the oat bran craze? In the late 1980s, several published studies
touting the benefits of oat bran for lowering cholesterol had health
professionals singing its praises.

companies introduced oats galore…oat bran garlic bread, oat bran
muffins, oat bran animal cookies, oat bran brownies, etc, etc

10 years later research has actually shown that oats claim to fame actually holds merit.

Regular oatmeal consumption lowers total cholesterol as well as “bad” — LDL — cholesterol, with no adverse effects on the “good”
— HDL cholesterol. It also has the potential to reduce inflammation,
one of the first steps in the development of atherosclerosis.

Most studies point to beta-glucan
— the soluble fiber in oat bran that gives cooked oats their gluey
texture — as the likely active agent in cholesterol reduction. Part of
the mechanism has to do with bile, a cholesterol-rich fluid that helps
the body digest fats..

Whole oats also contain polyphenols,
a class of antioxidant compounds found in all kinds of plant foods
(including berries, tea, wine and chocolate) that may play an
additional role in keeping the heart healthy. Avenanthramides, polyphenols
unique to oats, have been shown — at least in a cell culture dish —
to interfere with inflammation, a key step in the development of
arterial plaque.

Weight loss lowers cholesterol too — but oats plus weight loss seem to do it even better.

If you want to add oats to your diet, basic breakfast oatmeal is the best way to start — you can choose from various types:

oats (chopped whole oat groats with only the tough outer husk removed)
are 100% whole grain, as are old-fashioned rolled oats in which the
groats have been steamed, rolled and flaked.

oats (thinner flakes that cook in only a minute or two) are 100% whole
grain, too. And even though instant oatmeal doesn’t qualify for the
100% whole grain moniker because it typically has salt and flavoring
added, it can still provide nearly the same amount of healthful soluble

you still prefer oat bran, consider adding it to your whole grain oat
cereal in the morning, since science tells us bran is only part of the
oat story. As with all other plant foods, the complex mixture in the whole food offers much more than its individual parts.

Submitted by Sherri Meyer, MS, RD

Adapted from: Susan Bowerman, RD & assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.