Vegetable oils are the richest foods in phytosterols. Beans, whole grains, spices, seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables are also excellent natural sources!
Health benefits of phytosterols
Phytosterols are compounds naturally present in plants. Foods from animal sources don’t contain any phytosterols. Phytosterols are structurally related to cholesterol. There are 2 types of phytosterols; stanols and sterols. We can’t synthesize phytosterols. We have to get them from food.
Above all, phytosterols can significantly lower serum LDL cholesterol. According to studies, a daily phytosterol dose of 2 grams lowers LDL cholesterol by up to 10%.
Moreover, following a diet rich in phytosterols may be beneficial for people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Additional, phytosterols may lower the risk of certain cancers. But, further studies are needed.
Which is the richest diet in phytosterols?
Nowadays, most people get 150-800 mg of phytosterols a day from diet. Vegans and vegetarians consume the highest amounts of phytosterols.
The average Western diet contains between 160-400 mg of phytosterols a day. On the other hand, a plant-based diet contains 600-800 mg of phytosterols a day. A high-phytosterol plant-based diet contains up to 5 times more phytosterols than the average Western diet.
Although phytosterols are naturally present in many common foods, we absorb only a fraction of them. We absorb less than 5% of plant sterols and less than 0.5% of plant stanols! In comparison, we absorb about 50%-60% of dietary cholesterol.
Hence, although diets typically contain similar amounts of phytosterols and cholesterol, our serum phytosterol concentrations are usually several hundred times lower than serum cholesterol concentrations!
How many phytosterols do we need per day?
Consuming high amounts of unrefined vegetable oils, vegetables, fruits, and nuts is enough to significantly boost our daily intake of phytosterols
Our ancestors used to follow a diet rich in phytosterols, containing about 1,000 mg a day.
According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, a daily phytosterol intake of 2,000 mg is more than enough. We can get about 30% of this recommended dose from food. Especially if we follow a whole food plant-based diet.
As a rule of thumb, we shouldn’t take more than 3,000 mg of phytosterols a day. Higher doses don’t have any further health benefit. On the contrary, pretty high doses of phytosterols from supplements might cause side effects.
Vegetable oils are the richest natural sources of phytosterols!
Unrefined vegetable oils contain the highest concentration of naturally occurring phytosterols! Just 1 tbsp of many common vegetable oils can boost your daily intake!
per 1 tbsp
|rice bran oil||1,190||162|
|wheat germ oil||553||75|
Common foods high in phytosterols
If you follow a whole food, plant-based diet, you’ll get high doses of phytosterols. Seeds and nuts are particularly high in phytosterols. Whole grains and beans are also excellent natural sources. Even fruits and vegetables contribute to the daily phytosterol intake!
|pistachio nuts||214||paprika||175||kidney beans||137|
|almond butter||139||dill seed||124||avocado||84|
|macadamia nuts||116||mustard seeds||118||lentils||57|