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Hot Mush for Your Heart
It looks like those corny commercials touting the magical cholesterol-zapping powers of oatmeal aren't just marketing hype after all...
Love it or loathe it, oatmeal’s got serious heart-protecting power. A new research review published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine shows that the mushy stuff may pack even more cholesterol-lowering benefits than were established in 1997 (the year the FDA approved that health claim’s appearance on food labels).
For the review, researchers checked out seven studies (all published in the last 15 years) on oatmeal’s health effects. Without exception, the studies demonstrated that total cholesterol levels are reduced through oat consumption. What’s more, the findings also revealed that eating oatmeal regularly may lessen risk of high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes, prevent weight gain, reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol during weight loss and deliver compounds that help stave off early hardening of the arteries.
So oatmeal works... but just exactly how? Well... according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, a natural LDL-fighter also found in foods like kidney beans, brussels sprouts, apples, pears, psyllium, barley and prunes.
- Soluble fiber appears to reduce the absorption of cholesterol in your intestines. Gel-like soluble fiber binds bile (which contains cholesterol) and dietary cholesterol so that the body excretes it.
- Five to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day decreases LDL cholesterol by about 5 percent. Eating 1.5 cups of cooked oatmeal provides 4.5 grams of fiber — enough to lower your cholesterol.
If you get tired of forking in the hot mush each morning, try mixing it up by eating oat bran, or a cold cereal made with oatmeal or oatbran. Or, make your own easy oat flour by grinding rolled oats in a blender or food processor. Use them to add a heart-healthy kick of flavor to your baked goods (side benefit: oats contain natural preservatives that help extend the shelf life of whatever you add them to). Because oats have no gluten (necessary for making bread rise), to use them in a bread, you must mix them with a gluten-y flour like wheat — just substitute one of every five parts of wheat flour with oat flour. Or, work them into your favorite gluten-free recipes.