Stanols and Sterols

Stanols and sterols are found in small amounts in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts. These substances are similar in structure to cholesterol and interfere with cholesterol absorption from the small intestine, helping reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels.

Individuals with elevated LDL cholesterol levels should consider including 2 g of stanols or sterols in their diet each day. The amounts in plant foods are too small to accomplish this, but a number of foods are fortified with stanols and sterols in sufficient amounts. These foods include certain brands of margarine, orange juice, yogurt, and granola bars. When used in combination with a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet, these foods can help lower LDL cholesterol levels by 7 to 14%. However, don’t forget that stanol- and sterol-fortified foods contain calories and can cause weight gain when consumed in large quantities or in addition to your usual diet.

Publication Review By: Roger S. Blumenthal, M.D. and Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D.

Published: 10 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 10 Jul 2013