Cholesterol Lowering food

What are Plant Sterols and stanols?

Plant sterols and stanols are cholesterol-like molecules produced by plants and have a similar chemical structure and cellular function to cholesterol in humans.

The only difference between sterols and stanols is that plant sterols have a higher degree of absorption than plant stanols. Sterols and stanols have similar effects on total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

How do Plant Sterols Reduce Cholesterol?

Due to their structural similarity to cholesterol, sterols reduce cholesterol absorption from the gut and thus reduce circulating levels of cholesterol. An advantage of plant sterols is that they are not easily absorbed and thereby inhibits the absorption of cholesterol.

Plant sterols, ingested with food, compete with cholesterol molecules for absorption and transportation to various parts of the body.

This action of the plant sterols blocks the entry of dietary cholesterol into the blood. Plants sterols are not absorbed in the intestine, unless these molecules dissolve, which is very difficult.

Sources of plant sterols:

Small amounts of sterols are present in almost all plants and around forty different types of plant sterols have been identified.

The three most common are: beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol. These are mainly found in foods like whole grains, nuts, fruits, legumes, vegetable oils and vegetables. Many foods are now fortified with plant sterols.

These products are called ‘functional foods’ and include margarines, spreads, and juices among others.

Phytosterol Content of Selected Foods

Food Source Amount (grams)
Avocado, 1 small 0.13 g
Sesame seed, 30g 0.133 - 0.138g
Peanuts, 30g 0.62g
Brussels sprouts, 30g 0.34g
Rye Bread, 2 slices 0.33g
Beetroot, 100g 0.25g
Onions, 100g 0.15g
Carrots,100g 0.12g


A daily intake of plant sterols or stanols of 1.6-2g per day can reduce cholesterol absorption from the gut up to 30% and plasma LDL cholesterol levels up to 8-10%. Phytosterols, up to 3g/day, are safe and effective cholesterol-lowering agents and may be used in conjunction with statins.

Plant sterols and plant stanols are not a replacement for prescribed medications. Always consult your doctor or dietician concerning any dietary changes you may make, especially if you are taking other medications.

Plant sterols must be consumed daily in order for them to be effective in lowering cholesterol.

Consume 2 to 3 grams per day of plant sterols or plant stanols. For best results, consume sterols and stanols with a meal.

Eating more than 2 to 3 grams of plant sterols or plant stanols per day does not provide additional cholesterol-lowering benefits

For maximum benefit, split the 2 grams you need between breakfast and dinner. That way you’ll block the absorption of cholesterol at two meals instead of just one.

10 September 2020

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