According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 98.6 million adults over the age of 20 have cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dl, which is the threshold for being diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia. While there are a number of ways you can lower your cholesterol, including exercise and medications, diet remains one of the simplest and most effective means of reducing your LDL, or bad type of cholesterol. Include plant sterols and stanols, naturally occurring components of certain plants that mimic LDL cholesterol, in your diet. Instead of the liver taking in LDL cholesterol and moving it through the bloodstream, plant sterols and stanols take their place, where they are naturally excreted from the body.
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Natural Oil Sources of Sterols and Stanols
The easiest and most effective way to introduce plant sterols and stanols into your diet is to eat the foods that naturally contain them. Some of the most common sources (with their sterol content stated as 182 mg per quantity in ounces) include coconut oil (15 oz.), walnut oil (9 oz.), pecan oil (6.5 oz), macadamia oil (5.5 oz.) and cottonseed oil (2.0 oz.).
Nature's Top Ten Sources of Sterols and Stanols
Many of the foods that you already enjoy are rich sources of plant sterols and stanols. These include corn oil (0.13g/Tbsp), sunflower oil (0.1g/Tbsp), many types of beans (0.07g/1/2 cup), corn (0.06g/1/2 cup), peanut butter (0.05g/2 Tbsp), olive oil (0.03 g/1 Tbsp), almonds (0.02g/1 oz.), oranges (0.02g/1 small orange), apples (0.01g/1 small apple) and avocados (0.008g/1 oz).
Commercial Sources of Sterols and Stanols
Sterols and stanols are also available in commercial foods that have been fortified with them. These include Benecol spread (0.85g/tbsp), Healthy Heart Yogurt 0.4g/6 oz.), Lifetime lowfat cheese (0.65g/1 oz.), Minute Maid Premium Heartwise orange juice (0.04g/8 oz.), Nature Valley Healthy Heart Chewy Granola Bars (0.4g/bar), Orowheat whole grain bread (0.4g/1 1/2 slices) and Take Control spread (1.7g/Tbsp)