What are Plant Stanols?

As a Nutrition Communications Consultant and blogger, I sometimes am sent free samples of products, but with no obligation to promote the products. When products provide evidence-based information, and I feel could be helpful to incorporate into a diet, I’ll write about them and share posts on social media. I was not compensated to write this post.

Have you heard of plant stanol esters? They are naturally found in all plant foods and help block the absorption of cholesterol in your body, lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. 

I recently tried a free sample of Benecol® with a coupon that was sent to me. This is a vegetable oil spread with plant stanol esters added to it, that you can use on toast, bread, or vegetables. The product claims to reduce cholesterol when used daily, and numerous studies have shown that plant stanols can reduce cholesterol levels. Of course, a heart-healthy lifestyle also requires exercise and an overall healthy diet, that’s low in saturated fat.

Cholesterol Lowering Diet

It’s definitely worth working on your diet if you have high cholesterol levels. Having high cholesterol adds to your risk of heart disease (along with high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle). Include foods such as:

  • Vegetables and whole grains should be the showcase on your plate. Be sure to include a variety of vegetables and legumes, and choose grains such as barley, brown rice, or quinoa.
  • Include fruit. Like vegetables, fruit supplies fiber and antioxidants.
  • Make breakfast count. Including oatmeal into your meal plan can help lower cholesterol. Sweeten it naturally with fresh or frozen fruit.
  • Use healthy fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, corn, or soybean oil. Choosing a variety of vegetable oils is your best bet (oils high in polyunsaturated fat, or PUFAs, may have adverse affects, the key is to use all fats sparingly, and substitute vegetable oil for butter or shortening in baking when possible).
  • Add nuts and seeds to your diet. These foods are high in fiber and healthy fats. Snack on small servings of nuts, and add seeds to salads or in baking.
  • As you add more vegetables, reduce your portions of meat. To reduce saturated fat, choose lean cuts of meat, remove skin from poultry. Add more fish to your diet, which can add omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Limit sugar, high fat desserts and fried food. Don’t overdo sweets, and cut back on the total amount of sugar in your diet. Try baking your own treats, and using fruit as a weekday dessert. Any form of sugar (table sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar) provides calories and no nutrients. It can also impact your triglyceride level if you are prone to high triglycerides.

If you have high cholesterol and you are already using a vegetable oil spread every day, it certainly can’t hurt to try a product like Benecol® along with a healthy diet. I found it tasty on toast (I love toast), and I think I’ll try spiking my oatmeal with some too.

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