It all started with whole grain oat cereal. They were one of the first food products to start using the health claim highlighting the connection between foods that contain soluble fiber from oats and heart health. There are many foods that contain soluble fiber, including fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains, especially whole grains. This specific type of fiber can lower blood cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a diet that includes healthy fat sources.
In total, Americans are advised to get between 20-35 grams of fiber per day, with at least 5-10 grams of soluble fiber included. The average American gets about half that amount. Whole grains, as half your grain servings, help achieve these values and provide other valuable nutrients at the same time.
One particularly compelling study by Italy’s National Research Council showed healthy middle-age adults who ate whole grains instead of refined grains lowered their total cholesterol by 4.3% and “bad” LDL cholesterol by 4.9% (3). This study was well designed. The fifteen whole grain participant’s diets were calorically equal to the control group who ate refined grains. The two group’s switched diets after a two week “washout” break period between controlled diets. In both instances, the whole grain groups showed improved cholesterol levels on the whole grain diet.
Don’t forget to go for a jog or pump some iron either! Exercise is one way to improve your cholesterol or HDL High-Density Lipoprotein (also known as "The Good Cholesterol") values that are protective to your heart.
If you’re looking to improve your cholesterol values, boosting your whole grains would be an excellent way to get started! Make half your grains whole every day!
1. Oldways Whole Grain Council. (n.d.) Whole Grain Myths (Brochure). Retrieved August 24, 2017 from https://wholegrainscouncil.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/WGC_MythsBusted.pdf
2. Masters, R. C., Liese, A. D., Haffner, S. M., Wagenknecht, L. E., & Hanley, A. J. (2010). Whole and Refined Grain Intakes Are Related to Inflammatory Protein Concentrations in Human Plasma. The Journal of Nutrition, 140(3), 587–594. http://doi.org/10.3945/jn.109.116640
3. Giacco, R., Clemente, G., Cipriano, D., Luongo, D., Viscovo, D., Patti, L., . . . Riccardi, G. (2010). Effects of the regular consumption of wholemeal wheat foods on cardiovascular risk factors in healthy people. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases,20(3), 186-194. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2009.03.025