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The Truth About Plant Sterols and Stanols

 

Medically reviewed by Amy Gorin, MS, RDN

Wondering if cholesterol-lowering spreads work? Here's the truth about plant sterols and stanols, plus tips to lower your cholesterol and an explainer on those mysterious plant stanols.

 

Wish you could get your cholesterol—and your risk of heart disease—to take a dip? Good news: You can, with just a few dietary changes! Read on for lots of helpful cholesterol tips.

 

Also find out more about spreads that lower cholesterol, and learn about the benefits and the truth about Benecol.

  

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Thanks to the folks at Benecol® for sponsoring this blog post. All opinions, as always, are my own.

  

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How Eating Plants Can Help Cholesterol

What are stanols and sterols? And are oils such as canola oil good for you? You may have heard about plant sterols and stanols. These are both phytosterols, naturally found in small amounts in certain foods.

 

The list of foods with plant sterols and stanols includes vegetable oils (like canola, sunflower, and olive oil), cereal grains (such as corn and rye), and nuts (like peanuts and almonds).

 

When it comes to a sterols and stanols food list, they’re also in smaller amounts in avocado and fruits and vegetables like apples, banana, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, per a study in Atherosclerosis. And some foods are fortified with plant sterols and stanols. Those fortified foods can be helpful to your health.

 

These phytosterols possess a super power: They hold a similar molecular shape to cholesterol, allowing them the ability to compete with cholesterol for absorption in the intestine. This is how they may help lower levels of cholesterol in the blood. And when you lower cholesterol levels, your risk of heart disease also decreases.

 

Although both plant sterols and stanols and are beneficial for helping cholesterol levels, the former may hold the upper hand and are believed to be most effective in helping to decrease both total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, per a review study by Canadian researchers.

 

Just how many phytosterols do you need for the biggest benefit? Research shows this amount to be 2 grams daily—although most people following a Western diet only naturally take in about 0.3 grams of plant sterols and up to 0.004 grams of plant stanols daily, per research.

Curious about a cholesterol diet & cholesterol lowering foods? Find out about plant sterol supplements & plant stanols, plus info on Benecol. #ad #cholesterol #cholesteroltips #hearthealth #plantbased  #benecol #plantsterol #supplements #plantstanol

An Easy Way to Get Plant Sterols

So what's the story with cholesterol-lowering butter spreads, particularly plant-sterol spreads? Do cholesterol-lowering spreads work? I recently tried Benecol, the only buttery spread to offer plant stanols. How does Benecol work? Two Tablespoons of the spread contains that recommended 2 gram daily amount.

 

How does Benecol lower cholesterol? You may have seen or tried an earlier version of the spread that contained a lower amount of plant stanols—and also, unfortunately, trans fats. But the folks at Benecol have worked hard to reformulate the product into the version you see today. It contains an effective amount of plant stanols and no trans fats.

 

Bonus: If you’re already taking a statin to help control your cholesterol, adding a plant-stanol-containing product, such as the Benecol spread, to your daily diet could help to further lower both your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (aka bad cholesterol), shows research in The American Journal of Cardiology. 

 

So it's a heart healthy spread that may even help to reduce the risk of heart attack by lowering chances of high cholesterol. It also doesn't alter your HDL cholesterol levels.

 

By the way, other habits that can help your heart health include taking in less saturated fat, taking dietary supplements such as omega-3s. You can also keep on top of the tips that the American Heart Association shares.

Curious about a cholesterol diet & cholesterol lowering foods? Find out about plant sterol supplements & plant stanols, plus info on Benecol. #ad #cholesterol #cholesteroltips #hearthealth #plantbased  #benecol #plantsterol #supplements #plantstanol

Ideas for Cooking with the Spread

I had a lot of fun playing around in the kitchen with these butter with plant sterols! Benecol has both an original and a light version, and they’re both delicious—especially on top of whole-wheat crackers or whole-grain bread.

 

I definitely know what I’m going to whip up next time I entertain!

 

I made a few easy-to-prepare ideas with the spread, and I’m excited to share them with you. Ready for those Benecol recipes?

Curious about a cholesterol diet & cholesterol lowering foods? Find out about plant sterol supplements & plant stanols, plus info on Benecol. #ad #cholesterol #cholesteroltips #hearthealth #plantbased  #benecol #plantsterol #supplements #plantstanol

Cracker Toppers

I spread Benecol on whole-grain crackers, using fresh basil and thyme as finishers. This took just seconds to prepare.

 

Then, I got creative with the plant sterol spreads. I made three variations of flavored buttery spreads. All of these spreads for crackers are delish. So that's another reason to say yes to this low-cholesterol spread.

1. Honey Buttery Spread

I stirred 2 teaspoons of honey into 2 Tablespoons of Benecol. I topped whole-wheat crackers with the honey mixture, plus a couple of blueberries.

2. Basil Pesto Buttery Spread

I mixed 1 teaspoon of pesto into 2 Tablespoons of Benecol buttery spread. I spread the mixture on crackers, topping it with fresh basil.

2. Sundried Tomato and Thyme Cracker

I spread plain Benecol on crackers, topping it with pieces of olive-oil-packed sundried tomato and fresh thyme.

 

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Vegetable Add-Ins

 

You could do this with pretty much any vegetable, but I chose asparagus: I pan-fried the green veggie, cooking it with just a little bit of grapeseed oil.

 

I minced two cloves of garlic, then added that to two Tablespoons of Benecol. I topped asparagus with the garlic buttery spread just after it was finished cooking. Love roasted asparagus? You can also top my Lemon Garlic Asparagus with the buttery spread.

 

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Muffin Ingredient

 

You can use Benecol as a sub-in for butter or margarine in many recipes, from muffins to quick breads to pancakes.

 

I recently whipped up a batch of these Coffee Cake Muffins with the buttery spread. The muffins were delicious!

 

Curious about a cholesterol diet & cholesterol lowering foods? Find out about plant sterol supplements & plant stanols, plus info on Benecol. #ad #cholesterol #cholesteroltips #hearthealth #plantbased  #benecol #plantsterol #supplements #plantstanol

Sources

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 I'd love to hear from you! I hope you found this Benecol review helpful. What do you think about cholesterol-lowering spreads, and plant sterols and stanols? What are your favorite ways to eat to lower cholesterol? 

 

Comment below, or tag @amydgorin on Instagram and Pinterest and @amygorin on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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