Oats are the Clark Kent of the nutritional world. Humble and lacking in pizzazz, you’d never suspect that they’re actually nutritional superheroes in disguise. But they are, when it comes to lowering cholesterol levels. The humble oat in all its forms owes its great powers to its high content of soluble fiber. Starting your day with a bowel of rolled oats is a wise choice for keeping cholesterol at bay.
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What are Rolled Oats?
A whole oat grain looks more like a kernel of brown rice than it does the pale flakes you’re probably familiar with. When a whole oat grain is hulled, steamed and flattened with a roller, it becomes a rolled oat. When rolled oats are steel-cut and further steamed and flattened, they become their quick cooking cousins called instant oats.
How Do Rolled Oats Affect Cholesterol?
The fiber contained in rolled oats is viscous, meaning it forms a gel-like substance when added to water. The viscosity of rolled oat fiber has several effects, including slowing the rate at which your stomach empties and delaying nutrient absorption. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, rolled oat fiber can decrease your total cholesterol levels as well as your LDL cholesterol levels. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol associated with heart disease. Even a small increase in your daily consumption of viscous oat fiber, as low as 10g per day, can reduce your LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 22mg/dL, thus significantly lowering your risk of heart disease.
A cup of dry rolled oats contains 8.2g of total dietary fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database. Men aged 19 to 50 are advised to consume 38g of fiber daily to meet the Institute of Medicines recommendations for adequate fiber intake. Women of the same age group require 25g daily.
Consuming Rolled Oats
A bowl of rolled oats can start your day with heart healthy fiber that fills your belly and keeps you feeling fuller longer than less fibrous options. Registered dietician Leslie Beck states that rolled oats take about 5 minutes to cook and are useful additions to baked goods such as cookies. Rolled oats are also a frequent ingredient in muesli and granola bars.