We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is good for our health. Unfortunately, not all are rich in the nutrients we need to maintain good health. Many modern day diets are lacking in phytonutrients that support our immune system.
Since plant sterols have the capacity to balance the immune system, reduce nasty inflammatory markers and defend us against bacterial and even viral infections, insufficient phytosterols diet will lead to more health issues.
People at risk of heart disease, especially those with high blood cholesterol levels, also benefit from including sources of plant sterols and stanols in their diet. So, why not give your immune system the help it needs and deserves naturally? Here’s a list of foods with plant sterols and stanols that will help you stay as fit as a fiddle!
What are phytosterol foods?
Phytosterol foods are types of food rich in phytonutrients, also known as plant sterols or stanol esters – micronutrients that, like vitamin C, are essential to the human body, but have to be ingested, as the body cannot produce them itself.
Plant sterols are naturally occurring substances that have been part of the human diet for thousands of years, mostly found in small amounts in vegetable oil, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Because they have a similar structure to cholesterol, plant sterols and stanols work to reduce the absorption cholesterol in the digestive system. As a result, cholesterol absorption is blocked and blood cholesterol levels reduced. They also help strengthen our immune defense.
What is the difference between plant sterols and stanols?
Plant sterols and stanols are plant steroids with a similar chemical structure and cellular function to human cholesterol. Plant stanols are saturated, so sterols have a higher degree of absorption than plant stanols, suggesting slightly different efficacy between the two.
What if we don’t eat enough plant sterol foods?
When combined with a healthy lifestyle and healthy weight, plant sterols and stanols reduce total cholesterol levels up to 10% and LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels up to 14%. High cholesterol levels increase the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, which is why they are important for our diet.
Since plant sterols also have the capacity to balance our immune system, reduce inflammatory markers and have antimicrobial activity, then a diet lacking in phytosterols can lead to sterol deficiency syndrome and more issues with immune related conditions. Common conditions that prevail with a reduced amount of plant sterols in the diet may present as allergies, chronic colds, flu to lupus, IBS, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and other inflammatory based immune conditions.
How much plant sterols and stanols do I need?
Eating at least 2 grams (2,000 mg) of plant sterols per day may lower your LDL-C (“bad” cholesterol) by 5 to 10%. Even though many plant foods have plant sterols, you can’t get enough plant sterols in your body naturally. You may need to eat certain foods supplemented with plant sterols to get the recommended daily amount. Consuming more than the recommended amount of plant sterols will not lower your cholesterol more and consuming less than the recommended amount may result in little to no effects.
How do you get 2 grams of plant sterols?
In order to get 2,000 mg (2 grams) of plant sterols, you will need to eat 2 to 3 servings of plant sterol-enriched foods daily or use natural sterol supplements. To get the recommended daily amount of plant sterols and stanols, you need to read the sterol supplement product label or the ingredients list of the food label, to see what it amounts to per serving.
What foods contain the most plant sterols?
When plants are sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, like most are today, the plant produces much less of these important phytonutrients that we need.
You would think that vegetarians would be getting more than enough plant sterols, but in fact, that is not the case. To put things in perspective, a typical diet provides only about 0.2 mg of plant sterols – but in order to get the recommended daily amount, you would need to eat 425 tomatoes, 210 carrots, 150 apples or 83 oranges!
The good news is that plant sterol and stanol fortified foods and supplements are available to help you meet the daily requirements.
Foods high in plant sterols and stanols
Incorporating a healthy daily amount of phytosterols in your diet means eating a wide variety of healthy foods, including those that are low in saturated fats such as:
- Whole grain breads and cereals, rice and pasta
- Vegetables and fruits
- Legumes (dried peas, dried beans and lentils)
- Seeds and nuts
- Lean meats, poultry and fish
- Reduced fat dairy products
- Saturated oils and table spreads
Plant sterol enriched products
It is not possible to get enough plant stanols and sterols to help lower cholesterol from the foods we eat. However, there is a range of foods which have been fortified with added plant stanols and sterols, like margarine, fat spreads and yogurt drinks. Check the food labels and ingredient lists to see if the food has added plant sterols.
What is the best drink to lower cholesterol?
Drinks that have antioxidant compounds or are low in saturated fat are a good option for lowering cholesterol levels, such as green tea, soy milk, oat drinks and drinks containing sterols and stanols, like fortified yogurt drinks, milk, and fruit juices.
Plant sterols supplements
Besides using recipes for healthy eating and consuming sterol enriched foods, dietitians and health experts recommend we supplement daily in order to make sure we obtain these health nutrients. You can take plant sterol supplements with foods that have added plant sterols to get the daily requirement of 2 grams of phytonutrients, although they may not have the same amount of plant sterols in each pill.
What is the best natural cholesterol lowering supplement?
Not all sterol products are equal. One capsule of Immuno-Care – a plant sterol, antioxidant combination will supply you with the daily requirement to help bring the phytosterol count to a healthy level. Immuno-Care is also enteric coated to get the nutrients into the body and by-pass the acidic area of the stomach, which destroys a lot of these delicate phytonutrients. No other product has this important component!
Helpful healthy eating tips
Eating plant sterols and stanols may lower the absorption of some vitamins and interfere with the absorption of beta-carotene so make sure you eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, like spinach, kale, carrots, and sweet potatoes. It’s still important to follow a heart healthy diet and include other foods that lower cholesterol in your diet, because plant sterols are not a substitute for heart healthy eating or for taking cholesterol-reducing medication prescribed by your doctor.
Jack was born and educated in Ireland and U.K. He has a varied education, mostly in engineering projects. Since then he has worked with a number of major companies with interests in various parts of the world. His personal interests include athletics, cross country skiing and especially long distance running. Jack has competed in many running events and some at an international level, including many marathons. He has always had a keen interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. More recently he has specialized in the areas of health and supplements, with a special focus on the immune system.