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Jan 23rd 2024

What Are Phytosterols, and Should I Be Trying to Get More of Them?

Phytosterols, also called plant sterols, are plant fats that are the counterpart of sterols found in animals, including humans. The most important animal sterol is cholesterol. Due to a similar, but slightly different, chemical structure, plant sterols compete with cholesterol for absorption in the intestine. Thus, they reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed from the diet. They also appear to reduce cholesterol levels in other ways.

Phytosterols do a lot more than lower cholesterol levels. They reduce inflammation, improve immunity, and control blood sugar in diabetes, among other things. So it's highly beneficial to include a lot of them in your diet.

However, if you're eating a healthy diet -- 10-12 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, mostly raw, along with plenty of nuts, seeds, legumes, and healthy oils from avocados, flax oil, olive oil, coconut oil and Udo's Choice -- you will be getting plenty of phytosterols. In fact, each one of these foods is known as an excellent source of phytosterols.

Unfortunately, now that their cholesterol-lowering ability has been discovered, phytosterols are being touted as the next-best thing to statins, and they're being injected into margarine, orange juice and all kinds of fake, toxic, processed foods that depart farther and farther from anything natural. People are being urged to get a dose of 2 or more grams of phytosterols a day, as if they were taking a cholesterol-lowering medication.

Although I'm all for taking supplements where there's a benefit, when it comes to phytosterols, a healthy diet alone will do the job.

Maghadasian MH. Effects of dietary phytosterols on cholesterol metabolism and atherosclerosis: Clinical and experimental evidence. The American Journal of Medicine, 1999;107:588-594.
Lichenstein AH. Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006A: Scientific statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee. Circulation, 2006;114:82-96.

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