Plant Sterols are Part of a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet

Why would someone want to make a point of eating plant sterols? These naturally-occurring substances help to block the absorption of cholesterol and can help to reduce the level of LDL cholesterol in the body.

Natural Sources of Plant Sterols

Plant sterols can be found in small amounts in these kinds of foods: fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and vegetables.

They are also added to an ever-growing number of prepared foods. If you want to add more plant sterols to your diet, look for foods like margarine, cereals, granola bars and orange juice, that have this ingredient added.

How Plant Sterols Help to Lower Cholesterol

Plant Sterols appear very similar to cholesterol on a molecular level. When they reach the body’s digestive system, they stop cholesterol from moving into the bloodstream. If the cholesterol doesn’t get a chance to get into the bloodstream, it is excreted from the body as waste material.

How Much Plant Sterol is Enough

Once you find a food or number of foods that have been enriched with sterols, you don’t need to eat them to excess to reap the health benefits that they can provide. Consuming two grams of plant sterols per day can have a positive effect on the health of people who have high cholesterol.

Not everyone should make a point of eating foods containing plant sterols. Unless you have a history of heart attack or have high cholesterol, don’t make a point of consuming them. A cholesterol-lowering diet should also include these foods:

  • Fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, mackerel)
  • Oat bran
  • Oatmeal
  • Soy protein
  • Walnuts

Fatty fish contains Omega-3, which helps to lower triglyceride levels in the bloodstream. Walnuts are a good choice for a cholesterol-lowering diet because they are also a good source of Omega-3.

Oat bran and oatmeal contains fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol and may discourage overeating because these foods help a person to feel full, longer.

Soy protein should be included in your heart-healthy diet plan because it lowers the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides without affecting the good cholesterol in the body.

Plant Sterols Work to Lower Cholesterol

If you are looking for ways to lower your cholesterol levels, a compound found in fruits, vegetables, and nuts can help. Plant sterols help to lower the level of cholesterol that is absorbed by the lower digestive tract from the food we eat.

The recommended daily amount for plant sterol consumption is two grams per day. You can get them by eating more fruits and vegetables, but you would have to eat a large amount of them to do so. A better choice is to choose foods that have plant sterols added to them.

Look for this ingredient added to foods like milk products, orange juice, crackers and margarine. Since they don’t change the flavor or texture of the foods they are added to, you can reap the health benefits without being concerned about giving up taste.

People who consume the recommended daily amount of plant sterols in their diet can lower their LDL cholesterol by up to 10 percent.plant sterols photo

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) helps to keep us healthy by moving cholesterol away from the cells and transporting it to the liver so that it can be broken down and eliminated from the body. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is a health issue because it cannot be broken down in water. Instead, it travels through the bloodstream and is taken to the arteries leading to the heart.

How Plant Sterols Help Lower Cholesterol

On a molecular level, plant sterols are very similar to LDL cholesterol. When a person consumes foods containing plant sterols, these molecules compete with the cholesterols ones for absorption by the lower intestine. As a result, a lower amount of cholesterol is absorbed by the body.

Cholesterol Levels Not Related to Appearance

You may be thinking that you can spot a person who needs to take steps to lower their cholesterol, but that is not the case. Genetics plays a part in cholesterol levels, so an individual can avoid the gym like the plague and eat a high amount of fat in his or her diet and may have a lower cholesterol level than a person who eats well and exercises regularly. The way to find out what your cholesterol level is and whether you need to be making changes to your diet, such as eating more foods containing plant sterols, is to see your doctor and have your levels checked.

Cholesterol, Blood Pressure Meds Combine to Cut Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente have discovered that patients who took a combination of two drugs were able to reduce their risk of serious heart attack and stroke by a whopping 60 percent. The problem with this approach to prevention was getting the study participants to take the medication regularly.

The idea for the study was to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels simultaneously for the 170,000 participants. All of the people who took the combination of lovastatin for cholesterol and lisinopril for blood pressure were California residents and members of Kaiser Permanente’s managed care programs.

Just over 47,000 of the participants failed to take the medication regularly as directed. The patients who took the drug at least 50 percent of the time numbered approximately 21,000. Next on the list for Kaiser? A follow-up program to increase compliance rates.

Cut Back on Fats for Heart Health

When it comes to heart-healthy diets, there are lots of ways that you can make better choices that will improve your health. One thing you can do is consume less saturated and trans fats in your diet. Taking this step will lower your cholesterol levels, as well as your risk of developing heart disease.

If you want to lower your fat intake, focus on solid fats first. You can reduce the amount of butter, margarine or shortening that you are using to cook with. Cut back instead of trying to give up with way of preparing food entirely. The idea is to make changes that you can adopt as permanent lifestyle changes, not do something for a short time only.

Be creative and substitute other foods for butter and margarine; for example use a cooking spray to avoid adding extra fat and calories to your meals.

Eat Blueberries to Lower Cholesterol

Blueberries not only taste good, but including them in your diet plan can help to lower your levels of LDL cholesterol, which is commonly called “bad” cholesterol. Research conducted on pigs has found that when the animals consumed the equivalent of two, one-cup servings of blueberries daily, their cholesterol levels decreased.

Pigs are used for research purposes because they have similar health issues as humans. Their heart rate and blood pressure are comparable, and they also develop artery-blocking plaque. Like us, their risk of cardiovascular issues is related to diet.

Adding blueberries to your diet is not difficult. You can enjoy them on their own or in a fruit salad. Sprinkle a few in a tossed salad to add some color and an interesting flavor twist. You can also eat blueberry yogurt with fruit added to get more of them into your diet.