If your doctor has ever told you that you have high cholesterol, they likely gave you specific instructions on the types of foods to eat to lower it. Maybe a high-fiber cereal, nuts and seeds, legumes, fibrous fruits and vegetables, and of course, whole grains. One of the whole grains that's likely on the list is oatmeal, which studies do show can help lower your cholesterol.
And yet, while oatmeal can help with lowering LDL "bad" cholesterol, there is one particular type of oatmeal that is known as a cholesterol-fighting powerhouse that you should stock up on during your next grocery run, and that's steel cut oats.
"Whole grain oats contain soluble fiber which helps to lower cholesterol," says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and a member of our medical expert board. "Steel-cut oats, in particular, can help to lower cholesterol and are high in soluble fiber."
According to a 2015 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, whole-grain oats are known to be the best whole grain for lowering LDL cholesterol numbers. Harvard Health specifically points out how diets that feature whole-grain oats are superior to diets just focusing on whole-grain products, causing average cholesterol levels to drop by 6.5 points.
While rolled-cut oats (also known as "old fashioned" oats) are the more popular variety to buy and cook, grabbing a bag of steel-cut oats can result in a positive response for anyone looking to lower their cholesterol numbers. Having lower numbers is particularly important given that a build-up of cholesterol can clog your arteries increase your risk of developing heart disease.
Preparing steel-cut oats
Given that steel-cut oats are a rawer form of the natural oat grain, they do take a bit longer to cook. However, Young has a specific trick up her sleeve that can make a delicious bowl of steel-cut oats in the morning and also provide you with the soluble fiber that helps lower your cholesterol.
"I love the steel-cut oats—also called Irish oats—mixed with water or unsweetened vanilla-flavored plant milk," says Young. "For an added health boost, I love to add sliced apples before cooking which gives the oatmeal a yummy flavor and the apples taste almost like apple pie. I top with ground flax seeds and walnuts. All of these foods are great for heart health as they are high in fiber."
To cook your steel-cut oats, simply add one part oats to three parts water (so one cup of steel-cut oats should cook in three cups of water, or a mix of water and plant-based milk) and should cook for about 20 to 30 minutes—or until the oats are tender. Some oat lovers will actually soak their steel-cut oats beforehand overnight to soften them up, making the cooking process a lot faster in the morning.
Also, be sure to stir in the gel-like substance you see when cooking your oats—this is the soluble fiber at work, and the important nutrient in your oats that helps lower cholesterol.
If you make a large pot of steel-cut oats for meal prep, you can easily heat up a bowl in the microwave for one or two minutes, stirring in some liquid to soften up the texture (like water or plant-based milk) and keep the oats from drying out.
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