and healthy toppings such as berries, bran flakes provide a quick and healthy start to the day.
Kerry Garner has an interest in nutrition and is always on the look-out for new, healthy and exciting snacks for her son’s packed lunch to ensure he gets a balanced diet that’s not boring. She is a keen home-cook and loves nothing more than experimenting in the kitchen and inventing nutritious, yet tasty meals for her family to enjoy.