The #1 Breakfast for High Cholesterol, According to a Dietitian

Wondering if it's oatmeal? Nope, not this time!

Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
Photo: Photography / Antonis Achilleos, Styling / Christine Keely, Ali Ramee

Diabetes blood sugar dips can alert your body that it needs something healthy to eat, but with silent conditions like high cholesterol, eating well may not always be at the forefront of the mind. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close to 94 million American adults have high cholesterol, and many manage it with medication and healthy lifestyle changes, including eating cholesterol-lowering meals. Improving your cholesterol levels can help stop the progression of atherosclerosis, a condition in which cholesterol plaques build up in the arteries, hindering healthy blood flow.

You might wonder if oatmeal is the top breakfast pick for high cholesterol. Guess again! Though oats have plenty of benefits to cholesterol levels and heart health in general, it may be time for a change from your regular bowl of oatmeal. Read on to find out the No. 1 breakfast choice for people with high cholesterol.

Why Breakfast Matters with High Cholesterol

It's estimated that nearly one-quarter of Americans skip breakfast some days, per a 2019 publication in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Studies have shown that meal skipping can lead to unwanted outcomes, such as a dip in energy levels, anxiety and losing touch with your body's hunger and fullness cues. But did you know that avoiding your morning meal may impact your heart health? For people with high cholesterol, missing breakfast could make matters worse and raise LDL cholesterol (known as "bad cholesterol") and total cholesterol, according to a 2020 study published in Obesity and a 2021 study published in Nutrition. Furthermore, the 2019 publication found that skipping breakfast can also increase the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. So, to help lower cholesterol, it helps to nourish yourself with a fiber-rich heart-healthy breakfast that can keep you full and energized at the start of your day when you need it the most.

The Best Breakfast for High Cholesterol

A dietitian's favorite breakfast to recommend for people with high cholesterol is quinoa breakfast bowls. Quinoa is a whole grain you can cook on your stovetop and have ready in 15 minutes. You can make quinoa ahead of time, so on busy mornings, it's ready-made and easy to pull from the fridge. Quinoa earns much respect for its versatility, since you can use it to whip up a savory breakfast bowl with eggs, chives and Canadian bacon or a sweeter dish like our Cinnamon-Quinoa Breakfast Bowl. Generally, the grain is famed for being a complete protein because it offers all nine essential amino acids; however, it's also brimming with complex carbohydrates like fiber, an essential nutrient in cholesterol-lowering.

Health Benefits of Our Cinnamon-Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Let's dive into the nitty-gritty details of why this is the best breakfast for people with high cholesterol—and those without it.

Packed with Plant Protein

Protein is a must-have component of any healthy meal, especially at breakfast, to keep you satisfied at the beginning of your day when you need sustained energy and focus. This recipe offers 12 grams of protein per serving from quinoa, almond butter and sliced almonds.

A 2021 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that swapping out animal-protein sources for proteins from nuts, whole grains, seeds and beans at least once per week may prevent cardiovascular diseases and premature death.

Another study, published in the Journal of American Heart Association in 2017, discovered that substituting plant protein for animal protein reduced LDL cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B, which are markers of heart disease.

Full of Fiber

Why is quinoa such a good source of fiber in the first place? Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and barley get their name because they have three parts that make them whole—the bran, endosperm and germ. Though the bran and germ carry the most fiber, vitamins and minerals, food manufacturers strip them away to make refined grains, which have fewer nutrients than whole grains. Because quinoa is almost always sold in its whole form, according to the Whole Grains Council, it maintains its fiber and other essential nutrients.

Everyone wins with dietary fiber because it helps lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol by promoting cholesterol excretion and preventing the body from making too much cholesterol, per a 2019 publication in Nutrients. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage men and women to aim for 31 to 34 daily grams of fiber and 25 to 28 grams of fiber, respectively. Our recipe offers 7 grams of fiber per serving, getting you closer to meeting your daily fiber requirements for good health.

Offers Heart-Healthy Fats

Saturated fats are known to increase the risk of high LDL cholesterol levels and low HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. Protecting your heart health means limiting excess sources of these fats and opting for heart-healthy ones. Our quinoa breakfast bowl recipe provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fats from almond butter and whole almonds. According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats are friends to your health because they lower LDL cholesterol levels, which helps thwart stroke and heart disease risks.

Other High-Cholesterol Management Tips

  • Move your body for just 21 minutes daily to meet the exercise recommendations of 150 minutes per week, per the AHA. That might look like a brisk nature walk, a virtual dance class or lap swimming. Physical activity is good for cholesterol levels, stress levels, sleep health and more!
  • Steer clear of smoking to avoid harming your heart and overall health. Quitting smoking can raise your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol. Speak with your medical provider if you need some help with cutting back.
  • See your medical provider routinely to stay ahead of your bloodwork. High cholesterol is a silent health condition only discovered when you see your health care team and get lab work done. Tracking your lab values over time will help you know your healthy lifestyle changes are effective.

The Bottom Line

To make your A.M. meal the best breakfast for high cholesterol, shoot for fiber-rich whole grains, plant protein and healthy fats. Eating this type of balanced breakfast, like our Cinnamon-Quinoa Breakfast Bowl, can help you better manage your cholesterol levels and protect your heart.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles