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There is good news if your doctor has told you to bring your cholesterol numbers down. A natural ingredient called plant sterols, now found in many common products at your grocery store, can safely help you lower your LDL cholesterol to a healthierlevel.

Plant sterols, also called phytosterols, are found in all plants. The best dietary sources of plant sterols are vegetables, seeds and nuts. Because plant sterols are structurally similar to cholesterol molecules, they inhibit cholesterol absorption from the gut. This ends up lowering the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood.

Diet and exercise are important to your cardiovascular health. Now with the availability of plant sterols inside of your favorite products (see above photo), there is an additional way to keep your arteries clear and your heart healthy.

Plant sterols have been investigated in scores of human clinical studies with no adverse problems. Plant sterols helped lower the 'bad' (LDL) cholesterol 8 – 15 percent in these studies. To put that in perspective, the Mayo Clinic advises that eating five to 10 grams of soluble fiber daily decreases LDL cholesterol by about five percent. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, foods that contain at least 0.4 grams per serving of plant ste rols, consumed twice a day with meals (for a daily total intake of at least 0.8 grams), as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Even though all plants contain plant sterols, they are not in sufficient quantity in the typical American diet to have a significant impact on cholesterol levels. To achieve the maximum cholesterol-lowering benefit from plant sterols, you need to supplement your diet. One way to do this is to look for foods that contain plant sterols. You'll be doing your heart a favor.

Biography – Rebecca S. Reeves, DrPH, RD, FADA
Dr. Reeves served as past president of the American Dietetic Association. Dr. Reeves has conducted clinical trials in nutrition and behavioral medicine at Baylor College of Medicine for the past 30 years. In 2001 the American Dietetic Association awarded Dr. Reeves with the Medallion Award, one of the highest awards bestowed on a member.

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