Which Grains Should I Eat On a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet?

Carbs Are Key to Cholesterol-Lowering Success

Selecting the right kinds of grains can be important when following a low cholesterol diet. Credit: Jana Koll - stock.xchg

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.

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.

So, What Grains Are Best to Eat on a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet?

When planning meals for your cholesterol-lowering diet, it's important to select whole grain breads, pastas, 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 breads 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.  

    Sources:

    Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (PDF), July 2004, National Institutes of Heath: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

    Whitney E, Rolfes SR. "Understanding nutrition," 11th ed. Wadsworth Publishing (2007).

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