Heart Health

Could a Fiber Found in Oatmeal Be the Secret Weapon to Lowering Cholesterol?

After being diagnosed with high cholesterol, Pamela Carden found a natural way to lower her numbers by more than 100 points.

“Count me in!” Pamela Carden enthused when the insurance company she worked for offered free health screenings, promising gift cards and cash to any employee who improved their blood work. From past screenings, the Portland, Oregon, native knew her cholesterol ran a bit high, but when her labs came back this time, she stared at the numbers in shock. Her total cholesterol was dangerously high at 279— and her blood sugar was also abnormally elevated.

“You really need to get it under control…right away,” urged the nurse who delivered her results. And with fear icing her veins, Pamela vowed to do just that. My life literally depends on it, she gulped.

The nurse suggested that Pamela see a doctor about starting cholesterol-lowering medication, but Pamela had always preferred to take a natural approach to her health and first made an appointment with a naturopath to explore her options. “Beta-glucan, a special type of fiber, has been shown to dramatically lower cholesterol,” the naturopath told Pamela, explaining that it’s found in various plants, cereal grains and mushrooms. Along with improving cholesterol, she added, it lowers blood-sugar levels and boosts the body’s immunity. “You can take a supplement, but a great, inexpensive source of beta-glucan is oatmeal,” the naturopath told her. Ew! I hate oatmeal, Pamela cringed. But after researching more, Pamela discovered that oatmeal not only contains beta-glucan, but it’s also rich in soluble fiber, which reduces the absorption of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, into the bloodstream. I should at least try it, she resolved and began eating oatmeal every morning for breakfast.

Not wanting the refined sugars found in many flavored varieties, she bought rolled and steel-cut oats and jazzed up the taste by adding blueberries, cinnamon and almond milk. She even created oatmeal dishes for dinner, adding mushrooms, kale and spices.

Soon, Pamela noticed that she had more energy, so she began walking every day and lifting weights. She also started avoiding processed foods and focused on eating more fresh fruit, veggies, beans and salads.

To her delight, Pamela felt better and better, and when, after three months, she went back for her follow-up blood work, the nurse was shocked: Pamela’s cholesterol had dropped to a healthy 167, and her blood sugar was normal. “You don’t see this often without medication!” the nurse marveled.

Pamela’s bosses were just as impressed, awarding her a $225 Amazon gift card plus $200 in cash for her efforts. But the real reward, the 54-year-old says, is her newfound health. And today, nearly a year later, she still eats oatmeal daily…and she’s dropped 40 pounds. “I’m amazed that a simple breakfast food had such a powerful impact!” beams Pamela. “It saved my life!”

3 Healthy Benefits of Oatmeal

Increases energy: Enjoying a serving of oatmeal daily can slash risk of fatigue by 42 percent, say Canadian doctors. Oats’ soluble fiber wards off energy-draining blood-sugar lows by prodding tissues to release stored glucose.

Deepens sleep: A cup of oats daily can cut the risk of restless sleep by 50 percent, say Canadian researchers. It brims with nutrients that kick-start production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that soothes a hyper brain so you stay in deep, restful sleep.

Speeds slimming: Adding 1⁄2 cup of oatmeal to your daily diet can boost your weight loss by 50 percent, say UCLA scientists. The reason? Oatmeal compounds turn on detox enzymes in belly fat to help the body eliminate metabolism-slowing hormones.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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