Nearly one in three American adults has high cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the United States. What’s more, high cholesterol has no signs or symptoms, which means you might have a health issue without realizing it.
While you should speak to your doctor about your cholesterol levels (determined through a blood test), you could also do your health a huge favor right now by choosing low-cholesterol breakfast options.
The Highs and Lows of Cholesterol
Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater here, let's make one thing clear: Not all cholesterol is bad. There are two main types of lipoproteins that carry the cholesterol traveling through your bloodstream. HDL cholesterol is the good guy, and LDL cholesterol is the bad one.
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is good because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body to your liver, which then removes the cholesterol from your body. LDL (low-density lipoprotein), on the other hand, is what causes plaque buildup in your arteries. There is also VLDL, very low-density lipoprotein, which carries triglycerides instead of cholesterol.
Besides lack of exercise and smoking, both of which lower your HDL cholesterol and raise your LDL cholesterol levels, the other main cause of high cholesterol levels is unhealthy eating habits. Foods full of saturated fat and trans fat — often found in deep-fried and processed foods — are one of the main causes of high cholesterol.
What Makes a Good Low-Cholesterol Breakfast
If you're trying to lose weight or dash out of the house in the morning, it can be tempting to skip breakfast. But this may not do your cholesterol levels any favors. In fact, a study has found that skipping breakfast may raise your blood cholesterol levels.
Breakfast can kick-start your metabolism for the day, give you energy, and help — not hinder — weight loss. Besides, why would you want to skip breakfast when it's the perfect opportunity to enjoy a deliciously crunchy breakfast food? (But more on that later.)
First, let's find out what makes a heart-healthy breakfast that can lower cholesterol.
Watch Your Fat Intake
Fat, especially saturated fat, raises your LDL level more than anything else in your diet. As such, opt for low-fat options or choose healthy fats, such as lean meat, avocados, nuts, and unsaturated oils like canola oil, olive oil, and safflower oil.
Increase Your Fiber Consumption
Protein and fiber combine to help you feel full — and stay full — but soluble fiber also helps prevent cholesterol absorption. Choose high-fiber breakfasts such as whole-grain cereals (think oatmeal and oat bran) and top them with fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, raspberries, and blueberries.
Eat More Fruits and Veggies
You should include plenty of fruits and veggies in your diet. Besides increasing the amount of soluble fiber in your system, they contain plenty of plant sterols, which help to lower your cholesterol levels.
Eating fish can be good for your health, but not just any fish. Opt for fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Omega-3 fatty acids don't lower your LDL level, but they can help to increase your HDL level.
Cut Out Salt and Sugar
While limiting salt in your diet doesn't lower your cholesterol, it can lower your blood pressure and therefore reduce your risk of heart diseases. And since you're cutting out salt, you may as well do the same for sugar. As empty calories, added sugar doesn't provide any health benefits. Consuming too much can also increase your risk of dangerous heart disease.
6 Low-Cholesterol Breakfast Ideas
Now that you know what makes a good low-cholesterol breakfast, check out these breakfast recipes for your cholesterol-lowering journey.
1. Apple Oatmeal Muffins
Image: Cookie + Kate
This is a muffin recipe designed to please any dietitian (and your taste buds). Unlike its high-sugar and high-fat cousins commonly found in cafes, this apple oatmeal muffin is made from whole-wheat flour, oat bran, and apples. Combined, these ingredients increase your fiber intake. Skip or reduce the sugar for an even healthier option.
2. Whey Protein Smoothies
Image: A Sweet Pea Chef
Follow in the footsteps of Little Miss Muffet, who loved eating her curds and whey. Whey protein has been found to lower cholesterol, and the easiest way to have it for breakfast is in a smoothie.
Simply add a scoop of high-quality whey protein powder to any smoothie recipe, and you're good to go. If you're in need of some inspiration, try these four fruit smoothie recipes that are sure to bring some cholesterol-free color to your morning routine.
3. Egg White Omelet
Image: The Spruce Eats
To avoid the cholesterol in egg yolks, use egg whites. Not only are they cholesterol-free, but they're low in calories and packed full of protein.
This healthy egg white omelet recipe has a fresh Greek flavor, but you can make it your own with your choice of fillings. Be sure to include veggies such as spinach or red cabbage to increase your fiber intake. Cooking your eggs in olive oil can also add healthy fats to this meal.
4. Wholesome Flaxseed and Blueberry Oatmeal
Image: Little Broken
Oatmeal, also called porridge, is the ideal low-cholesterol breakfast thanks to its high soluble fiber content (about five grams of fiber per serving). Flaxseeds are also high in fiber and can also reduce your total cholesterol levels.
This wholesome oatmeal recipe combines porridge and flaxseeds that you can top with toasted pecans and fresh blueberries for an additional fiber boost.
5. Healthy Yogurt Parfaits
Image: The Clean Eating Couple
Yogurt parfaits are an easy meal prep option, making them a great choice if you need breakfast on-the-go. You can make them in any combination you want — add fresh fruit to increase your fiber intake.
We love this handful of yogurt parfait recipes. You can add a scoop of whey protein powder for its cholesterol-lowering effects, and use low-fat and low-sugar (or sugar-free) yogurt to keep your parfait healthy.
6. Easy Bagel
Image: Skinny Taste
You don't have to give up bagels to enjoy a low-cholesterol breakfast with this easy bagel recipe.
Made with just five ingredients – whole-wheat flour, Greek yogurt, egg white, baking powder and salt — this homemade version is a healthy breakfast option with minimal impact on your cholesterol levels. This recipe also has gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free versions.
Cereal School Is the Easiest Low-Cholesterol Breakfast Choice
Sure, you could make your low-cholesterol breakfast from scratch. But sometimes you just want something fast and easy. And healthy, of course. That’s where the Cereal School comes in.
Made with all-natural, non-GMO ingredients and no artificial colors or sweeteners, Cereal School is an excellent low-cholesterol breakfast choice because it has zero saturated fats. It also contains high-oleic sunflower oil, which can lower your LDL and elevate your HDL levels.
Sweetened only with monk fruit, Cereal School is sugar-free, has just one carb gram per serving, and is high in protein to fuel you without the sugar crash. And with flavors like Cinnamon Bun, Fruity, Cocoa, and Peanut Butter, it's the perfect addition to your low-cholesterol diet.