A bowl of oatmeal a day keeps the doctor away -- that new twist on the old adage may have some truth to it. An excellent source of whole grains, fiber-rich oatmeal has a long history as a nutritious, filling morning meal option. Making it a regular part of your diet may also keep your LDL and total cholesterol at healthy levels.
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Eating one-and-a-half cups of cooked oatmeal each day is recommended to help lower your cholesterol. Whether you choose old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats, it takes three-fourths of a cup of dry oatmeal to prepare the recommended serving in cooked form. You can also use three instant oatmeal packets to meet the suggested amount. Other factors come into play as to how effective your oatmeal intake will be in lowering cholesterol; however, dietary changes can start working in as little as two to four weeks, according to Dr. William Haynes of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Effect on Cholesterol
The soluble fiber content in oatmeal is the key player in reducing cholesterol. This type of fiber, which is also found in beans and several fruits, lowers the amount of cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream. This helps keep low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in check. LDL cholesterol contributes to arterial clogging that increases your risk of having heart problems or a stroke. It takes five to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day to reduce LDL cholesterol; preparing three-fourths of a cup of dry oatmeal provides six grams.
Make wise choices when it comes to selecting oatmeal. Old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats can be purchased with no added flavorings or sugar. Instant or ready-to-eat packets, however, often contain a variety of additives to boost flavor. Read the nutrition label on these to see what's been added to the oats. The American Dietetic Association's Ivonne Cueva reveals that some oatmeal packets contain up to 270 mg of sodium and 12 mg of sugar. If choosing instant oatmeal, go for plain varieties that you can dress up yourself with healthy additions such as fruit or cinnamon.
While oatmeal is typically associated with its cholesterol benefits, there are other reasons to make it a regular part of your diet. A February 2010 study in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association" found that consuming oatmeal not only lowered cholesterol but also reduced waist circumference in obese participants. An article published in the "American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine's" January/February 2008 issue revealed that eating oatmeal may also reduce risks for type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Like high cholesterol, both diabetes and high blood pressure are risk factors for cardiovascular problems.