Plant sterols have shown to be effective at reducing LDL or "bad" cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol has a strong link to heart disease. This means that plant sterols can have a positive impact on your health. You can get plant sterols from food products and supplements.
Plant sterols are found naturally in foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, cereals, and legumes. In Canadian diets, vegetable oils are the richest natural sterol source.
You can also get plant sterols from fortified foods where plant sterols are used as ingredients. Fortified products include spreads, mayonnaise, margarine, salad dressing, yogurt and yogurt drinks, and vegetable and fruit juices. To find a fortified product, check the label for health claims such as "plant sterols help reduce cholesterol" or "plant sterols help lower cholesterol."
Another source of plant sterols is dietary supplements, which are available without a prescription.
Are fortified foods and supplements worth the price? Natural food products are often the cheapest alternative, but you would need to eat large amounts to get 2 grams per day of plant sterols (the amount recommended for lowering your cholesterol). Eating large amounts of oils and nuts also means that you will be getting too many calories and fats. Foods fortified with plant sterols are a bit more expensive, but it is easier to get 2 grams a day. Health Canada allows fortified foods to contain a maximum of 1 gram of plant sterols per serving.
There is no one best source for plant sterols. It all depends on your preferences for taste, cost, and convenience.
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