What Happens to Your Cholesterol When You Eat Oatmeal — Eat This Not That

Oatmeal is notoriously touted as a natural way to lower your cholesterol. It’s true! However, it’s a bit more complex when you consider all the changes that occur to the different types of cholesterol in your body.

When you get your cholesterol lab work, you will be given four different numbers: LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.

These numbers all tell a different story. LDL is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol because it can be elevated in people with heart disease. Conversely, HDL is “good cholesterol” because it helps “clean” cholesterol in the body. Total cholesterol is a combined number of all types of cholesterol in the body. Finally, triglycerides are a type of fat found in the body that is often lumped together in cholesterol lab test results.

We’ve got you covered with a full breakdown of how oatmeal affects different cholesterol levels. Then, for more oatmeal tips, check out these 5 best oatmeal habits for lowering cholesterol.

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High cholesterol actually starts in your gut. When we consume a diet rich in whole grains, such as oats, a certain amount of cholesterol is bound during digestion.

Thus, this process lowers cholesterol because it is excreted instead of absorbed. Oats contain an important source of soluble fiber which helps to excrete cholesterol through digestion.

LDL cholesterol
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Soluble fiber acts as a “binder” to prevent “bad” cholesterol from being absorbed and circulating.

Choosing foods rich in soluble fiber such as oats, oatmeal and products containing oats changes the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the body.

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Total cholesterol numbers include all types of cholesterol in the body, good and bad!

Since LDL cholesterol makes up part of the total cholesterol level in the blood, total cholesterol also decreases with lower LDL values.

HDL cholesterol
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Foods high in soluble fiber have a significant impact on LDL cholesterol, but have virtually no direct impact on HDL cholesterol.

However, the ratio of good to bad cholesterol changes with a heart-healthy diet, and this plays a role in your total cholesterol and HDL, LDL ratio.

The higher the ratio, the higher your risk of heart disease. Most professionals consider a ratio of less than 5:1 to be considered healthy.

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Triglycerides, while not exactly cholesterol, are related because they are the most common source of fat in our bodies.

Triglycerides are often high due to excess dietary sugar, simple carbohydrates, and saturated fat. So, choosing fiber-rich carbohydrate sources can keep triglyceride levels from rising.

Choose foods like oats, beans, flax, whole grain breads and berries for high soluble fiber options in your diet to positively impact your cholesterol levels, including triglycerides!

READ MORE: 5 Best Oatmeal Habits For Lowering Cholesterol, Dietitians Say

Caroline Thomason, RDN

Caroline is a Women’s Health Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator based in Northern Virginia. Read more

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