Plant sterols, aka phytosterols, are basically steroid alcohols and are a phytochemical that naturally occur in plants. These lipid like compounds are found in the cell membrane of plants and in small amounts in grains, cereals and vegetable oils as well. Plant sterols have the same utility for plants as cholesterol has for humans.
Plant sterols vary in types and there are approximately 250 different types of phytosterols identified. They are very similar to cholesterol in terms of molecular structure. Some common plant sterols are:
- Camp sterol
- Sigma sterol
- Beta Sit sterol
Phytoserols provide numerous health benefits, some of which are:
- helps reduce autoimmune response
- reverses abnormalities of your immune system
- has anti- inflammatory effects & assists in reducing swelling
- supports cellular health, prevents arterial damage & slows down ageing process
- lowers cholesterol because your body cannot differentiate between cholesterol & plant sterols as they are of similar molecular arrangement, so phytosterols compete with cholesterol for absorption
Some studies show that plant sterols also reduce the risks of heart disease and may prevent some forms of cancer. So, it’s very important to consume an adequate amount of sterols via your diet for maintenance of good health, and especially if you have high cholesterol.
Most of the foods you eat contains some sterols and recommended daily amount is around 2 grams. Some of the major sources plant sterols are as follows:
- vegetable oils
- legumes ~ lentils & dried peas
- nuts & seeds ~ peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds
- fruits & vegetables ~ tomato, sprouts, apples, blueberries
- cereals ~ most whole grains., especially rice bran & whole wheat
Some foods are enriched with plant sterols, such as orange juice, energy bars and yogurt drinks. And you can also buy phytoseterols supplements, yet consuming plant sterols through a healthy diet is the most beneficial.