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Do Cheerios Really Lower Your Cholesterol?

February 21, 2023

It’s a million-dollar question that’s crossed all of our minds at the grocery store – do Cheerios really lower your cholesterol?

The unfortunate answer is that they probably don’t, says Taimur Habib, MD, an internist and geriatrician with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group in Fairfield.

Although the cereal is high in fiber, which helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol in your bloodstream, there’s more to the equation.

So if you’re trying to lower you cholesterol, which foods should you be reaching for? Here’s what Dr. Habib had to say.

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What is cholesterol anyway?

Before we get into it, let’s start with the basics.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body produces or you get it from eating various foods. Different foods vary in how much cholesterol they contain.

“Cholesterol is an essential component of our bodies because it assists in various functions, from producing cells to digestion to producing hormones,” Dr. Habib says. “Our bodies produce enough cholesterol to take care of these functions on their own.”

Good vs. bad

“We call good cholesterol HDL and bad cholesterol LDL,” Dr. Habib says. “One way to remember is that good cholesterol should be High (HDL) and bad cholesterol Low (LDL).”

High levels of bad cholesterol lead to unhealthy conditions including a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Good cholesterol is protective and lowers your risk of these complications.

“We want LDL levels closer to 100 or lower and HDL levels at least above 50. These are general guidelines,” Dr. Habib adds. “We calculate individual risk of heart disease and stroke based on various criteria, including age, sex and history of other medical conditions, and then recommend a target cholesterol level.”

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The role of diet

“Our bodies make enough cholesterol depending on our own needs,” Dr. Habib explains. “While additional cholesterol is not necessary, almost all foods have it in various amounts so we must be careful about what foods we eat.”

Dr. Habib suggests eating eat these high-cholesterol foods in moderation:

  • Red and processed meats
  • Fried foods
  • Dairy products (cream, whole milk, butter and cheese)
  • Oils (especially palm and coconut oil)

He also recommends getting regular exercise – it raises good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol.

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Foods to lower your cholesterol

While it may be a bummer that Cheerios don’t lower your cholesterol, here’s some good news – there are foods that will raise good cholesterol levels, and in turn, lower your risk of heart disease and stroke:

  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Red wine (in moderation)
  • Fiber

If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, talk to your primary care provider.