Oatmeal and Cholesterol Studies – Why Oats Are The Best Grains for Heart?
Few foods have been as intimately linked with health benefits as oatmeal and cholesterol have. In fact, when many people think of oatmeal, reducing bad LDL levels is one of the first things that come to mind. However, there is no magic compound in oatmeal that makes it one of the good cholesterol foods. In fact, most researchers are not quite sure just how it is that oatmeal and cholesterol are related. But they have some theories and, some compelling studies to support them.
Many foods are able to lower cholesterol naturally. There are also many herbs and spices that have been proven to reduce bad cholesterol numbers. Many of these edibles that lower cholesterol naturally do so because of compounds that they contain that either reduce the production of LDL cholesterol in the liver or, prevent the body from absorbing it. Some examples of this phenomenon include the compound known as allicin, which is found in garlic; or, lutein, a potent antioxidant found in many foods. Oatmeal lacks a special cholesterol fighting chemical, but it is absolutely loaded with soluble fiber, as explained by WebMD, which likely provides the positive link between oatmeal and cholesterol reduction. It is thought that when oatmeal is ingested, the soluble fiber it contains creates a pasty goo inside the intestines. While this may sound bad, it actually may provide the answer for how oatmeal lowers cholesterol. The molecules of bad cholesterol may actually adhere to the fiber induced goo inside the intestines, therefore preventing absorption as the harmful lipids are sent off for disposal instead of making their way into the bloodstream.
The evidence to support this process is staggering; so much so that in the late nineties, the FDA gave the “OK” for oatmeal to be dubbed heart healthy. Perhaps this is based on the fact that the relationship between oatmeal and cholesterol has been well documented – with studies (Like the one Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) that have pointed out that when participants combined oatmeal with other cholesterol lowering foods as part of a healthy cholesterol diet, LDL levels were markedly reduced, in about the same amounts that they were in studies using medications intended for the same purpose. Study results like these are astounding not only because they prove the power of natural sources of dietary healing, but also because there may be alternatives to people that choose not to or are unable to use medications like statins (which are known for intense side effects in some users).
Oatmeal is an excellent option for heart health promotion for another reason, and that is versatility. There are seemingly endless low cholesterol recipes that oatmeal can be incorporated into, and its uses reach far beyond the well known creamy concoction served at breakfast. It can be used in soups and stews, casseroles and cookies and, it can also serve as a replacement ingredient in many low cholesterol recipes. For instance, swapping out refined white flour for oatmeal when baking or switching out breadcrumbs for dry oatmeal can provide many healthful benefits – the initial effect from the oatmeal and cholesterol relationship on one hand, and the benefits from not consuming cholesterol increasing foods like refined carbs on another. Oatmeal can be used in recipes to lower cholesterol in every meal from breakfast to dinner, and snacks in between.
The World’s Healthiest Foods cites many studies that have shown that in people with elevated cholesterol (which refers to any over 220 mg/dL) just one bowl of oatmeal daily can provide a reduction in lipid levels by up to 23%. And, further studies have shown the relationship between oatmeal and cholesterol goes even further, with the breakfast basic yielding long term heart health benefits by lowering the risk of coronary diseases. But, while oatmeal may be a heart superstar, it is only part of a healthy lifestyle change to promote normal cholesterol values. It is best benefitted from as part of a diet that avoids the cholesterol in milk, meats and other animal products and adds in more fresh produce and alternative protein choices. And, normal cholesterol values are nearly impossible to maintain without a heaping healthy dose of exercise regularly. Physical activity is essential to keeping cholesterol in check, and when combined with a powerful food like oatmeal and other positive lifestyle changes, the possibilities for greater long term heart health are well within reach.