Lower Your Cholesterol With Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Nutrition Experts Share Their Favorite Cholesterol-Lowering Tips

Adopting a low-cholesterol diet after a lifetime of routine can be very challenging. But rather than thinking you need to change everything all at once, you can start with one small change—they add up. Here, nutrition experts share their number one tips for beginning a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Steel cut oatmeal under a light
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Start Eating Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Eat oatmeal to lower cholesterol levels, recommends Karen Graham, RD, owner of Integrative Nutrition Consultants in Scottsdale, Arizona. "I have been very successful in lowering cholesterol in many of my clients. Many of them have been able to go off of their medications—or never had to start them. I have them eat ½ cup of steel-cut oats five days a week for six weeks. That's all it takes!"

Regular rolled oats and steel-cut oats are virtually identical nutritionally. Both contain beta-glucan, "a type of fiber that binds to cholesterol in the body and removes it," says Graham. In fact, studies show that both soluble and insoluble beta-glucans are effective enough at lowering cholesterol that they may be developed as a therapy to treat patients with high cholesterol.

The main difference between the two types of oats is how they're processed: with steel-cut oats, the oat groats are sliced by a mechanical blade, resulting in a slow-cooking, nutty-tasting chewy oatmeal. Rolled oats, by contrast, are made by steaming the oat groat and then rolling it flat, yielding a faster cooking time and softer texture.

Both steel-cut and rolled oats have another boon, compared to instant oatmeal: they digest slowly, resulting in only a small to moderate rise in your blood sugar, according to a 2015 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Brainstorm Better Choices

"List 16 of your favorite plant-based foods," recommends Carol Ireton-Jones, Ph.D., RD, LD, nutrition therapy consultant in Carrollton, Texas. Remember to include all types of plant-based foods, from fruits and vegetables to legumes and whole grains. "By listing what you like, you can identify things that you can eat in place of processed foods and fats, providing an easy way to decrease cholesterol and fat intake." In fact, studies have shown that an increased intake of processed foods, specifically processed meats (a primary source of saturated fat) are linked to increased risk of mortality.

Select Whole, Unprocessed Foods

"Eat whole, real foods and avoid packaged processed foods, which contain added sugars, sweeteners and omega-6 oils that all contribute to increased inflammation in the body, which can, in turn, increase cholesterol levels," says Susan Dopart, Nutrition Consultant in Santa Monica, California, and author of A Recipe for Life by the Doctor's Dietitian. Research has also shown that a higher omega-6 intake also counteracts the healthy effects of omega-3 fatty acids.

Add in Beans

Start eating beans regularly, recommends Jan Patenaude, RD, CLT, Director of Medical Nutrition for Signet Diagnostic Corporation. "Years ago, people who thought they were on a cholesterol-lowering diet but weren't experiencing success sure got their levels to go down once they added beans and nuts to their diets on a daily basis," she says.

4 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. Sima P, Vannucci L, Vetvicka V. β-glucans and cholesterol (Review)Int J Mol Med. 2018;41(4):1799–1808. doi:10.3892/ijmm.2018.3411

  2. Tosh SM, Chu Y. Systematic review of the effect of processing of whole-grain oat cereals on glycaemic response. Br J Nutr. 2015;114(8):1256-62. doi:10.1017/S0007114515002895

  3. O'Sullivan TA, Hafekost K, Mitrou F, Lawrence D. Food sources of saturated fat and the association with mortality: a meta-analysisAm J Public Health. 2013;103(9):e31–e42. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301492

  4. Innes JK, Calder PC. Omega-6 fatty acids and inflammation. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2018;132:41-48. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2018.03.004

Additional Reading

By Ellen Slotkin, RD, LDN
Ellen Slotkin is a registered dietitian specializing in heart-healthy nutrition, weight management, and pregnancy nutrition.