Eat for Health

Heart Healthy Products

Your cholesterol is creeping up and it’s just a matter of time before the doc prescribes statin therapy. Can foods fortified with plant sterols help?

The short answer is yes. Plant sterols—which are found naturally in vegetables, fruits, and seeds, and which are being added to a growing number of foods—lower cholesterol by keeping it in the digestive tract and out of the bloodstream.

“Research is pretty clear: Adding two grams of plant sterols to your daily diet can reduce LDL cholesterol by 8 to 15 percent. Importantly, you get quick results (within two weeks) and without compromising the taste or texture of your favorite foods,” says holistic pharmacist and author Sherry Torkos, who practices in the Buffalo area of New York.

Happily, it’s easy to find sterol-fortified foods in regular grocery stores. Look for Cargill’s CoroWise logo on labels of pasta, margarine, orange juice, granola bars, chips, and oatmeal squares. One serving of these foods typically provides 0.5 grams of plant sterols, or ¼ the FDA-recommended amount for cholesterol lowering.

“To get your 2 grams of sterols, take your pick of Minute Maid HeartWise orange juice or Smart Balance milk. Then have a serving of Corazonas torilla chips or my mother’s favorite: oatmeal squares topped with dark chocolate,” suggests Torkos.

Future research will focus on the role of sterols in preventing heart attacks and strokes. “Long-term data aren’t yet available to confirm these foods promote heart health. Nevertheless, I encourage my patients to consume them as part of a healthy diet,” says leading cardiologist and Post contributor Douglas Zipes.

Sherry Torkos and cardiologist Martha Gulati are co-authors of Saving Women’s Hearts: How You Can Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease with Natural and Conventional Strategies (Wiley/$16.95).

Photo credit Cargill.