Lowering Cholesterol with Food: Oatmeal for Breakfast

By Riki Shore

Oatmeal Ingredients

Earlier this year, his 40th, Rob received a high cholesterol reading at his physical. Always healthy, he was shocked to receive this finding. It sent him into a tailspin of lifestyle changes – how often and how intensely he exercises, what he eats and what he avoids in his diet, new herbal medicine and supplements – all to avoid the common consequence of taking a statin. Three months later his total cholesterol was down an astonishing 140 points – landing him safely in no-statin territory.

He can address the details of the approach in another post, but here I want to mention one of the biggest dietary changes he made. Limiting his dairy and egg consumption (no more than four eggs per week) meant he had to re-imagine breakfast. Upon the recommendation of a naturopathic doctor, he started making oatmeal every morning. But not just any oatmeal. He makes fermented oatmeal.

Fermenting grains by soaking them overnight in warm acidic liquid (in Rob’s case, kefir) breaks down phytic acid and improves the nutritional benefits of the grains. As Sally Fallon writes in her terrific cookbook, Nourishing Traditions:

All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption….The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects.

Soaking the oats overnight also reduces the cooking time in the morning, making this oatmeal a quick food when you need to get out the door.

This is what the soaked oatmeal looks like before cooking:

Raw Fermented Oatmeal

And this is what the finished dish looks like:

Fermented Oatmeal with Flax Seed, Oat Bran and Coconut Oil

Without further ado, this is Rob’s recipe for fermented oatmeal, adapted from Sally Fallon’s recipe for Breakfast Porridge.

1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup warm filtered water plus 2 tablespoons kefir
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup filtered water
1 tablespoon flax seeds, freshly ground
1 tablespoon oat bran
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Cinnamon, to taste

1. Mix oats with the warm water and kefir. Cover and leave in a warm place overnight.
2. In the morning, bring the additional cup of water and Kosher salt to a boil.
3. Add the soaked oats and reduce the heat. Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat, stir in the ground flax seeds and oat bran. Let stand a few minutes.
5. Serve with a shake of cinnamon and coconut oil drizzled on top.

Rob eats this oatmeal completely unsweetened – a subject for another Science Sidebar post – but you should feel free to try it with a small amount of toasted nuts, dried or fresh fruit, or honey or maple syrup.

Here are a few more breakfast recipes for you to try:

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