There’s been a lot of talk about the heart-healthy benefits of phytosterols over the past few years. Studies have shown that phytosterols can help modestly reduce your “bad” cholesterol, or LDL, by an average of 10%. But where can you find phytosterols? The good news is that phytosterols can be found in a variety of products, ranging from supplements to healthy foods.
Foods Supplemented with Phytosterols
The effectiveness of phytosterols in lowering LDL has encouraged some food manufacturers to include phytosterols in their food products. There are several foods available that are fortified with phytosterols, including:
These foods will clearly display that they contain phytosterols on their packaging. Although studies with foods supplemented with phytosterols have shown that they can slightly lower LDL, no long-term studies have been conducted on these products. Consuming snack foods containing phytosterols, such as chips or cookies, may be counteractive in controlling your cholesterol -– especially with the sugar and fats added to such foods.
Foods That Naturally Contain Phytosterols
There are several healthy foods that naturally contain phytosterols, too. The amount of phytosterols in each of these foods can vary quite a bit. These foods include:
- Whole grains
Although these foods contain phytosterols, you would need to consume a lot of these foods to see these cholesterol-lowering benefits. Despite this, all of the above foods mentioned above are cholesterol-friendly and can be a part of any healthy, balanced diet.
There are a variety of supplements containing phytosterols that can be found in most grocery stores and pharmacies. Usually located in the vitamin aisle, phytosterol supplements can be found alone or combined with other vitamins and minerals. They commonly fall under a variety of different brands, but could contain one of the following designations as containing phytosterols:
- Plant sterols
- Sterol esters
- Stanol esters
Although you have the potential to obtain more phytosterols in a supplement, there are some studies that have suggested that phytosterols in some supplements may become inactivated during the manufacturing process, thus not being effective in lowering your cholesterol. Additionally, you may not be able to obtain the additional nutrients that healthy foods containing phytosterols may provide. If you are thinking about taking phytosterol supplements, make sure that you consult with your healthcare provider.
Ostund RE. Phytosterols, cholesterol absorption and healthy diets. Lipids. e-pub 9 January 2007.
Malinowski JM and Gehret MM. Phytosterols for dyslipidemia. Am J Health Syst Pharm 2010;67;1165-1173.