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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Cholesterol Lowering Plants

If you are trying everything you can do lower your cholesterol, add plant sterols to your list. Even if you don't have high cholesterol, plant sterols can be something you may want to consider adding to your diet.

What are plant sterols?
I know the name is kind of scary, but they are simply parts of a plant membrane that resemble the chemical structure of cholesterol (only in animals and humans) but perform a similar function in the plant. They are naturally present in very small quantities in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, and vegetable oils.

What do they do?
Plant sterols have been found in research studies to help lower LDL, or "bad," cholesterol by blocking its absorption. If enough sterols are consumed in the diet, they will compete with cholesterol in the digestive tract and the result is less cholesterol being absorbed by the body. Studies have found that LDL cholesterol can be reduced between 6 and 15 percent. Some studies even suggest a reduced risk of cancer in people who consume plant sterols on a regular basis.

How much?
The hard part is getting enough of these plant sterols to make a difference. Because they exist in such small quantities in the foods we eat, many food manufacturers have started fortifying foods with plant sterols to give us more.

The FDA approved a health claim which reads:
Foods containing at least 0.65 grams per serving of plant sterol esters, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 1.3 grams, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of [name of the food] supplies ____ grams of plant sterol esters.

Foods that contain plant sterols:
Promise activ Super Shots: 2.0 g
Promise activ Butter Spread (formerly Take Control): 1.0 g
Corazona's Tortilla or Potato Chips: 0.4 g (I love these chips!)
CocoaVia Chocolate bars: 1.1 g
Various products containing Corowise: Vitalicious chocolate muffin tops, milk, orange juice, Nature Valley Healthy Heart granola bars, Lifetime Lowfat Cheese, even vitamins.

Consult with your doctor to see if adding plant sterols to your diet daily is a good idea.

Photo of orange juice courtesy of Corowise
Photo of chips courtesy of Corazonas
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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