If your LDL cholesterol is higher than ideal, this missing ingredient might be the solution to your problem: plant stanols or sterols, which are collectively called phytosterols.
Heart disease is still the number 1 killer in the US! And people with diabetes or prediabetes are at especially high risk. An elevated LDL-cholesterol level is one of many risk factors. Fortunately, a lot can be done to tackle high LDL levels. Phytosterols are one important way.
We eat phytosterols everyday.
They are in canola oil, corn, cauliflower, lentils, almonds, fruits and all other foods from the plant kingdom. They work their magic by blocking cholesterol absorption. Research tells us that consuming about 2 grams per day will substantially lower LDL cholesterol levels. But on average, we consume only about 300 – 400 mg each day because they tend to be naturally present in only tiny amounts. Even typical vegetarian diets ring up only about 600 mg phytosterols daily. There’s a simpler way to reach the recommended 2000 milligrams daily than to eat 13 heads of cauliflower, 100 cups of sliced strawberries or 74 large apples! That’s where Benecol® and other fortified foods come in.
Benecol® Buttery Spreads provide 1000 mg plant stanols/phytosterols per tablespoon. Eating 2 tablespoons daily gets you to the recommended amount to lower your cholesterol levels.
6 Things to Know about Phytosterols
- Phytosterols are the plant’s cousin to cholesterol. Cholesterol is not found in any plant. All animals, including humans, make cholesterol. Because phytosterols are structurally similar to cholesterol, they work by blocking cholesterol absorption – even the cholesterol that your body makes. That’s why they work even for vegans, who eat no cholesterol.
- It’s best to consume phytosterols with meals or snacks. I recommend taking one dose with each of your two largest meals. For example, you could have a tablespoon of Benecol® Light with breakfast or lunch and another tablespoon at dinner.
- Phytosterols are additive to other strategies. In other words, if you’re able to lower your LDL cholesterol by eating a wholesome diet, adding phytosterols to the mix will lower your LDL even more. The same goes for statin drugs. Phyotsterols and statins work in very different ways, so you can get benefit from both at the same time. (Let’s be smart about this: discuss it with your healthcare provider, who will want to know about all of your efforts, especially when evaluating your lab reports.) Typically, you can expect phytosterols to lower LDL cholesterol levels by about 10%, though I’ve observed even greater reductions.
- Phytosterols don’t affect HDL cholesterol. The research on triglyceride lowering is a bit murky. Some research suggests that phytosterols also benefit triglyceride levels, but it’s probably too soon to bank on that.
- The FDA calls phytosterols safe. The European Food Safety Authority says so too. It is possible, however, that they could inhibit the absorption of some fat soluble nutrients. You can get around this by eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. And finally, anyone with a rare genetic defect called sitosterolemia should avoid phytosterol-fortified foods.
- Benecol® Buttery Spreads are terrific products. I especially like the light version because you’ll get half your daily dose of phytosterols for only 50 calories and a mere 1 g saturated fat. There are no partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats in either the original or light varieties. There are other phytosterol-containing products as well that you can use in addition to or instead of Benecol® products. A search in your stores may lead you to orange juice, oatmeal bars, brownies, capsules and chews. Again, I thank Benecol® for sponsoring this post that brings such important information to my readers.
What are some of your best cholesterol-lowering tricks and strategies? Please do share!