How Oatmeal Lowers Cholesterol for Heart Health

A morning bowl of oatmeal can give you benefits towards heart health, including lowering your cholesterol. Oatmeal is made of ground oats that can be made into a variety of foods, including porridges, cookies, and snacks. Studies also have shown that oatmeal has some heart-healthy benefits. This is mainly due to the rich source of water-soluble dietary fibers, particularly beta-glucan, that are found in oatmeal.

Berries and oats in a bowl with a spoon
Brandon Dimcheff / Getty Images

Over the years, there have been many research studies that have proven the benefits of oatmeal in lowering cholesterol levels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is convinced. Oatmeal was one of the first foods to carry the heart healthy distinction on its label because of promising research findings.

How Oatmeal Helps

It is thought that the oat fibers in the oatmeal mix with cholesterol in the small intestine, then bind to the cholesterol molecules and carry it out of the body instead of it being absorbed into the blood.

Oatmeal seems to be most effective in lowering LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) levels. According to the studies in adults, LDL cholesterol may be lowered by 10 percent in some cases. In these studies, anywhere between 40 and 60 grams (or roughly one bowl) of oatmeal was consumed by each subject per day. The cholesterol-lowering benefits of oatmeal are also dose-dependent. That is, the more oatmeal you eat, the lower your cholesterol will go.

Although oatmeal is helpful in lowering cholesterol, some of the ingredients placed in oatmeal may not be. These include butter, chocolate, whole milk, and cheese. Oatmeal may be used to make granola or snack bars, but often the resulting product is high in sugar and fat. Be sure to check the ingredients of oatmeal products and the fat content per serving if you want to achieve the full, cholesterol-lowering effect of oatmeal.

Instant Oatmeal Also Lowers Cholesterol

If you are looking for the cholesterol-lowering effects, instant oatmeal or quick-cooking oats do the job as well as steel-cut oats or rolled oats. They are still considered to be a whole grain. However, because these forms are made into very thin flakes that are quicker to digest, they have more of an effect on raising your blood glucose level. To prevent a rapid rise in your blood glucose, it's wise to have some lean protein or healthy fat with your instant oatmeal, such as low-fat milk or chopped nuts.

You must also be careful when buying packaged flavored instant oatmeal to note the ingredients. These forms often include sugar and flavorings which you may not want.

3 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.
  1. Food Labeling: Health Claims; Oats and Coronary Heart Disease. Federal Register.

  2. Grundy M, Fardet A, Tosh S, Rich G, Wilde P. Processing of oat: the impact on oat's cholesterol lowering effectFood Funct. 2018;9(3):1328-1343. doi:10.1039/c7fo02006f

  3. Tosh S, Chu Y. Systematic review of the effect of processing of whole-grain oat cereals on glycaemic responseBritish Journal of Nutrition. 2015;114(8):1256-1262. doi:10.1017/s0007114515002895

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.