What Are Plant Sterols?
Plant sterols and stanols are found naturally in all plants. They may also be referred to as phytosterols. Studies have shown that consuming foods rich in plant sterols on a daily basis can lower LDL blood cholesterol levels by up to 10 – 15%. LDL cholesterol is the dangerous form of cholesterol – a reduction in this reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
How Do They Help Lower Cholesterol?
Plant sterols help to lower LDL cholesterol by blocking its’ absorption in to the blood stream. This occurs due to the cholesterol molecule and plant sterol competing for absorption. The plant sterol is favoured for absorption by the digestive tract and cholesterol is therefore excreted as waste. A certain amount of the sterols must be eaten each day to receive the cholesterol lowering effects; this must also be accompanied with a healthy lifestyle.
Where Are Plant Sterols Found?
Plant sterols are found naturally in the following foods:
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetable oils
- Breads and cereals
- Fruits and vegetables
There are many products that are fortified with plant sterols and include:
|Food Product||Plant sterols per 100g/100ml|
|Devondale Our Reduce One Milk||0.32g|
|Azalea Grapeseed Oil||0.3g|
|Grove Avocado Oil||0.487g|
|Rice Bran Oil||0.46g|
|Heart Active Milk||0.32g|
|Jalna Proheart Yoghurt||0.45g|
|Liveactive Kraft Cream Cheese||5g|
|Kraft Liveactive Light Cheese Slices||5g|
Some products such as breads and cereals state on their packets that they help to lower cholesterol, for example oats. This is because they contain high amounts of fibre (in particular soluble fibre) which have been shown to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol in the body.
How Much Plant Sterol Is Needed each Day?
To gain the cholesterol lowering effects of plant sterols, the heart foundation recommends a daily consumption of 2 – 3g from sterol fortified foods. Consuming greater than this amount is not harmful to your health but it will not provide additional benefits.
How Much Of The Product Each Day?
Foods that have been granted approval for fortification with plant sterols include margarine spreads, low fat yoghurt and low fat milk. In Australia, these foods have regulations allowing them to contain between 0.8g – 1.0g of plant sterols per serve. This would equate to 2 – 3 serves of a food product enriched with plant sterols.
The following are examples of approximately 1 serve of plant sterol fortified food:
- 10g margarine spread (2 teaspoons approximately)
- 250ml of low fat milk (1 cup approximately)
- 200g of reduced fat yoghurt (1 small tub)
If you are interested in natural ways to lower your cholesterol by increasing your intake of plant sterols, make an appointment with our dietitian Rhiannon Welsh, Contact us today!