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Refined Versus Whole Grains: Which Are Better For Your Cholesterol?


Updated October 29, 2010

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Refined Versus Whole Grains: Which Are Better For Your Cholesterol?

Selecting the right kinds of grains can be important when following a low cholesterol diet.

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Question: Refined Versus Whole Grains: Which Are Better For Your Cholesterol?
There are two main types of grains: refined grains and whole grains.
Answer: Grains are an important component of a cholesterol-lowering diet. In fact, the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that no more than 60% of your daily caloric intake should consist of grains. But which grains should you consume while trying to lower your cholesterol? There are two main types of grains, however they are not created equally. While some grains may be considered cholesterol-friendly, there are other types of grains that may actually sabotage your cholesterol.

Whole Grains Lower Cholesterol

These products are not processed, and are milled to contain the entire part of the grain. Whole grain breads and pastas usually have a darker color and may or may not have additional nutrients, such as iron or folate, added to them. Whole grains are also high in soluble fiber, which can help you to lower your cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol in small intestine and preventing its absorption into the bloodstream. There are many whole grain products on the market – ranging from whole wheat pastas to brown rice. They are usually designated by the label “whole grain” or “whole wheat” on the packaging.

Refined Grains: Eat Less of These

These grains have been processed, or “refined” by removing the coarser parts of the grain. By removing this part of the grain, unfortunately, you are also removing fiber and other nutrients. These products are usually higher in carbohydrates than their whole grain counterparts, which can increase your triglycerides and lower good cholesterol levels, or HDL. In addition being higher in carbohydrates, these processed grains may also have salt, iron, or other nutrients added to the product. Foods that contain refined grains include:
  • Egg noodles
  • White breads
  • ”Instant” grains, including instant oatmeal and cereal
  • White rice
  • Pastries, like donuts and croissants


Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 3rd ed 2005.

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, The National Institutes of Heath: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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