The Best Cereals for Lowering Cholesterol

More than 96 million Americans over age 20 have high cholesterol levels. Children and teenagers are facing this problem too. If left unaddressed, hypercholesterolemia can lead to heart disease, stroke and premature death. The good news is that you may be able to lower your cholesterol levels through simple lifestyle changes, such as starting your day with whole grains. Rich in fiber, cereals help reduce total and LDL (bad) cholesterol without affecting HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

The Best Cereals for Lowering Cholesterol (Image: Arx0nt/Moment/GettyImages)

Fill Up on Whole Oats

One cup of oats provides 16.5 grams of fiber, which is 66 percent of the daily recommended fiber intake based on a 2,000-calorie diet. This grain also boasts large amounts of protein, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and manganese. Plus, it can be cooked in a multitude of ways, from porridge to cookies and homemade granola.

Beta-glucan, a soluble fiber in oats, lowers LDL and total cholesterol levels. A 2014 clinical trial published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that subjects who consumed 3 grams of beta-glucan daily experienced a 0.25 mmol/L reduction in bad cholesterol and a 0.30 mmol/L decrease in total cholesterol. Their good cholesterol levels remained unchanged.

Other studies indicate that oats suppress hunger and increase fullness, leading to better appetite control. This makes them ideal for those who are trying to slim down. Furthermore, the fiber in these grains may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar spikes following a meal.

If your goal is to lose weight, consider using oat bran instead of oats. One cup of oat bran has only 231 calories, while the same amount of oats boasts 607 calories. Their fiber content is similar.

Cook With Wheat Bran

With 24.8 grams of fiber per cup, wheat bran may be the best cereal to lower cholesterol and keep your blood sugar levels within normal limits. According to a 2014 study published in the journal Carbohydrate Polymers, this grain is rich in arabinoxylans, a class of compounds that have been shown to reduce total and LDL cholesterol in rats. These substances work by promoting the excretion of bile acids and fecal lipids.

Furthermore, wheat bran contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. A 2013 meta-review that appeared in The BMJ indicates that eating more fiber protects against coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease by improving blood pressure, cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity and body weight. This natural compound slows sugar absorption in the bloodstream and promotes satiety, which may help prevent obesity and diabetes.

On top of that, this cereal is simply delicious. With its nutty flavor, it's a great addition to homemade desserts and can even replace flour. Use it in pancakes, waffles, muffins, cookies and homemade energy bars. Just remember to skip the sugar; replace it with natural alternatives like stevia, cinnamon, vanilla or applesauce.

Add Rye to Your Diet

Another good source of fiber is rye. One cup delivers a whopping 24.7 grams of fiber plus other key nutrients like vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K, copper, manganese and selenium. You'll also get 24 grams of protein.

A 2014 study published in the journal PLOS ONE has found a strong link between whole rye intake and favorable blood lipid outcomes in people with metabolic syndrome. The group that consumed rye experienced a greater reduction in total cholesterol and HDL and LDL cholesterol levels than the control group.

Researchers attribute these health benefits to the arabinoxylans and beta-glucans in rye and other whole grains. These natural compounds reduce cholesterol levels and improve blood lipid profile.

There are countless ways to incorporate rye in your diet. Add this grain to homemade bread, crepes, pie, crackers and other recipes. You can even make rye pasta and multigrain waffles.

Does Cheerios Lower Cholesterol?

While it's true that breakfast cereals taste a lot better than whole grains, they don't really belong in a healthy diet. One cup of Cheerios, for example, has only 2.8 grams of fiber and 3.2 grams of protein per serving. That's much lower compared to the amount of fiber and protein in oats, wheat or rye.

Breakfast cereals are loaded with sugar and provide empty calories. Sure, they contain some vitamins and minerals, but they can't match whole grains in terms of nutritional value.

Plus, cereals are heavily processed and may contain harmful ingredients like table sugar, acrylamide, tocopherols, high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. Whole grains, on the other hand, are all natural.

In the end, the choice is up to you. If you want to stay lean and keep your heart healthy, whole grains are the way to go. Experiment with different recipes and use natural ingredients like cocoa powder, raw honey and cinnamon to boost their flavor.

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