Eating cereal foods (especially wholegrains and those with fibre from oats or barley) is associated with protective effects against heart disease in adults. It has been shown that a high intake of wholegrains (at least 2.5 serves per day) is associated with 21 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular events. Also, a study of postmenopausal women found that six or more servings of wholegrain foods per week protected against the effects of cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease is often caused by high blood cholesterol levels. Regularly eating cereals that are rich in soluble fibre, such as oats (containing beta-glucans) and psyllium, has been found to significantly reduce the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Dietary fibre is the term for several materials that make up the parts of plants your body can't digest. Fibre is classified as soluble or insoluble.
Soluble fibre - When eaten regularly as part of a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, high in soluble fibre has been associated with increased diet quality and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Soluble or viscous fibres modestly reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol beyond levels achieved by a diet low in saturated and trans fats and cholesterol alone. Oats have the highest proportion of soluble fibre of any grain. Oats, via their high fibre content, are already known to help remove cholesterol from the digestive system that would otherwise end up in the bloodstream. Now, the latest research suggests they may have another cardio-protective mechanism. Antioxidant compounds unique to oats, called avenanthramides, help prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, suggests a study conducted at Tufts University and published in The Journal of Nutrition. Foods high in soluble fibre include oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apple pulp.
Insoluble fibre has been associated with decreased cardiovascular risk and slower progression of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals. Dietary fibre can make you feel full, so you may eat fewer calories. Foods high in insoluble fibre include whole-wheat breads, wheat cereals, wheat bran, rye, rice, barley, most other grains, cabbage, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cauliflower and apple skin.
Many commercial oat bran and wheat bran products (muffins, chips, waffles) contain very little bran. They also may be high in sodium, total fat and saturated fat. Read labels carefully.