LDL Cholesterol: Foods fortified with sterols, stanols can lower cholesterol
Plant sterols and stanols, substances that can lower cholesterol, are now being added to foods ranging from granola bars to chocolate. The catch is that you need to eat about 2 grams worth of added sterols or stanols every day to put a dent in your cholesterol, reports the Harvard Heart Letter.
When eaten, sterols and stanols gum up the body's system for absorbing cholesterol from food. Since the liver needs cholesterol for digestion, it grabs LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream while leaving HDL cholesterol alone. Eating 2 grams per day can lower levels of LDL cholesterol by about 10%, which could translate into a 20% lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
If a food you eat every day is now being made with extra sterols or stanols, switching to the fortified version makes sense, says the Harvard Heart Letter. If not, adding these foods to your diet is a high-calorie way to modestly reduce cholesterol. You'll need to eliminate the added calories somewhere else in your diet, or the resulting weight gain will counteract the cholesterol-lowering effect.