Foods That Lower Cholesterol
Foods containing plant sterols, plant stanols, or soluble fiber -- such as kidney beans, prunes, and pears -- can all lower cholesterol. Some products can also be fortified with plant sterols or stanols to help block absorption of dietary cholesterol. Foods containing soy protein were once thought to be low-cholesterol foods. Recent research, however, has shown this not to be the case.
Foods That Lower Cholesterol: An Introduction
Research has shown there to be certain foods that lower cholesterol levels. These foods include those containing at least one of the following:
- Plant sterols or stanols
- Soluble fiber.
Until recently, foods containing soy protein were thought to lower cholesterol; however, recent cholesterol research has shown this not to be the case.
While not considered cholesterol-lowering foods, there are a number of foods that do reduce the chances of developing heart disease.
(Click Heart Healthy Foods for more information on foods -- such as almonds, walnuts, garlic, and certain types of fish -- that may reduce the chances of heart disease.)
Low-Cholesterol Foods: Plant Sterols and Stanols
There are a number of foods on the market that are fortified with plant sterols or stanols. These are known as foods that lower cholesterol because they help block absorption of cholesterol from the diet.
Sterols and stanols are substances that occur naturally in small amounts in many:
- Vegetable oils
- Some 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.
Foods low in cholesterol should be consumed as part of a diet that is also low in saturated fat. It is recommended that these products 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 Take Control® and Benecol®.