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Phytosterols: What Are They and How Can They Help Lower Your Cholesterol?

Phytosterols Are a Heart-Healthy Ingredient


Updated August 01, 2011

Phytosterols have become popular over recent years due to their heart-healthy benefits. Some studies suggest that phytosterols also have the ability to affect certain aspects of your cholesterol profile. Because of this, some food manufacturers are supplementing phytosterols in foods. However, even if you do not want to consume these foods, you can always obtain phytosterols from supplements or naturally through a wide variety of healthy foods.

What Are Phytosterols?

Phytosterols are cholesterol-like chemicals found in a variety of healthy foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts. But how do phytosterols stack up when it comes to lowering your cholesterol? Some studies have shown that only one type of cholesterol is slightly lowered by phytosterol consumption. Additionally, there isn’t too much information available on the long-term effects of phytosterols and heart health.


How Do Phytosterols Work?

Although phytosterols have been shown to lower cholesterol, there are differing thoughts as to how they perform this function. Some studies suggest that phytosterols interfere with the absorption of cholesterol. Other studies state that phytosterols are also minimally absorbed, making the chemicals good replacements for animal fats in the diet. Regardless of how they lower cholesterol, phytosterols are quickly emerging as a heart-friendly ingredient.

  • What amount of phytosterols do you need each day? Although there hasn't been a lot of research conducted that examines the amount of phytosterols needed to lower your cholesterol, there is a certain amount that studies are suggesting they are effective in lowering your cholesterol.

Where Can You Find Phytosterols?

Phytosterols can be obtained from a variety of sources, ranging from certain foods to supplements found in your local pharmacy or grocery store. Although there is research showing that phytosterols can help keep certain aspects of your cholesterol in check, there are pros and cons to using each source in obtaining your phytosterols. Find out what your options are for obtaining phytosterols in your diet, as well as how effeitve each option is in lowering your cholesterol.

Phytosterol Supplements v. Foods: Same Benefits?

Phytosterols are available in a wide variety of foods and supplements -- but which are better for you to take when it comes to lowering your cholesterol levels? While it may seem plausible to take phytosterol supplements because your diet isn’t the healthiest it could be, you may be missing out on additional, healthy benefits that phytosterol-containing foods can offer you. Additionally, there is some controversy over the effectiveness of phytosterol supplements.


Which Foods Contain the Highest Amount of Phytosterols?

There are plenty of healthy foods that contain phytosterols, including nuts, seeds, and vegetables. While some of these foods may be quite plentiful in phytosterols, others may only contain a small amount of this heart-healthy ingredient. Just because a healthy food does not contain a large amount of phytosterols, that does not mean that it still isn’t good for you to consume. Additionally, food manufacturers are now supplementing some of your favorite foods with phytosterols. Check and see which of your favorite healthy foods are high in phytosterol content and which ones are not.

Share Your Thoughts: Would You Consume Foods Supplemented with Phytosterols?

How to Add Phytosterols to Your Heart-Healthy Diet

There are plenty of ways you can include phytosterols in your cholesterol-lowering diet. Ranging from quick snacks to easy-to-follow recipes, including phytosterols in any part of your day couldn't be easier. If you are looking for additional ideas for including phytosterols in your diet, try some of these delicious recipes:

Are Phytosterols Safe?

Although studies have shown its effectiveness in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, the use of phytosterols long term is not entirely known. Just like with any ingredient -- especially when placed into a supplement form -- certain people make experience side effects from taking them. Find out what is known so far about the safety of taking phytosterols over a long period of time.

Side Effects of Taking Phytosterol Supplements and Supplemented Foods

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