Phytosterols, also known as plant sterols, are a group of compounds that are structurally similar to cholesterol. They are naturally occurring in plants and serve as important structural components of biological membranes in plant cells. Phytosterols include various sterols and stanols, and over 250 different compounds have been identified within this group.
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RD, CDE, discusses How Can Plant Sterols Help with LDL Cholesterol?
What are Plant Sterols?
Plant sterols, also known as phytosterols, are indeed cholesterol-like compounds found in various plants. They have a similar structure to cholesterol and are naturally present in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. There are several types of plant sterols, with around 44 known sterols.
Plant sterols have been shown to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels, particularly by reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol. The mechanism behind this is their ability to inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol in the digestive system. When plant sterols are consumed with food, they compete with cholesterol for absorption, effectively reducing the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed into the bloodstream.
The average North American diet typically contains approximately 250 milligrams of plant sterols per day. However, it's important to note that this amount can vary depending on an individual's specific dietary choices and consumption patterns.
Including plant sterols in the diet can be beneficial for individuals looking to manage their cholesterol levels. Some foods are also fortified with plant sterols to increase their intake. However, it's always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice regarding cholesterol management and dietary changes.
To get the benefits of the LDL cholesterol-lowering effects of plant sterols you need at least 2,000 milligrams or 2 grams per day, which is recommended. If you have questions about plant sterols, speak with your local dietitian for visit your local food store for more information. Often seeing a local family physician or a physiotherapist in conjunction with a registered dietitian and athletic therapist is a great option to take control of this condition. Smart Food Now and exercise is also optominal for overall health.
Plant Sterols and High Cholesterol
If you’ve been diagnosed with high LDL cholesterol there are several things you can do with your diet to lower your LDL cholesterol. First of all, try to reduce your saturated fat intake and that comes from high fat animal products such as high fat dairy and high fat meat products.
You can also increase your polyunsaturated fats from liquid oils and nuts and seeds. You can also add more fish oils by eating fish at least three times a week.
Eating more fruits and vegetables and sources of soluble fiber can actually lower your cholesterol as well, so choosing foods like barley and eggplant as well as oats can be a really good choice.
You also want to make sure that you’re eating a lot of antioxidants and antioxidants come from brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
You can also try to add more plant sterols, which have been shown to lower your LDL cholesterol. You can get that from eating more nuts and seeds, liquid oils, and adding foods that have been fortified with plant sterols, such as certain margarines. If you’d like more information about how to lower your LDL cholesterol, contact your local doctor or your local registered dietitian.
One of the most well-known phytosterols is beta-sitosterol, which is found in many plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. Other common phytosterols include campesterol, stigmasterol, and brassicasterol.
Phytosterols have gained attention for their potential health benefits, particularly in managing cholesterol levels. They have a similar structure to cholesterol and can compete with it for absorption in the digestive system. As a result, phytosterols can help reduce the absorption of dietary cholesterol, leading to lower levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol.
Due to their cholesterol-lowering properties, phytosterols have been incorporated into various functional foods and dietary supplements marketed for cardiovascular health. They are commonly added to margarines, spreads, and yogurts, among other products, to provide a cholesterol-lowering effect.
It's worth noting that while phytosterols can be beneficial for individuals with high cholesterol levels, they are not recommended for everyone. People with certain rare conditions, such as sitosterolemia, should avoid consuming high amounts of phytosterols, as their body's ability to properly handle these compounds is impaired.
In summary, phytosterols are plant-derived compounds that resemble cholesterol and play a crucial role in the structure of plant cell membranes. They have potential health benefits, primarily in reducing cholesterol absorption and managing cholesterol levels.