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Plant Sterols Lowering Cholesterol – True or False?

plant sterol yogurt

Plant sterols, also known as phytosterols, are compounds that can lower “lousy” LDL cholesterol levels and improve heart health as a result. Plant sterols foods include fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Health Canada has approved the addition of plant sterols to certain products, such as yogurt and margarine.

How do they work?

Research shows that plant sterols have a structure that is very similar to cholesterol. When they are in the body, plant sterols partially block cholesterol from being absorbed in the gut. The less cholesterol gets absorbed, the lower the blood cholesterol level, which is good news for your heart.

How much should be taken?

Current research suggests that taking 2 grams of plant sterols per day can lower LDL cholesterol on average by 10% starting within 3 weeks without making changes to eating habits. An additional 5% decrease can be achieved by making dietary changes toward healthier eating.

Please Note:

Take 2 grams of plant sterols consistently on a daily basis. More is not better.

It is very difficult to meet the 2 grams from foods containing plant sterols because the amount of plant sterols found naturally in these foods is minimal. Your best bet would be choose food products fortified with plant sterols or plant sterols supplements.

Which products are fortified with plant sterols?

  • Becel Proactiv® Margarine
  • Danacol Drinkable Yogurt
  • Astro BioBest with Plant Sterols
  • President’s Choice Blue Menu Yogurt Drink with Plant Sterols
  • And others…

Plant Sterols Supplements (i.e. Plant Sterols Pills)

Plant Sterols sources are not limited to that which can be found naturally or in fortified food products. While fortified foods can be a convenient choice for some individuals, others may prefer to ‘just get the plant sterols’ for their benefit, without needing to take in extra calories from margarine or yogurt.  If you feel the same way, try a plant sterol supplement, such as Centrum Cardio Multivitamin – 2 tab daily (total 1 gram of plant sterols). Alternatively, you can seek a dietitian’s advice to choose another appropriate plant sterols pill to achieve the clinically effective 2 gram dose for the proven heart health benefits.

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Plant Sterols Side Effects

According to Health Canada, , there are “no safety concerns with intakes of plant sterols up to 3g (as free phytosterols) per day in adults and 1 gram per day in children.”

Should I take them?

If you have concerns regarding your cholesterol levels, it is always best to discuss with your doctor, who may run tests to check your blood cholesterol levels. Depending on your current health status, risk factors for heart disease, and/or past heart health issues, you may not need to supplement your diet with plant sterols.  However, if plant sterols are appropriate for you, you can always meet with a dietitian to ensure you’re on the right track with meeting the 2 gram per daily intake level.