High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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While dairy products tend to belong on the list of saturated fats that should only be eaten in moderation, yoghurt fortified with plant sterols or stanols could actually aid your cholesterol levels. Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy explained that plant sterols are able to slash cholesterol by 10 percent.
“I think adding fortified food products to the weekly shopping list is a great suggestion,” Dr Lee said.
What are plant sterols?
Plant sterols and stanols are chemicals, similar in shape and size to cholesterol, naturally occurring in plants.
The doctor explained: “When these are taken into the body in the diet, they compete with real dietary cholesterol for absorption in the intestines.
“As a result, less cholesterol is absorbed into the bloodstream.
“After they have been absorbed, most plant sterols and stanols are excreted back into the intestines. Some are excreted through the liver in the bile.”
But how do these plant goodies get into yoghurt? Some food companies fortify their products with them.
This means if yoghurt isn’t your go-to, you could also opt for dairy drinks, fat spreads, soft cheese or even cereals bars.
The best known brands in the UK with plant sterol and stanol ranges are Benecol and Flora – “although some supermarkets have their own ranges”, the expert noted.
How much yoghurt do I need to eat?
Dr Lee said you need to have one 120 gram (g) pot of fortified yoghurt so you get three grams of the plant compounds.
She continued: “The recommended dose is three grams [of] sterols or stanols per day.”
To get the “best” effects, you need to eat plant sterols at least once a day “as a part of a meal”.
However, there’s no need to go overboard. “If you increase the dose any further, this is unlikely to reduce cholesterol any further and may reduce the absorption of essential vitamins from the intestines,” the doctor warned.
If you want to opt for other plant sterol and stanol products apart from yoghurt, the expert advised eating these amounts:
- 2 x teaspoons of fat spread
- 1 x 250-millilitre glass of milk
- 1 x 120g yoghurt
- 1 x 65-100g bottle of yoghurt mini-drink
- 1 x cereal bar.
What cholesterol reduction can you expect?
Dr Lee said: “A 2003 meta-analysis of 41 clinical trials concluded that ingesting two g/day of stanols or sterols reduces total cholesterol by 10 percent.
“If you also eat a low-cholesterol diet, as well as ensure a daily intake of stanols and sterols, you can reduce LDL [bad] cholesterol by 20 percent.”
Although the research on the plant compounds is compelling, the doctor recommended pairing plant sterols with a diet low in cholesterol.
She said: “You can’t rely on plant sterols and stanols to lower your cholesterol in isolation.
“Choose low-fat options, and eat less red meat, fatty meat, and processed foods.
“Also go for healthy unsaturated fats – found in vegetable oils such as olive oil, seeds, and nuts.”
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