Adding a handful of oats to your morning smoothie or switching out some flour for oats in your baking can go a long way in improving your heart health, a new study has found.

Oats and similar grains such as barley are naturally rich in beta-glucans, a type of soluble fibre that has long been known to lower the risk of heart disease.

However, until now, just how they do this was unknown.

Foods jar of oats
Oats are popular comfort food. (Photo: Pixabay)

The unique study, conducted by researchers at University of Queensland, found that beta-glucans can have phenomenal effects on cholesterol in the digestive process of pigs (which is very similar to the human digestive make up).

After a 26 day-period, they found a 24 per cent decrease in blood total bile acids, compared to a control diet.

Bile acids are made using cholesterol and aid with digestion. However, it was believed that without beta-glucans, they are easily reabsorbed by the body to be used in the digestive process again, leading to a build-up of unused cholesterol.

The results of the Queensland study support the theory and have also found that beta-glucans are responsible for resetting these bile acids to lower overall levels, effectively reducing the body’s need to absorb cholesterol at all.

Such a relatively small drop in bile acids in the pigs, resulted in a huge 57 per cent decrease in LDL cholesterol (commonly known as the bad blood-cholesterol), a 34 per cent decrease in total cholesterol.

A diet rich in beta-glucans can be achieved by eating oats and barley. But if you don’t enjoy having oats just by itself, here are five ways you can add it to your regular meals daily:

Text: The Australian Women’s Weekly / Additional Reporting: Sean Tan

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