Cholesterol Lowering Food
Foods containing plant sterols, plant stanols, or soluble fiber have been shown to lower cholesterol. Scientists believe that when soluble fiber is digested, it sticks to cholesterol and prevents it from being absorbed. Until recently, foods high in soy protein were also thought to be foods for lowering cholesterol; however, recent research has shown this is not the case.
Research has shown there to be certain foods that can help lower cholesterol. These include foods with:
- Plant sterols or stanols
- Soluble fiber.
Foods high in soy protein were also thought to be cholesterol lowering foods. However, recent research has shown this is no longer true.
There are also a number of foods that, while not considered foods that lower cholesterol, do reduce the chances for developing heart disease.
(Click Heart Healthy Foods for more information on foods -- such as walnuts, almonds, garlic, and certain types of fish -- that may reduce the chances of heart disease.)
A number of foods on the market have become available that are fortified with plant sterols or stanols. These are cholesterol lowering foods because they help block absorption of cholesterol from the diet.
Sterols and stanols are substances that occur naturally in small amounts in:
- Vegetable oils
- Certain other plants.
However, less than 500 mg a day of plant stanols are consumed in the average Western diet. Even people on a strict vegetarian diet consume less than 1 gram per day of plant sterols. Scientific studies have shown that consuming 1.3 grams per day of plant sterol esters or 3.4 grams per day of plant stanol esters can show a significant cholesterol lowering effect. To achieve that level of consumption, people should look for foods fortified with plant sterols or stanols.
These foods should be consumed as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and it is recommended that they be consumed in two servings at different times of the day with other foods. Studies have shown that foods fortified with plant sterols and stanols can lower LDL ("bad" cholesterol) by up to 10 percent without affecting HDL ("good" cholesterol).
Margarines and a number of other products are being fortified with cholesterol lowering stanols, including Benecol® and Take Control®.