Plant Sterols to Lower Cholesterol

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • Including at least 2 grams of plant sterols in your daily diet may lower LDL cholesterol levels. There are studies that show plant sterols can reduce LDL cholesterol levels 6-15%.


    Health Canada has just approved the fortification of foods and beverages with plant sterols.


    What are plant sterols?

    Plant sterols and stanols are parts of plant cell membranes. They are similar to the cholesterol found in animal products, but plant sterols and stanols are only found in plants, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, grains, and oil. Foods that contain plant sterols and stanols are allowed to include a "claim" on their packaging stating they reduce the risk of heart disease. This claim was approved by the FDA in 2000.

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    How do plant sterols lower cholesterol?


    Plant sterols and stanols resemble cholesterol and appear to block the absorption of dietary cholesterol.


    How do you increase your intake of plant sterols?


    Plant sterols and stanols are not found at high levels in foods. For this reason food manufacturers have found ways to fortify foods with plant sterols and stanols.


    Some foods that are fortified with plant sterols and stanols include spreads, juices, milk, breads, salad dressings, and yogurt.


    You should not be able to tell a difference in taste or texture between foods fortified and those that are not. Read food labels to determine how many grams of plant sterols you receive per serving. It's currently recommended to include 2 grams of plant sterols daily to see the benefit of a lower LDL cholesterol level.


    Any concerns associated with increased plant sterol intake?


    There is some research indicating plant sterols and stanols lower your levels of certain nutrients, such as beta-carotene. Right now the research is conflicting and plant sterols are typically recognized as safe if added to the diet in moderation.


    Be sure to sign up for the free e-course How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps at




Published On: June 27, 2010