Quinoa vs Oatmeal For Lowering Cholesterol: Which Should You Choose?

Are you curious about quinoa vs oatmeal for lowering cholesterol? This article will outline the benefits of each and how they each and their roles in promoting heart health and reducing cholesterol levels.

Key Takeaways

  • Cholesterol is essential for various bodily functions but can be harmful in excess. There are “good” HDL cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol, and an imbalance can lead to heart disease.
  • Quinoa is a seed with high fiber and plant-based protein that comes in different types and is known for its earthy taste and fluffy texture. Quinoa is readily available but slightly more expensive than other grains.
  • Oats are high-fiber whole grains that may help lower cholesterol. Different forms of oats are available, and they can be used in various recipes. Oats are widely available and cost-effective.
  • Both oats and quinoa contain heart-healthy nutrients like fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and plant-based protein. Quinoa has slightly more calories and protein compared to oats.

Cholesterol And Diet

Cholesterol is naturally found in our bodies and is not necessarily harmful as it contributes to the production of hormones, vitamin D synthesis and is essential in the development of our cell membranes.

However, when we have too much cholesterol in our blood, it may increase the risk of heart disease as it’s important to maintain a balance. 

There are two main types of cholesterol that are labeled as “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol”. The good cholesterol is high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and the bad cholesterol is low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. 

Too much LDL cholesterol circulating in the blood can lead to a buildup in the arteries called atherosclerosis. This makes it harder for your heart to pump your blood since the blood must now work its way around the buildup that has narrowed the arteries.

This can increase the risk of heart disease as it puts additional strain on your heart and may also increase the risk of a blood clot forming, potentially leading to a stroke.

HDL cholesterol on the other hand, will circulate the blood and pick up excess LDL cholesterol to bring it to the liver to be otherwise used or disposed of. This can help decrease the risk of atherosclerosis, and in turn help to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.

So, how do we know which type of cholesterol we have in our blood?

Both types will always exist, and should exist in a balance, as our body does need cholesterol. However, the levels of each are impacted by the foods we eat – eating more of certain foods will raise or lower LDL cholesterol, while others will raise or lower HDL cholesterol.

We will touch more on this later in the article, so keep reading to see how quinoa and oatmeal impact cholesterol.

Image of Veronica Rouse with Free 7 day heart healthy meal plan freebie.

Quinoa vs Oatmeal for lowering cholesterol infographic. The infographic compares the cost, taste and texture, types, and nutritional comparison of the two.

Overview Of Quinoa

What Is Quinoa?

Quinoa originates from South America and is referred to as a pseudo-grain. We often consider it to be a whole grain, since it is used like other grains, and has similar nutritional value, however it is technically a seed – hence why it is called a pseudo-grain.

Quinoa is a great source of fiber and plant-based protein and can be used in a variety of heart healthy recipes.

Different Types Of Quinoa

You can find white, red, and black quinoa, which are all nutritionally equal, but have slightly different textures or tastes, and may be used for different types of recipes. White quinoa has the mildest flavor out of the three.

You can also find products like quinoa flour, and cereals or granolas that contain quinoa in them. 

Taste And Texture

Quinoa is similar in taste and texture to grains such as brown rice and couscous and is often used in similar ways. It can be described as having an “earthy” or “nutty” taste, and a soft, fluffy texture.

Cost And Availability

Quinoa can typically be found at any grocery store and is often found in the aisle near grains like pasta and rice.

Quinoa is going to be a bit more expensive compared to other grain products, however it may be worth spending the extra bit of money to gain its nutritional benefits.

Overview Of Oatmeal

What Is Oatmeal?

Oats are whole grains that are high in fiber and may help to lower cholesterol. Oatmeal specifically refers to the porridge that is made by boiling oats in a liquid like milk or water.

Different Types Of Oatmeal

Oats can be consumed in the form of warm oatmeal, overnight oats, baked oats, etc!

There are different types of oats available, including instant oats, rolled oats, or steel cut oats as well as other oat products like oat bran, oat flour and oat fiber. They are used in my favorite recipes like overnight oat bransteel cut oat granola, or other oat bran recipes to lower cholesterol.

Taste And Texture

Oats don’t have much of a flavor on their own, however they can be used in a lot of different recipes and combined with ingredients that enhance their flavor. Like these 15 oatmeal recipes to lower cholesterol.

Oatmeal is like a porridge and will have a soft, mushy texture, and can include additions like fruit and nuts for added flavor and texture.

Cost And Availability

You can find oats at pretty much any grocery store, and they are fairly inexpensive as well!

Quinoa vs Oatmeal For Lowering Cholesterol: Nutrition Comparison

Below is a table that shows the nutrition comparison between ½ a cup of raw oats (which yields  1 cup when cooked and maintains essentially the same nutrient composition) and 1 cup of cooked quinoa, according to the USDA.

Calories154 kcal222 kcal
Fiber4.09 g5.18 g
Protein5.35 g8.14 g
Calcium21.1 mg31.4 mg
Magnesium56 mg118 mg
Potassium146.5 mg318 mg

As we can see, both oats and quinoa contain heart healthy nutrients like fiber, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, as well as some plant-based protein!

Heart Health Benefits Of Quinoa vs Oatmeal

Cholesterol Lowering

Saturated Fat

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, certain foods will raise LDL cholesterol, while others will raise HDL cholesterol.

Foods high in a nutrient called saturated or trans-fat will increase LDL cholesterol. This includes foods like red meats, high fat dairy products and baked goods made with butter.

We should try to replace some of these foods in our diet with those that contain heart healthy unsaturated fats, which may help to raise HDL cholesterol levels. This includes foods like olive oil, fish, nuts, and other plant or lean protein sources.  Check out this comprehensive list of low cholesterol foods

Plant Protein

There are also nutrients that lower LDL cholesterol. According to the Portfolio Diet eating enough plant protein each day can lower LDL cholesterol. Oats and quinoa are both sources of plant-based protein.

Check out more Portfolio diet recipes here.

Soluble Fiber

Other nutrients like fiber, specifically soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is found in both oats and quinoa. That’s why they made my list of 39 foods that unclog arteries.

While in the digestive tract, soluble fiber can bind to LDL cholesterol, preventing it from entering our blood. Since fiber does not get digested or absorbed by our bodies, it is eliminated in our stool along with any cholesterol it has bound.

Blood Pressure Management

Three minerals found in quinoa and oats help with blood pressure regulation. These are calcium, potassium, and magnesium, essential components of a blood pressure lowering DASH diet (1).

These three minerals are involved in the regulation of muscle contraction and relaxation. Our heart and blood vessels are muscles, and therefore rely on contraction and relaxation mechanisms to function properly.

For example, our blood vessels need to be able to relax to widen in response to increased blood pressure, helping to alleviate some of the pressure.

This article goes into more details about how oats are good for blood pressure.

Blood Sugar Regulation

The fiber and plant-based protein present in quinoa and oats can also contribute to regulating blood sugar levels.

Typically, consuming a meal, particularly one rich in carbohydrates, leads to an increase in blood sugar levels as the sugars from the carbs are absorbed into the bloodstream.

The glycemic index (GI) is a tool we use to assess the speed and extent to which specific foods elevate blood sugar levels. Foods that have a lower GI value cause a smaller increase in blood sugar compared to those with a higher GI value.

A glycemic index (GI) score of 55 or lower is deemed low, a score between 56 and 69 is considered medium, and a score from 70 to 100 is categorized as high.

Quinoa is rated with a GI of 53. The GI for oats varies by their form. Steel-cut oats have a GI of 53, making them similar to quinoa, while rolled oats are slightly higher with a score of 57. Instant oats, on the other hand, have a significantly higher GI of 83 (2).

The medium to low GI scores of quinoa, rolled oats, and steel-cut oats can be attributed to their fiber and protein content. Fiber does not convert into sugar and plays a role in slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which helps mitigate a rapid increase in blood sugar levels post-meal.

However, instant oats exhibit a much higher GI score due to their processing methods, which differ from those of steel-cut or rolled oats. This is an important factor to consider when choosing which type of oats to buy.

Thus, if you were wondering if you should eat quinoa vs oatmeal for diabetics, you can eat both!

Additional Benefits


The antioxidants called avenanthramides that are found in oats may help to reduce inflammation (3). Harmful free radicals can contribute to inflammation, and antioxidants are needed to fight against these free radicals.

Quinoa also contains antioxidants with similar anti-inflammatory properties as avenanthramides(4).

Weight Management

The fiber found in quinoa and oats can help with weight management because as mentioned earlier, fiber slows down the absorption of sugar, preventing a spike in blood sugar, which keeps you feeling full for longer after eating.

This can help to prevent overeating, which is one of multiple contributing factors to maintaining a healthy weight.

Thus, if you were wondering if you should eat quinoa vs oatmeal for weight loss, you can eat both!

Gluten Free

Additionally, both quinoa and oats are gluten free, and can therefore be enjoyed by those following a gluten free diet.

Meal Ideas For Quinoa And Oatmeal

Here you will find some recipes containing oats or quinoa for lowering cholesterol that can be incorporated into your heart-healthy eating!

Oatmeal Recipes

Quinoa Recipes

Cooked quinoa can also be added as a topping to your favorite salad recipes like these ones:

Cholesterol Lowering Recipes

Final Thoughts

As we have seen, both quinoa and oats can lower cholesterol.  Quinoa and oatmeal have heart health benefits that extend beyond lowering LDL cholesterol as they also regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, and contribute to weight management.

Both quinoa and oats can be incorporated into your own heart-healthy eating pattern using the recipes listed above or any of your own favorite quinoa or oatmeal recipes!  Do you eat quinoa and oatmeal for lowering cholesterol? Let me know in the comments below!

An image of Veronica The Heart Dietitian cutting an apple, and an image of a book. The text on the image and book reads "FREE 4 steps to a happy heart without restriction ebook".

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