Lower High Cholesterol Levels With Phytosterols

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Cholesterol
Last Reviewed 02/23/2014

Lower High Cholesterol Levels With Phytosterols

Sesame seeds, cashews and kidney beans are just a few of the plant-based foods that contain important plant nutrients called phytosterols, which have the ability to lower high LDL cholesterol levels. Phytosterols work primarily by inhibiting the body’s ability to absorb dietary cholesterol. Some research suggests that phytosterols also inhibit the body’s reabsorption of cholesterol secreted into the bile, but this research is still inconclusive.

In one recent study, one gram of beta sitosterol (one specific type of plant sterol) reduced cholesterol absorption by 40 percent. Other research reported in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that high LDL cholesterol levels decreased approximately 14 percent when phytosterols were consumed for about one year.

Eat More Plant Foods to Lower High Cholesterol Levels

The typical American diet contains about 250 mg of phytosterols. However, vegetarians consume approximately twice this amount. This larger intake of phytosterols can lower a person’s high cholesterol levels very quickly. In fact, if you consume approximately 500 mg of phytosterols per day, you can expect your high cholesterol levels to begin dropping within two weeks.

Here’s a list of the phytosterol content of some foods to help you estimate your phytosterol intake.

  • Olive oil: 232 mg/100g
  • Sesame seeds: 714 mg/100g
  • Sunflower seeds: 534 mg/100g
  • Soybeans: 161 mg/100g
  • Cashews: 158 mg/100g
  • Almonds: 143 mg/100g
  • Kidney beans: 127 mg/100g
  • Broad beans: 124 mg/100g
  • Pecans: 108 mg/100g

Supplemental Phytosterols for Treating High Cholesterol

Phytosterols are also available in supplement form. If you decide to go this route, I recommend 75–100 mg either before or during each meal. You can find plant sterol supplements at most health-food stores.

More Dr. Sinatra Advice on Lowering High Cholesterol Levels

What’s the best diet for those with high cholesterol? Learn how the Pan-Asian Mediterranean (PAM) diet promotes optimal cholesterol levels.

What three simple dietary changes can you make to lower your cholesterol levels? Learn three ways to change your daily eating that will treat your high cholesterol in just four weeks.

What type of dietary fat wreaks the most havoc on your cholesterol levels? Find out how trans fats both lower your “good” HDL cholesterol and raise your “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Want an easy way to get more cholesterol-lowering fiber into your diet? Discover how juicing can help lower your high cholesterol levels.

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