Should You Be Eating Plant Sterols?
Plant sterols are essentially small quantities of naturally-occurring substances found in various grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes. They contain powerful cholesterol-lowering properties and as such, manufacturers have been incorporating them into foods. Sterols are available in food items like orange juice, cereals, margarine spreads and granola bars.
Structurally, plant sterols are quite similar to cholesterol and stanols, which are saturated sterols, contain exceptional health benefits. Best of all, they have none of the negative effects of cholesterol.
Initially, there were technical limitations that only made it possible for plant sterols to be added to fat-containing foods like salad dressings and margarine. However, that hurdle has since been cleared. These days, sterols can be found in healthier fortified foods, which range from snack bars and yogurt to orange juice and soy milk. They are also available in capsule and tablet form. With the advancement of technology, a number of other fortified products are expected to be packed onto your grocery store shelves.
Pretty much all packaging on sterol-fortified products contain some type of cholesterol-related health claim. The label will likely have words like “phytosterols,” plant stanol esters” or “plant sterols. The majority of these products have a sufficient amount of sterols to supply between 1 and 2 grams in 2 to 3 servings. Therefore, sufficient sterols can be consumed without the risk of overeating or radically altering your diet.
The Impact of Plant Sterols
From a molecular standpoint, stanols and sterols closely resemble cholesterol. Therefore, they get in the way when traveling through the digestive tract. In so doing, they can prevent the absorption of real cholesterol into the bloodstream. Rather than clogging the arteries, the cholesterol will be eliminated with the waste. This causes a reduction in the blood levels of cholesterol. This gradual decrease depends on the quantity of plant sterol consumed.
Incorporating Sterols into Your Diet
The Required Amount
It is recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program that individuals with high cholesterol should consume 2 grams of sterols each day, leading into a new diet trend, the “Sterol Diet“. In addition, scientific research has revealed that consuming between 1.5 grams and 2.4 grams of sterols each day can considerably lower bad cholesterol (LDL) by as much as 10 percent.
Whole Food versus Supplements
There have been debates regarding the best way to get the required amount of sterols in the diet. A number of experts encourage individuals the get their sterols from whole foods, as opposed to supplements. This is largely because whole foods have been proven to provide an intricate mixture of nutrients that are highly beneficial to the body.
This combination of nutrients can never be duplicated by supplement manufacturers. Therefore, a number of experts believe that steroid-fortified supplements do not provide as many benefits as those that are naturally occurring in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.
However, opponents of this view argue that while the health benefits of sterols cannot be undermined, extra calories are a huge concern. Since excess calories simply result in additional pounds, supplements are recommended for individuals who are overweight or struggle with obesity.
Sterol and sterol-fortified foods are not recommended for everyone. Instead, the American Heart Association recommends that they should only be used by individuals who have suffered a heart attack or need to reduce their cholesterol levels.
Planet Sterols & Your Health – Does It Matter?
The positive effects of incorporating sterols into your diet are noteworthy. This is because strong evidence is there of a correlation between the risk of developing heart disease and high LDL-cholesterol levels. Of course, there are other factors that play a role in the development of heart-related conditions; these include heredity, smoking and obesity. However, it is always a smart health move to keep your LDL cholesterol in check.
With all of benefits of using plant sterols, the most surprising aspect of their impact on cholesterol is the fact that they seemingly work on everyone; this is irrespective of factors such as the cholesterol profile of the consumers.