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Home » Cardiology » Good and bad cholesterol – and how oats can help manage it

Lynne Garton

Dietetic Advisor, HEART UK

Pictured above: Try Mornflake’s Pumpkin and Carrot Savoury Oats recipe at

Maintaining good heart health is important at any age and being aware of your cholesterol levels is an essential part of this. It’s tempting to think that high cholesterol-induced heart disease only affects people who are middle-aged or older but, according to experts, it’s never too early to adopt a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle to help look after your heart.

Lynne Garton, Dietetic Advisor at HEART UK, says: “Bad cholesterol builds up over time, and the longer it’s left untreated, the greater your risk of developing heart disease.

“Cholesterol is misunderstood by many. It’s usually seen as a negative thing; but, actually, it’s vital for our good health in order to make cell membranes, various hormones, certain vitamins and bile salts, which help to digest the fat we eat.

“The problems occur when we have too much so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol in our blood. This means any type of cholesterol other than high density lipoprotein (HDL) – aka ‘good’ cholesterol, which removes excess cholesterol from blood circulation.

“Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is the main carrier of cholesterol in our blood and it’s often called ‘bad’ cholesterol because, over time, it can build up in the arteries, causing them to clog up, which can then lead to a number of diseases of the heart and blood vessels, such as heart disease and stroke.”

Improve your cholesterol levels by eating healthily

While it’s true that you can’t change a number of factors that influence cholesterol levels – such as family history, age, ethnicity and gender – we can choose to eat better. That means cutting down on foods that are high in saturated fat such as fatty meat, meat products, pies, pastries, cakes and biscuits and instead eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, oily fish, healthy oils, pulses, nuts – and oats!

Oats are a wonderfully versatile super grain, renowned for packing a nutritious punch – high in fibre and a good source of protein, and some vitamins and minerals.

But did you know that oats are good for your heart, too?

“The high concentration of beta glucan fibre in oats works by forming a gel, which binds cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestines, preventing them from being reabsorbed back into the blood,” says Lynne.

“As a result, the liver has to take more LDL cholesterol out of the blood to make more bile, thus lowering blood cholesterol levels.”

So, whether you’re regularly tucking into oats or oatbran, rest assured you’ll be eating beta-glucan. The important thing is to make sure you’re eating enough of it.

Mornflake oats – the facts

One 40g portion of Mornflake Superfast Oats provides 1.5g of beta glucans from oats, which is 50% of the suggested daily amount. Beta-glucan is found in even greater concentrations in oatbran – the nutrient-dense outer layer of the grain that is removed when oats are milled. At Mornflake we use 340 years of know-how to extract more oatbran from our grain. Oatbran not only contains more B vitamins and iron than regular oats but also packs a greater amount of dietary fibre – including 50% more beta glucans.

The exceptionally high beta glucans content in oatbran (76% of the suggested daily amount in one 40g portion) helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels as well as actively lowering total LDL cholesterol – making it one of the most affordable and effective cholesterol-lowering foods available. It also happens to naturally be a nutritionally balanced food, that fits into the context of a healthy diet – low in saturated fat, no added sugar or salt and it is a source of protein.

“To achieve a cholesterol-lowering effect you’ll need to eat three grams of beta-glucan a day, with a portion needing to provide at least one gram,” says Lynne. “But that should be easy because oatbran can be used in a variety of ways. For example, it can be added to smoothies, baked products and sprinkled onto cereals. Oats, meanwhile, can be used as a replacement for flour, as a topping for yoghurts, and in fruit puddings and crumbles. These are very flexible ingredients.”

With over 340 years’ milling craft and expertise, Mornflake offers Superfast rolled porridge oats, Stoneground Oatmeal for savoury bites, and Mornflake Oatbran for wholesome bakes and healthy shakes. For inspiration on recipes with oats, visit or follow us on Instagram @mornflake.

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