Does Eating Oatmeal Lower Cholesterol?

Learn more about the link between oatmeal and cholesterol reduction: delve into the science behind beta-glucans and discover the impact on your heart health. Learn how this can improve your long-term well-being.

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By Staff Writer
Lucia Gcingca
Edited by Lucia Gcingca

Published March 20, 2024.

A woman dishing up a bowl of oatmeal from a pot, on a kitchen counter.

A simple and delicious breakfast option, oatmeal is known for its comforting taste and heart-health benefits. Made from the whole grain Avena sativa, it undergoes some processing to create the familiar flakes used in smoothies and flour.

Oats offer a range of nutritional benefits. Studies show that eating them notably lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) blood levels, known risk factors for heart disease. [1] Let’s dive into the reasons behind this effect.

How oatmeal lowers cholesterol naturally

Oatmeal's heart-healthy benefits come from its high content of beta-glucan, a viscous soluble fiber. [2] A single serving—half a cup of dry oats—provides around 2 grams of this beneficial fiber.

Unlike other nutrients, fiber passes through our digestive system mostly intact. Soluble types like beta-glucan form a gel-like substance as they absorb water, which plays a key role in lowering cholesterol.

Beta-glucan affects cholesterol

To understand how beta-glucan impacts cholesterol, let's look at bile, a digestive fluid stored in the gallbladder. The liver uses cholesterol to aid in fat breakdown. [3]

This gel created by beta-glucan in the intestines acts like a trap. It binds to bile, preventing its reabsorption into the body. This forces the bile to be excreted through waste, prompting the liver to produce more bile. To make this new bile, the liver pulls cholesterol from the blood, ultimately lowering overall levels.

Note: Strong scientific evidence backs beta-glucan's effectiveness. The FDA even allows oat product manufacturers to advertise their heart-healthy properties due to this fiber's cholesterol-lowering abilities. [4]

» Want to learn more about heart health? Uncover the two faces of cholesterol

How much does eating oats lower your cholesterol?

Oat consumption is well-studied for its cholesterol-lowering effects, though the exact impact varies. This likely stems from differences in study designs, such as oat serving size, form—flakes and flour—and research duration.

Research generally shows a 4-10% reduction in total and LDL cholesterol with daily fiber intake, less than medications like statins. [5] But oats offer a safe, affordable, and dietary approach to managing it.

 How quickly does oatmeal lower cholesterol? 

Initial cholesterol reduction from daily oatmeal intake may be seen within four to six weeks, based on studies [7, 10]. But, consistency is crucial for long-term management.

Checking your cholesterol with InsideTracker

Getting a cholesterol test every three to six months allows you to see how those dietary changes impact your blood cholesterol levels.

Plus, personalized services like InsideTracker can provide deeper insights into specific biomarkers, offering a more comprehensive understanding of your unique physiology and guiding you toward targeted improvements in your health and well-being.

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How much oatmeal you need to lower cholesterol

To achieve the FDA's recommended 3 grams of beta-glucan for LDL cholesterol reduction, aim for 1.5 servings—three-quarters of a cup or 60 grams—of dry oats daily. This aligns with research suggesting 40-100 grams/day for benefits. The impact of less frequent intake remains unclear. [5, 8]

» Discover the benefits of oatmeal for lowering glucose

Different types of oatmeal

Oats come in different varieties and are processed to varying degrees for palatability and cooking ease. [12] These are:

  • Steel-cut: Steel-cut oats are the least processed type. A steel blade cuts the groat into two to three pieces. They are chewy in texture and require soaking and extended cooking. 
  • Rolled: Rather than cutting the groats into pieces, the oats are steamed, pressed with a roller, and then dried. This significantly reduces cooking time with no soaking required and provides a creamy texture. 
  • Instant: Similarly to rolled oats, instant go through the same processing, but for a longer period. And they become even thinner. As a result, they absorb water easily and cook very quickly. 

» Check out how to lower cholesterol without medication

What type of oatmeal is best for lowering cholesterol?

All three oat varieties—rolled, steel-cut, and instant—are considered whole grains and contain similar amounts of beta-glucan fiber. Steel-cut oats may have slightly more due to minimal processing. [13]

Some research suggests processing and preparation methods might influence how beta-glucan works in the body, but more studies are needed for confirmation. Additionally, variations in oat products and how they're consumed make it difficult to pinpoint the exact impact. [10,14]

Note: It's currently unclear if and how the type of oat impacts its ability to lower cholesterol.

What’s the best way to prepare oatmeal to help lower cholesterol?

How you prepare a daily bowl of oatmeal can either boost the nutritional value of that meal or leave your taste buds bland and your stomach unsatisfied. Here are a few ways to help spruce up your meal:

1. Increasing fiber oatmeal's fiber count

Although oatmeal already contains fiber, there are several foods you can mix add to increase that fiber count, such as:

  • Fresh or frozen fruits (berries, bananas, apples)
  • Chia seeds 
  • Ground flax meal
  • Pumpkin puree 

2. Adding protein and healthy fats to your oatmeal

Proteins are key nutrients that help prevent blood sugar spikes, boost satiety after meals, and fight inflammation. These effects also influence heart health. [15,16] 

  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, hemp, sunflower, etc.)
  • Nut/seed butter (peanut butter, almond butter, sun butter)
  • Milk or milk alternative (soy and cow’s milk offer the most protein per serving)
  • Protein powder (mix in a scoop of your protein powder)

3. Adding healthy flavoring agents to oatmeal

Consider adding the following spices or extracts to enhance the flavor of your oats further:

  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Ginger
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Vanilla extract
  • Almond extract

Note: While pre-portioned oatmeal packages are convenient, they often include high amounts of added sugar and salt. Instead, opt for plain oats—in instant single-serve packets—and add the above flavorings. 

What if you don't like oats?

If oatmeal isn't your breakfast of choice, there are many other ways to incorporate oats into your diet and still reap their heart-healthy benefits. You can also blend oats into your smoothies, mix them into baked goods, or make snack bars.

»Explore the five best recipes for improving glucose and cholesterol

Oatmeal: a side-effect-free way to promote heart health

Overwhelming evidence supports the cholesterol-lowering benefits of oatmeal. Its magic ingredient, beta-glucan fiber, plays a key role in reducing LDL type.

While the exact impact may vary depending on factors like oat type and preparation, incorporating a daily serving of ¾ cup—60 grams—of dry oats is a safe, delicious, and side-effect-free way to promote heart health. Remember, consistency is crucial for long-term benefits, so find a way to incorporate oats into your diet that works for you.

For a more personalized approach, consider using InsideTracker. The Ultimate plan analyzes your biomarkers and provides science-backed nutrition plans to optimize your health. It will help you understand how your body responds to oatmeal and other cholesterol-lowering foods, helping you to tailor your diet.


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[2] S. A. Joyce, A. Kamil, L. Fleige, and C. G. M. Gahan, “The Cholesterol-Lowering Effect of oats and oat Beta glucan: modes of action and potential role of bile acids and the microbiome,” Frontiers in Nutrition, vol. 6, Nov. 2019, doi: 10.3389/fnut.2019.00171. Available:

[3] “Food labeling: health claims; soluble dietary fiber from certain foods and coronary heart disease,” Federal Register, Oct. 02, 2002. Available:

[4] “FoodData Central.” Available:

[5] H. V. T. Ho et al., “The effect of oatβ-glucan on LDL-cholesterol, non-HDL-cholesterol and apoB for CVD risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised-controlled trials,” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 116, no. 8, pp. 1369–1382, Oct. 2016, doi: 10.1017/s000711451600341x. Available:

[6] J. Zhang et al., “Randomized controlled trial of oatmeal consumption versus noodle consumption on blood lipids of urban Chinese adults with hypercholesterolemia,” Nutrition Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, Aug. 2012, doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-11-54. Available:

[7] X. Li et al., “Short- and Long-Term Effects of Wholegrain oat intake on weight management and glucolipid metabolism in overweight type-2 diabetics: a randomized control trial,” Nutrients, vol. 8, no. 9, p. 549, Sep. 2016, doi: 10.3390/nu8090549. Available:

[8] J. Schuster, G. Benincá, R. Vitorazzi, and S. M. D. Bosco, “EFFECTS OF OATS ON LIPID PROFILE, INSULIN RESISTANCE AND WEIGHT LOSS.,” PubMed, vol. 32, no. 5, pp. 2111–6, Nov. 2015, doi: 10.3305/nh.2015.32.5.9590. Available:

[9] P. L. Hollænder, A. B. Ross, and M. Kristensen, “Whole-grain and blood lipid changes in apparently healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 102, no. 3, pp. 556–572, Sep. 2015, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.109165. Available:

[10] M. Henrion, C. Francey, K. Lê, and L. Lamothe, “Cereal B-Glucans: The impact of processing and how it affects physiological responses,” Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 8, p. 1729, Jul. 2019, doi: 10.3390/nu11081729. Available:

[11] “CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.” Available:

[12] E. A. Decker, D. J. Rose, and D. Stewart, “Processing of oats and the impact of processing operations on nutrition and health benefits,” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 112, no. S2, pp. S58–S64, Sep. 2014, doi: 10.1017/s000711451400227x. Available:

[13] “FoodData Central.” Available:

[14] M. M. -l. Grundy, A. Fardet, S. M. Tosh, G. T. Rich, and P. J. Wilde, “Processing of oat: the impact on oat’s cholesterol lowering effect,” Food & Function, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 1328–1343, Jan. 2018, doi: 10.1039/c7fo02006f. Available:

[15] M. S. Westerterp-Plantenga, S. G. T. Lemmens, and K. R. Westerterp, “Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health,” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 108, no. S2, pp. S105–S112, Aug. 2012, doi: 10.1017/s0007114512002589. Available:

[16] F. M. Sacks et al., “Dietary fats and cardiovascular Disease: A presidential advisory from the American Heart Association,” Circulation, vol. 136, no. 3, Jul. 2017, doi: 10.1161/cir.0000000000000510. Available: