Phytosterols have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol and cholesterol-based hormones -- a group that includes estrogen. Incorporating phytosterols into your diet offers a number of health benefits, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. They block the absorption of cholesterol from food and, as a result, may help lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease. Several plant-based foods provide you with phytosterols, and a few groups of food serve as especially rich sources.
Enriched margarines are among the richest sources or phytosterols available and can contain up to 1650 milligrams in a 1-tablespoon serving. Other phytosterol-rich options include enriched mayonnaise, yogurt, milk, cheese, chocolate, orange juice, vegetable oils, salad dressings, snack bars and soy milk. The amount of phytosterols in such products varies from brand to brand, so read the nutrition labels carefully to find out how much you’re getting.
Vegetable oils tend to be high in phytosterols, though the amount varies quite a bit depending on what type of oil you use, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. For example, sesame oil contains 118 milligrams of phytosterols per tbsp., but the same amount of olive oil has only 22 milligrams. Corn oil is also very high in phytosterols with 102 milligrams per tablespoon, while canola oil provides 92 milligrams. A study published in June 2002 in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that commercial corn oil reduced cholesterol absorption by more than a third compared to corn oil with the phytosterols removed.
Wheat germ has one of the highest concentrations of phytosterols, providing 197 milligrams in a half-cup serving, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. However, recent research has found that wheat germ is not a significant source of phytosterols for in most people's diets, because they don’t eat it often enough, according to a study published in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" in November 2005. Remedy this by adding wheat germ to your baked goods, or add a spoonful to your oatmeal or cold cereal. Wheat bran is also a good option with 58 milligrams of phytosterols in a half-cup serving and two slices of rye bread will give you 33 milligrams of phytosterols.
Nuts and Seeds
Sunflower seeds and pistachios are among the richest nut and seed sources of phytosterols, according to a study published in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" in November 2005 -- sunflower seeds boast approximately 400 milligrams per ounce, while pistachios contain up to 289 milligrams. Other good options include peanuts, which provide 62 milligrams of phytosterols per ounce and almonds with 39 milligrams of phytosterols per ounce. Macadamia nuts are also a good option.
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: Phytosterols
- Medical News Today: Sunflower Seeds, Pistachios Among Top Nuts for Lowering Cholesterol
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition": Phytosterols That Are Naturally Present in Commerical Corn Oil Significantly Reduce Cholesterol Absorption in Humans
- "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry": Phytosterol Composition of Nuts and Seeds Commonly Consumed in the U.S.
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.