5. Foods with added sterols and stanols
Sterols and stanols are plant chemicals which are a similar size and shape to cholesterol. They are absorbed from the intestines into the blood stream and block some cholesterol from being absorbed. This lowers the cholesterol in your blood.
We get a small amount of sterols from plant-based foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. But it’s not enough to lower cholesterol. So, food companies have developed foods with plant sterols or stanols added to them, such as mini yogurt drinks, fat spreads, milk and yogurts.
These fortified foods lower your cholesterol gradually, over a few weeks. And how much depends on the amount you eat. Some experts believe they are the most effective single food for lowering cholesterol.
Who should eat foods with sterols and stanols added?
Sterols and stanols have been thoroughly researched – they can be added to foods and are safe to eat.
They are suitable for:
People with high cholesterol – there’s no real benefit if you don’t have high cholesterol.
Children with inherited high cholesterol such as familial hypercholesterolaemia – with support from a doctor or dietitian.
People taking statins – sterols and stanols will help to lower your cholesterol further because they work in a different way to the statin.
They are not suitable for:
Women who are pregnant or breast feeding.
Children who do not have an inherited condition.
They won’t have much effect if you are taking Ezetrol (Ezetimide) because they both work in a similar way.
Aim for: one to three servings a day of fortified foods. This will give you 1.5 to 3g of stanols and sterols. Over three weeks, this could lower your cholesterol by up to 10% (one tenth). There’s no extra benefit from having more than 3g a day.
Three servings of: OR
- 2 tsp fat spread
- 1 glass of milk (250ml)
One product a day:
- 1 yoghurt (120g)
- one fortified yoghurt mini-drink (65-100g bottle), which can be a dairy product or dairy-free. This will be enough sterols and stanols for the whole day.
- one 40g fruit and nut cereal bar
To get the most from these foods, eat them with a meal, rather than on their own, and eat some every day. Look out for products labelled ‘fortified with stanols or sterols’. They can be branded, such as the Flora ProActiv and Benecol ranges, as well as supermarket own products.
6. Soya foods
Soya beans and the foods that are made from them are perfect for a healthy diet. They’re full of protein, vitamins and minerals, and they're low in saturated fat. Replacing meat, full cream dairy products and snacks high in saturated fat with foods low in saturated fat such as soya alternatives, as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, will help you manage your cholesterol levels.
Aim for: around two to three servings of soya a foods day. One serving is:-
- a large glass (250ml) of soya milk
- 150g plain soya alternative to yogurt
- 150g Greek-style soya alternative to yogurt
- 100g soya mince
- a handful of soya nuts (35g) – also known as roasted edamame beans, you’ll find them in the nuts and snacks section
edamame beans, about 80g – you’ll find them in the frozen foods section
- 100g tofu – silken or firm