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Role of Phytosterols

by Cheryl Waters Likins
  • Overview

    Nuts are rich in phytosterols.
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    Phytosterols help to lower serum cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is implicated in heart disease and is a risk factor for stroke and hypertension. Adding phytosterols or sterols to the diet may help to lower these risks and improve health.
  • History

    Plants contain varying amounts of phytosterols. Vegetable oils, nuts, wheat germ and legumes are the most common sources. The most commonly occurring phytosterols are beta-sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol.
    Olive oil contains heart-healthy sterols.
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  • Significance

    According to a November 2009 article from "Medical News Today," phytosterol molecules in our intestines help to block the absorption of cholesterol. High cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease.
    Wheat germ is high in phytosterols.
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  • Effects

    According to the Linus Pauling Institute, including foods enriched with at least .8 g of plant sterols in your diet lowers LDL cholesterol. Increasing the amount of plant-based, sterol-rich foods into the modern diet may improve overall cholesterol and cardiovascular health.
    Fatty meats are high in cholesterol.
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  • Prevention/Solution

    Incorporate phytosterol-rich foods into your diet. Sunflower seeds and pistachio nuts are among the best sources.
    Sunflower seeds are a great source of plant sterols.
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  • Warning

    If you have allergies or a food intolerance to the nuts, legumes or vegetable oils, then consider taking a supplement. Ask your doctor for recommendations, as the quality and efficacy of over-the-counter supplements varies.
    Your doctor can help you to choose the best supplement.
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    References & Resources