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The #1 Best Breakfast to Eat to Lower Cholesterol, Says Dietitian

You’re not getting enough dietary fiber. Make the morning meal count.

If you're looking for an easy lifestyle change that'll have a major positive impact on lowering your cholesterol, look to your pantry. Way back behind the boxes of Corn Flakes, granola, and Pop-Tarts, you'll likely find the holy grail of good health and low cholesterol: a tall canister of rolled oats.

Before you roll your eyes and grab a bagel, consider what you know or may not realize about oatmeal, arguably "the number one best breakfast to eat to lower your cholesterol," says Amber Ingram, RD, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Oatmeal gives you the largest amount of soluble fiber per serving at three to four grams and has been shown in studies to help lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol by almost 10% if eaten daily."

How the fiber in oatmeal helps lower cholesterol

oatmeal with apples
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Soluble fiber, one of two types of dietary fiber, is water-soluble, meaning it soaks up water as it passes through your digestive system. That increases the bulk of your stool, so you won't get constipated and, research suggests, decreases the so-called "bad" LDL cholesterol levels in your bloodstream.

The other fiber, insoluble fiber, goes through your intestines unchanged and helps with the digestive process, too. We need both types. The American Heart Association recommends we get 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day from a variety of food sources but says the average American consumes only about 15 grams per day.

A meta-analysis of 243 studies on dietary fiber published in The Lancet in 2019 backs up that recommendation. It found a "very strong relationship" between higher fiber intake and such health benefits as lower body weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugars as well as reduced risk of dying from heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. And check out this Surprising Side Effect of Eating More Fiber, According to Science.

The best oatmeal breakfast for lower cholesterol

"Breakfast is a perfect way to start the day out right, as you have an opportunity to choose many plant-based options [for fiber] to help lower LDL 'bad' cholesterol and raise HDL 'good' cholesterol," says Ingram. "Soluble fiber is found in the skin, peels, and husks of whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables."

Simplifying breakfast with an easy-to-make bowl of hot oatmeal is a habit that reaps huge health benefits, Ingram says. She suggests making the meal even better (and tastier) by topping your bowl with walnuts (they contain plant-based omega-3s) and blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries (for more fiber and antioxidants). One small study found that people who ate just 3 grams of soluble fiber from oats twice daily experienced an 8% reduction in total cholesterol and an 11% drop in LDL cholesterol in a 28-day period. Some of those oat-based meals were lunches and snacks.

While a simple bowl of oatmeal with fruit is Ingram's go-to cholesterol-busting breakfast, she suggests these healthy options for variety:

  • Overnight oats with chia seeds or ground flaxseeds
  • Whey protein or nonfat Greek yogurt smoothies made with fruit
  • Wholegrain avocado toast
  • High-fiber English muffin with 1 tablespoon of almond butter
  • Homemade blueberry oat muffins
  • High-fiber cold cereal with plant-based milk

The best eating patterns to lower cholesterol

To help lower cholesterol even more through diet, Ingram says we should choose a plant-based eating style that's low in saturated fats and contains more omega-3 fats, like those found in fatty fish. Limit animal products like beef, pork, veal, and lamb, fatty deli meats like salami, bologna, and ham, and full-fat dairy, she says. Also, avoid the trans fats often found in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in ultra-processed and commercial baked goods such as pastries, cookies, donuts, and muffins.

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    Jeff Csatari
    Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more