Oatmeal, that sturdy breakfast food from your grandmother's kitchen, has a
lot going for it. Not only is it a fine way to start the day, but it can also
really bring down your bad LDLcholesterol levels without lowering your good
cholesterol. The same goes for oat bran, which is in some cereals, baked goods,
and other products.
Oatmeal is full of soluble fiber, which we know lowers LDL levels. Experts
aren't exactly sure how, but they have some ideas. When you digest fiber, it
becomes gooey. Researchers think that when it's in your intestines, it sticks
to cholesterol and stops it from being absorbed. So instead of getting that
cholesterol into your system -- and your arteries -- you simply get rid of it
What's the Evidence?
There's plenty of evidence that eating oatmeal lowers cholesterol levels.
It's such a well-accepted belief that the FDA gave it the status of a
"health claim" in 1997. This allows manufacturers to advertise the
heart-healthy benefits on boxes of oatmeal and other products.
Some studies have shown that oats,
when combined with other cholesterol-lowering foods, can have a big effect on
cholesterol levels. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition, researchers tested cholesterol-lowering drugs against
cholesterol-lowering foods in a group of thirty-four adults with high
cholesterol. Oat products were among the chosen foods. The results were
striking. The diet lowered cholesterol levels about as well as cholesterol
Getting Oatmeal Into Your Diet
It's fairly simple to work oatmeal into your meal plan. Start with the
obvious: enjoy hot oatmeal in the morning.
"Oatmeal makes a filling, healthy breakfast," says Ruth Frechman,
RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. She suggests that you
add bananas or walnuts. If you're not so keen on hot oatmeal, try a cold cereal
that's made from oat bran.
But oatmeal isn't only for breakfast. "Ground oatmeal can be
added to any food," Frechman tells WebMD. You can add it to soups and
casseroles. You can add some to breadcrumbs when you coat food for cooking. You
can also add it to many recipes for baked foods. For instance, the American
Dietetic Association suggests swapping one-third of the flour in recipes with
quick or old-fashioned oats.