Plant Sterols

Sterols are a collection of substances akin to fat that are naturally present in plants as well as animals. In other words, they are an imperative category of natural molecules and are found in plants, animals as well as fungi. The most common variety of sterol is called cholesterol, which is crucial for the functioning of the cells. Cholesterols are considered to be forerunners of vitamins that are soluble in fat and steroid hormones.

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Where to find plant sterols

The fact remains that all of us take pleasure in delicious foods. It is certainly an additional benefit when the delectable food is also useful for our health. However, it is a little known fact that scientists have been studying the sterols present in plants for the last five decades with a view to ascertain their precise aptitude to lower the level of cholesterol in our blood stream. In fact, sterols are chemical amalgams that function to reduce the entire intensity of cholesterol by obstructing the quantity of cholesterol assimilated from ingested substances in the digestive tract of the body. It may be noted that animal cholesterol and sterols present in plants are identical in their make-up and this particular aspect enable the plant sterols to deceive the body to process the plant sterols rather than cholesterol. Ultimately, this action may result in lower levels of cholesterol in our blood stream. Remember, this is important since we always enhance the level of cholesterol in our blood stream every time we consume something.

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The plant sterols are an important ingredient of the plant's cell membrane or composition. The plant sterols are naturally present in several vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and even in our breakfast cereals, although in minor quantities. As plant sterols are found in small amounts in fruits, vegetables etc., one ought to consume plenty of the substances enclosing plant sterols to take full benefit of these chemical compounds' ability to lower the cholesterol levels in the blood stream. For instance, if you desire to ingest a small amount of two grams of plant sterols, you will be required to consume 100 pounds of the vegetables containing them. However, this thought should not worry you, because you always do not need to take plant sterols directly from the vegetables, fruits and other substances enclosing this nutritional item. In fact, plant sterols are now added to several foods like orange juice, beverages, margarine, snack foods and mayonnaise.

The usually suggested amount of plant sterols needed to lower the cholesterol levels in the blood stream is two servings every day along with meals comprising a daily total target of 800 mg. Although majority of the health foods that are equipped with plant sterols usually fulfill this requirement, it is essential for you to check the nutritional labels of the products before buying them to ensure that they contain the necessary amounts of the nourishments. In fact, while buying health foods containing plant sterols, you should always look for products that contain a minimum of 400 mg of the nutrient for each serving.

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Whenever you suffer from any malady, you normally visit your physician to obtain a prescription for the drugs you need to treat the condition. However, the fact remains that no matter whichever medication you are taking, they definitely have some shortcoming or the other. Hence, these days an increasing number of people are seeking organic medications that are not only safe for use, but also effective in curing their condition. Here, one may be reminded of the famous quote of the Greek philosopher and medicine man Hippocrates who had remarked 'Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food'. This perception was not only correct during the age of Hippocrates, but even holds true to this day. The moot idea is that you ought to improve your diet, if you desire to enhance your health. It may be mentioned here that usually most people are of the view that they are eating a healthy and balanced diet, but the fact is that they still may be missing out on some imperative nutrients - for instance, plant sterols.

It may be noted here that plant sterols, often also referred to as phytosterols, are obtained from plants and, hence, are organic in nature. These chemical compounds that occur naturally in the plants are actually the cholesterol of the plants. Like humans, plants too contain cholesterol, which is significantly imperative for sustaining an overall good health. But the problem occurs when the intensity of cholesterol present in our blood stream begins to go beyond the normal levels. In such a situation, the cholesterol turns bad for our health and may even prove to be detrimental for our health, often increasing the risks of heart ailments. When cholesterol changes from good to bad, it is denoted as LDL cholesterol or 'bad' cholesterol.

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If you happen to observe the plant sterols under a microscope, you will be surprised to note that they are almost akin to the cholesterol present in the human blood stream. In fact, both plant sterols and human cholesterol have a parallel chemical composition with somewhat similar cell membranes. As mentioned earlier, plant sterols are occur naturally in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and majority types of grains. Ever since researches have revealed the multifaceted health benefits of plant sterols, several manufacturers of health foods have started fortifying their products with these chemical compounds found in plants. In fact, today you will find several snack foods and foods that are healthy for the heart contain plant sterols. Some of the foods that enclose plant sterols comprise margarine, orange juice and edibles like healthy chips prepared from whole grains. This is because plant sterols help in lessening the cholesterol levels in our blood stream, thereby, reducing the risks of heart ailments.

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Functioning of plant sterols in the body

Sterols and stanols are chemical compounds naturally present in many plants and their chemical composition is parallel to that of cholesterols. Owing to their similarity to cholesterol, plant sterols and stanols vie with cholesterol to come in touch with micelles - the receptors present in the small intestines. In fact, micelles are actually responsible for transporting the cholesterol assimilated in the digestive tract from ingested food to the blood stream.

Thus far, different research groups have conducted more than 140 clinical studies with plant sterols and stanols and the findings of all these studies have demonstrated that both these organic chemical compounds present naturally in the plants play a crucial role in lowering the blood cholesterol levels. Precisely speaking, plant sterols and stanols have shown that on an average they have the aptitude to lower the LDL or bad cholesterol by anything between five and 14 per cent. Presently, there are an increasing number of specially manufactured snacks that are healthy for the heart and number other foods that are good for the heart's health. Many of these foods contain plant sterols as per the stipulations of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and they may provide an avowal on the package of the product hinting that the foods are likely to aid in lessening the risks of heart ailments. Several researches conducted on this subject over a period of over 25 years have demonstrated that the plant sterols may possibly be advantageous for our health in several different ways. A number of researches suggest that besides reducing the blood cholesterol levels, plant sterols are also helpful in many other ways, including:

  • Invalidating the anomalies of the immune system
  • Helping in alleviating inflammation
  • Providing health advantages to the cells
  • Diminish the auto-immune responses of the body
  • Assisting in maintaining the balance of different hormones
  • Helping in alleviating different symptoms related to menopause
  • Assisting in combating chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Reducing symptoms related to an inflated prostate
  • Providing benefits to patients enduring conditions like migraines, asthma and gallstones
  • Slowing down the progression of specific forms of cancer

Suitable dosage of plant sterols

In case your main objective is to reduce the cholesterol levels in the blood stream, you ought to ingest adequate amounts of plant sterols every day. According to experts, consuming around 1.5 grams and 3 grams of plant sterols daily is ideal for obtaining the utmost benefits from these organic chemical compounds and lower your blood cholesterol level considerably. In fact, majority of the Americans only obtain as little as around 0.25 grams of plant sterols from their regular meals, leaving much to be desired. While it is really difficult to obtain the optimum amount of plant sterols required by our body by consuming vegetables and fruits directly, one may be successful in obtaining the appropriate amount of plant sterols provided they consume foods that are strengthened with plant sterols - for instance, breads, margarines and specially prepared chips.

Foods enclosing plant sterols

As discussed earlier, sterols are naturally present in numerous plants. Hence, several health food products add plant sterols with a view to enhance their health benefits. A list of the health foods containing plant sterols is presented below for your perusal. However, before you buy and use these food products, ensure from the label of the products that they really enclose plant sterols. Buy the products only if their labels read 'contains plant sterols'.

  • Salad dressings
  • Spreadable margarines
  • Cereals
  • Orange juice
  • Yogurt
  • Corazonas Oatmeal Squares
  • Granola bars
  • Chips containing nutrients for good health - Corazonas whole grain tortilla chips or potato chips with low fat content
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