The number one killer in the United States is heart disease: According to the CDC, 610,000 people die from it every year—that is about one out of every four deaths. The cause is clogged arteries, and things like calcium, plaque, and fatty acids can do the damage. “There is no one magic food that acts like Drano and cleans out the accumulated plaque,” says Florian Rader, MD, a cardiologist at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “But good habits can help slow down that process, and maintaining a healthy weight and diet is one factor you can control to a great degree. And,” he says, “It’s never too late to start.”
It’s been more than 20 years since the FDA approved heart-healthy claims for these whole grains, and research keeps uncovering new benefits. The main one, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table, is their rich supply of soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. Why that’s good for your arteries, according to Dr. Rader: “Cholesterol can seep into the inner layer of blood vessels and form plaque over time.” Since most Americans fall chronically short on fiber, the four grams per cup that oats deliver are a welcome addition.
Excerpted from Reader’s Digest