High cholesterol: Sterols and stanols can reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol – what are they?

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Too much cholesterol can stick to the insides of your arteries, narrowing the passageway where blood flows to vital organs. In turn, this can increase your blood pressure and skyrocket your risk of a fatal incidence.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) warn that there “aren’t any typical signs you have high cholesterol”.

However, you can request a free blood test to check your cholesterol levels by speaking with your GP.

Harvard Medical School protests that sterols and stanols can help reduce “bad” cholesterol levels.

Referred to as “cholesterol-blocking molecules”, where can you find sterols and stanols?

The Association of UK Dietitians confirmed: “Stanols and sterols do reduce cholesterol.”

Having a “similar structure to cholesterol,” they help “reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the gut”.

Thus, more cholesterol is “lost in the faeces”, and cholesterol levels are reduced.

Stanols and sterols are found in a range of plant foods, such as vegetables oils, seeds and nuts.

There are also foods fortified with plant stanols and sterols, so be on the lookout for them.

Here’s a clue – they can be fortified in milk, spreads, yoghurt and yoghurt drinks.

Research reveals “an intake of 1.5-2.4g per day can lower cholesterol by seven to 10 percent in two to three weeks”.

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In that same amount of time, consuming between 2.5g to 3g per day can lower cholesterol up to “12.5 percent”.

However, any more than this is “unlikely to lower cholesterol levels further”.

In addition, an excess consumption of sterols and stanols “may have a negative effect on the absorption of fat soluble vitamins”.

If you choose to eat foods fortified with sterols or stanols, then you need to consume “at least one fruit or vegetable high in beta-carotene” daily.

Examples of fruits or vegetables high in beta-carotene include: carrot, pumpkin, squash, broccoli, spinach, apricot, mango or rock melon.

This is because sterols and stanols can “interfere with the absorption of beta-carotene”.

Thus, other health measures, such as a healthy diet, are just as important – if not more.

A healthy diet consists of: fruits, vegetables, pulses and whole grains.

The Association of UK Dietitians also recommends “choosing lean meat, lower-fat dairy products, fish, nuts and soya food”.

Moreover, exercise can help you lower cholesterol levels if you’re eating a healthy diet.

The NHS recommends exercising for at least 30 minutes, five times during a week.

For the activity to count as exercise, you must feel your heart rate increase and your body feel a bit warmer.

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