I see a lot of overnight oatmeal in my future. My cholesterol levels were too high on my last visit to my doctor, and she threatened to put me on medication if I don’t lower my numbers by my next appointment. Message received! I’d much rather change my diet than take a pill for the rest of my life – so I’m on a quest to get my cholesterol under control, naturally!
Oatmeal has long been known as a superfood for lowering cholesterol. I’m happy to share my favorite recipe with you – and it’s a super easy overnight version! But first… the science!
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance that attaches itself to proteins in the blood called lipoproteins. There are several types of lipoproteins in your body, but your doctor will likely focus on two: Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) and High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL).
LDL’s are the bad ones and the ones that you want to reduce. As LDL’s circulate through your body through your bloodstream, they can be attracted to tiny little receptors in the artery walls and can get stuck there. The body thinks this is an injury, and sends white blood cells to the site to “repair” it – but they end up oxidizing the cells and hardening them. Ever hear the term “hardening of the arteries”? That’s what’s going on in this process (more formally know as Atherosclerosis). Your arteries get jammed up with these nasty clumps, reducing blood flow and increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke. No thank you!
You’ve probably heard of the “good cholesterol” too – these are the High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) and the ones you want to increase in your system. HDL’s bind to the dangerous LDL’s and bring them back to the liver for reprocessing before they can get caught up in your arteries. You can increase your HDL level by getting more exercise, keeping your weight down, and by choosing foods with healthier unsaturated fats – like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and fish like salmon and tuna (skip the mayo, please!).
How Does Oatmeal Help Reduce Cholesterol?
Oatmeal is a great source of soluble fiber, which acts a lot like the HDL’s, binding to the LDL molecules in your blood and bringing them back into the digestive system to be broken down. It acts kind of like a little scrub brush for your bloodstream!
Choose rolled oats or steel-cut, but stay away from the instant varieties – they are overprocessed and often full of sugar. Luckily, it’s super easy and inexpensive to make a big healthy batch of oatmeal from scratch! I like to cook up some overnight oatmeal on Sunday nights so that I’ve got breakfast made for most of the week.
Here’s my favorite overnight oatmeal recipe, using steel-cut oats. Toasting the oats for a few minutes is the secret to getting a yummy, nutty flavor.
TOASTED OVERNIGHT OATMEAL
1 T olive oil
1 cup of steel-cut oats
3 cups of water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla (not a sponsored link – just my favorite brand!)
Heat olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan. When hot, add the oats and toast for three minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water, salt, and vanilla, and bring to a boil. Stir, then cover the pot and take it off the heat. Let sit overnight.
In the morning, either heat up right in the same pot, or just dish out your serving and reheat in the microwave. You can add a little bit of water or almond milk if needed to thin it out a bit.
That’s it! Top it with a little fruit (blueberries are my favorite and so good for you too!) and you’ve got breakfast! If you like it a little sweeter, you can add some brown sugar or maple syrup.
Be sure to refrigerate the leftovers. Makes about 4 servings.