Which Grains to Eat on a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet

When you're considering foods to eat on a cholesterol-lowering diet, it's likely that you focus mainly on consuming less animal meat and more fruits and vegetables. Eating grains is probably an afterthought since they don't contain much if any fat. But you may be surprised to learn that, when you’re trying to lower your cholesterol, the types of grains you eat can make a difference in your results.

Bread with heart shape cut out on table
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Carbohydrates and Your Heart Health

You need carbohydrates to provide your body with the energy it needs. However, according to the National Cholesterol Education Program, your carbohydrate intake should not exceed 60% of your total daily calories. Too much carbohydrate in your diet may not be good for your heart.

Studies have linked the high consumption of carbohydrates to high levels of triglycerides (a type of fat found throughout the body), lower levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol, and weight gain.

As you can see, choosing the right types of grains to eat on a cholesterol-lowering meal plan is important for keeping your cholesterol levels within a healthy range. It may even help lower your cholesterol slightly.

Which Grains Are Best

When planning meals for your cholesterol-lowering diet, it's important to select whole grain bread, pasta, and cereals and to avoid refined, processed grains, which are found in foods like egg noodles, white bread, pastries, muffins, and crackers.

But that doesn't mean you have to take all the fun out of eating! You can prepare many different and delicious meals and snacks using heart-healthy grains. Here are some tips to help you choose the healthiest types of grains to eat on a cholesterol-lowering diet:

  • Switch your regular pasta to whole-wheat pasta. These types of pasta are higher in nutritional value than refined grains and contain higher amounts of fiber (especially soluble fiber) which can help lower your cholesterol.
  • Are you still eating white bread? Try switching to whole-wheat or whole-grain varieties. These types of bread are also high in fiber, which can help lower your cholesterol. You might also try low-carbohydrate varieties of bread, but make sure that you check out the fat and fiber content on the food nutrition label before you make your choice.
  • Other grains can be healthy, too, so you don’t need to limit yourself to whole-wheat bread and pasta. Have you tried adding couscous, legumes like soybeans and lentils, and whole-grain rice to your meals? These are excellent low-fat, high-fiber foods that can taste great with many dishes. And, again, they can help you manage your cholesterol.
  • Watch what you add to your grains! If you slather a high-fat sauce over your whole-wheat pasta, you'll cancel out the pasta's cholesterol-lowering benefits. You don't have to eat your healthy grains unadorned; just be sure to keep things in balance by checking the fat content of the condiments, spreads, and sauces you eat with them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is brown rice good for cholesterol?

    Yes, brown rice is good for cholesterol. One study showed that regularly eating brown rice can help lower LDL cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol increase the risk of multiple health conditions, including heart attack and stroke. If you are seeking to maintain a reduced-cholesterol diet, try replacing white rice with brown rice.

  • Is sourdough bread good for cholesterol?

    Sourdough bread may be good for cholesterol in some people. In one study, participants saw a reduction in serum cholesterol from sourdough bread, while others did not see meaningful effects. In another study, people with the APOE E3/E3 genotype experienced heightened LDL cholesterol from eating sourdough bread, making it a potentially poor choice for high cholesterol in these participants. It may be best to speak to your healthcare provider for their recommendations on which bread you should eat to manage cholesterol.

  • Is couscous high in fiber?

    One serving of whole-grain couscous contains a healthy amount of fiber. It also contains healthy amounts of protein, and is a good substitute for white rice. Whole-grain couscous, whole-grain rice, soybeans, and lentils are all great options for managing cholesterol.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Jung CH, Choi KM. Impact of high-carbohydrate diet on metabolic parameters in patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutrients. 2017;9(4). doi:10.3390/nu9040322

  3. Cooper DN, Kable ME, Marco ML, et al. The Effects of Moderate Whole Grain Consumption on Fasting Glucose and Lipids, Gastrointestinal Symptoms, and Microbiota. Nutrients. 2017;9(2). doi:10.3390/nu9020173

  4. Dixit AA, Azar KM, Gardner CD, Palaniappan LP. Incorporation of whole, ancient grains into a modern Asian Indian diet to reduce the burden of chronic disease. Nutr Rev. 2011;69(8):479-88. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00411.x

  5. Malik VS, Sudha V, Wedick NM, et al. Substituting brown rice for white rice on diabetes risk factors in India: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2019;121(12):1389-1397. doi:10.1017/S000711451900076X

  6. Lau SW, Chong AQ, Chin NL, Talib RA, Basha RK. Sourdough microbiome comparison and benefitsMicroorganisms. 2021;9(7):1355 doi:10.3390/microorganisms9071355

  7. Tucker A, MacKay K, Robinson L, et al. The effect of whole grain wheat sourdough bread consumption on serum lipids in healthy normoglycemic/normoinsulinemic and hyperglycemic/hyperinsulinemic adults depends on presence of the APOE E3/E3 genotype: a randomized controlled trialNutr Metab (Lond). 2010;7(1):37. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-7-37

Additional Reading

By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.