Foods with Plant Sterols to Lower Cholesterol
There are many steps you can take to lower your levels of cholesterol including exercising more and reducing your intake of foods with cholesterol. Soluble fiber is also said to be useful. And of course the pharmaceutical companies have also stepped into the lucrative market with cholesterol reducing drugs. In addition to these there is one other option worth considering -- plant sterols.
A study conducted in 2005 by Canadian researchers found that those who consumed plant sterols experienced a decrease in their LDL (bad) cholesterol by 15% after 21 days. Admittedly this initial study was small with just 49 participants, but additional studies found the same results such that the benefits of plant sterols are now widely accepted. In case you're curious, plant sterols are molecularly similar to cholesterol and they interfere with the absorption of cholesterol by the intestines. (Do a search on WebMD if you're interested in learning more about plant sterols and the related plant stanols.)
The most common food fortified with plant sterols is margarine (such as Benecol, Promise, Smart Balance and Take Control). For anyone that already consumes butter or margarine on a daily basis, switching makes sense. However, the prospect of adding margarine to one's diet is certainly going to be unappealing to anyone trying to manage their weight.
Minute Maid has a variant of their orange juice (callled Heartwise) that is enriched with plant sterols. Two servings a day is said to be sufficient to lower LDL. Unfortunately, this orange juice has been impossible to find in grocery stores such as Stop and Shop, D'Agostino's, A&P, and Whole Foods.
Fortunately for me, Kashi has a brand (Heart to Heart) of crackers that contain plant sterols [sadly these have been discontinued since this article was published]. These crackers come in two flavors -- plain and garlic. The plain ones are similar in taste to Triscuits, but don't quite have the same bite. Still, after a few servings I'm sure you'll find the taste quite palatable. Kashi products are quite popular and finding these crackers should be easy.
And if none of the above are available to you, I recommend you check out the products that use CoroWise (the brand given to cholesterol reducing foods). The list includes cheese, milk, bread, baked goods, and breakfast options.
One final thing to remember is that plant sterols are just one part of the equation. With slightly elevated LDL levels, consuming plant sterols may put you in the safe range, but that doesn't mean you can start eating burgers with bacon and cheese again. Augment your use of plant sterols with a reduction of other foods that contain cholesterol -- cheese was a particularly bad one for me!