Cholesterol Lowering Foods
Foods containing plant sterols, plant stanols, or soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol. Examples of cholesterol lowering foods high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, apples, and lentils. Until recently, foods high in soy protein were also thought to help reduce cholesterol; however, recent research has shown this not to be the case.
Research has shown that certain foods can lower cholesterol. These include foods with:
- Plant sterols or stanols
- Soluble fiber.
Foods high in soy protein were once thought to be cholesterol lowering foods. Recent research, however, has shown this not to be the case.
Some foods can decrease the chances of developing heart disease, although they do not necessarily reduce cholesterol.
(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.)
Some cholesterol lowering foods on the market are fortified with plant sterols or stanols. These foods help block absorption of cholesterol from the diet.
Stanols and sterols are substances that occur naturally in small amounts in:
- Vegetable oils
- Some plants.
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 produce a significant effect on cholesterol. 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 that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. 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 stanols to help lower cholesterol, including Benecol® and Take Control®.