Q. Do psyllium husks lower cholesterol?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 26 March 2014.
Tagged: breakfast, breakfast cereals, cholesterol, cholesterol lowering, fibre, healthy eating

A. Yes. The outer husks from the seeds of Psyllium (Plantago ovato) are effective at lowering both the total cholesterol and the 'bad' LDL-cholesterol, as it's very concentrated in soluble fibre (with 70 per cent soluble fibre, it contains around 8 times more than oat bran which hit the headlines some years ago for the same reason). Soluble fibre helps to lower cholesterol by binding to the ‘bad' cholesterol and taking it out of the body.

The only trouble with psyllium is that it's not very palatable - psyllium husks look like fine wheat bran and taste pretty chaff-like. You can sprinkle it over cereal or muesli or use it in place of one-quarter of the flour when you bake muffins and cakes. Or whirl it into a smoothie or juice or water. To see an effect on your cholesterol, aim to have 2 teaspoons (approx 3 grams) three times a day so you're consuming a total of 10 grams psyllium husks.

Until recently, the only commercial product made with psyllium and available at supermarkets was "Guardian" cereal by Kellogg which is made with 12% psyllium. This certainly made it more palatable. Now there is also UNCLE TOBYS Plus Fibre breakfast cereal which is also made with some psyllium.

Make sure your start using these products gradually, as psyllium has a powerful laxative effect as well. Don't forget to drink lots of water - at least one glass (250mL) for each teaspoon of the husks.

Also known as isphagula, psyllium is the base ingredient for several laxatives including Metamucil which is 100% psyllium. Some people report a lot of wind when they start using it so be warned. This usually settles down after a week but it's something to be aware of.

Finally, remember that soluble fibre is just one helpful thing to add to a cholesterol-lowering diet. It works IN ADDITION to cutting back on trans/saturated fats, losing weight if you need to and regular exercise. Combine all these so you get a better drop in cholesterol.

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Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.