Consuming good sources of plant sterols is beneficial in keeping cholesterol in the normal range as revealed through various studies. To know more about plant sterols that lower cholesterol, read on…
Plant sterols, also referred to as phytochemicals, are substances that occur in plants and wide range of food items. Similar to other phytochemicals, plant sterols are also good for health. Studies show that plant sterols can play a crucial role to manage healthy cholesterol levels. This is certainly good new for those wanting to regulate cholesterol naturally.
There is ample scientific evidence that proves that plant sterols have cholesterol lowering effect. To be more specific, plant sterols are effective in reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. They hinder the process of cholesterol absorption in the body. Thus, a significant amount of cholesterol is not absorbed and eventually eliminated out of the body. As we all know, high LDL cholesterol levels put a person in the risk zone of various cardiovascular problems. Therefore, it is necessary to lower bad cholesterol levels, which is easily possible, through dietary changes that aims at eating foods containing plant sterols.
A diet favorable to high cholesterol patients is one that provides 2 g of plant sterols daily. Taking plant sterols in this amount is mandatory if one is serious about lowering high cholesterol. Studies show that taking plant sterols equivalent to 2 g can help to cut down 10 – 15% of bad cholesterol. On the other hand, people with healthy cholesterol need to follow a diet that supplies at least 0.8 g of plant sterols to considerably reduce the chances of heart diseases.
Natural Sources of Plant Sterols
You would be spoiled for choice when it comes to foods that have plant sterols in them. Following are some foods helpful to balance cholesterol levels naturally;
Plant sterols are found in nuts in adequate amounts. Although it is less than the recommended intake for high cholesterol patients, nevertheless they are considered to be a better source than fruits and vegetables. Eating just 100 grams of pistachios gives a whopping 108 mg of plant sterols. On the whole, nuts rich in plant sterols are many and are given below:
Selecting the right cooking oil will ensure that your diet gives a steady supply of plant sterols. Amongst all the cooking oil, olive oil has the highest concentration of plant sterols. Just 100g of olive oil contains around 176 mg of plant sterols. Making an olive oil salad dressing is an easy way to add olive oil to the diet. Plant sterols are also present in good amount in wheat germ oil and corn oil.
Inclusion of legumes in the diet is yet another way to raise intake of plant sterols. Legumes are a rich source of plant sterols and so a diet high in legumes can certainly help to keep cholesterol levels stable. Some of the legumes are given below:
- Dried peas
- Dried beans
- Kidney beans
In an endeavor to support healthy cholesterol, one simply cannot forget to add seeds in the diet. This is because, seeds contain plant sterols in substantial amounts and hence can serve the purpose of maintaining cholesterol. Some of them are given below:
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Whole Grain Products
Another natural way to get plant sterols is through whole grain products. They are considered to be good sources of plant sterols. For instance, eating whole grain crackers can give approximately 0.4 grams of plant sterols. Other whole grain products that contain plant sterols are given below:
- Brown rice
- Wheat germ
- Rice bran
- Oat bran
- Whole grain bread
- Whole grain cereals
Vegetables and Fruits
Unfortunately, when it comes to increasing intake of plant sterols, vegetables and fruits are not of much help. Plant sterol content in these food items is extremely small. The amount of plant sterols in these foodstuffs can be gauged from the fact that high cholesterol patients have to eat 150 apples or 425 tomatoes in his daily diet in order to enjoy its cholesterol lowering benefits. Thus after consuming 425 tomatoes or 210 carrots, one gets 2g of plant sterols, necessary to induce cholesterol lowering effect. No wonder, vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, avocados, and fruits like apples, oranges, blueberries are considered to be a poor sources of plant sterols.
Plant Sterol Enriched Foods
As aforementioned, fruits and vegetables are not good sources of plant sterols. Eating 150 apples or 83 oranges in a single day is next to impossible and so one has to depend on alternate sources in order to fulfill the daily plant sterol requirement to manage high cholesterol levels. Fortunately, there are foods that are fortified or enriched with plant sterols. They are formulated to provide adequate intake of plant sterols, which is equivalent to 2g. Some of these are mentioned below:
- 1 cup of plant sterol enriched breakfast cereal
- 1200 grams of plant sterol enriched yogurt
- 2 teaspoons of plant sterol enriched margarine spread
- 1 cup of plant sterol enriched milk
- Fortified mini yogurt drink
- Fortified orange juice
A point to note that people with healthy cholesterol are not required to take plant sterol enriched foods. They are formulated to manage high cholesterol levels naturally. The 2g of plant sterol intake is prescribed for patients with elevated cholesterol levels. Healthy individuals can always depend on natural food sources of plant sterols when it comes to maintaining normal cholesterol levels.
The recommended daily dietary intake of plant sterols for healthy people is far less than their counterparts (high cholesterol patients). Hence, people with good cholesterol can always reduce the risk of heart ailments by simply including foods that naturally contain plant sterols.
Too much of fried food stuffs and with no inclinations towards exercise, is likely to raise high cholesterol levels, no matter how much amount of plant sterol foods or supplements are taken daily. So make sure you follow a disciplined lifestyle that primarily focuses on healthy diet and exercise.