When considering foods to eat on a low-cholesterol diet, much emphasis is placed on consuming less animal meat and more fruits and vegetables. However, grains are usually an afterthought in a cholesterol-lowering meal plan. But when you’re trying to lower your cholesterol, the types of grains you consume could also impact your cholesterol levels.
Bread, as well as other types of grains, contains varying amounts of carbohydrates. While carbohydrates are needed to provide our bodies with the energy it needs, too much may not be good for your heart health, either. Studies have linked the high consumption of carbohydrates to high triglycerides levels and lowered HDL, or “good,” cholesterol levels –- not to mention weight gain. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, your carbohydrate intake should not exceed 60% of your total daily calories.
Selecting the right types of grains to eat on a cholesterol-lowering meal plan is important to keep your cholesterol levels within a healthy range. In some cases, it may even help slightly lower your cholesterol.
When planning meals for your cholesterol-lowering diet, it is important to select whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals and to avoid refined, processed grains, which would include foods like egg noodle, white bread, pastries, muffins, and crackers. Here are some tips to help you select the right types of grains to consume when following 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 also help slightly lower your cholesterol. You could 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 decide to try it.
- Other grains are also healthy, too, so you don’t need to limit yourself to bread and pasta. Have you tried adding couscous, legumes, and whole grain rice to your meals? These are excellent low-fat, high-fiber foods that can taste great with many dishes. These foods can also help you manage your cholesterol.
- Watch what you add to your grains. You might think that they may not taste as great by themselves, but adding some condiments could hurt your cholesterol-lowering diet. This would include high-fat spreads, creams, and butter.
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.
Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 3rd ed 2005.