Plant ster-what?

Way back when – was it really just months ago? – when my doctor said I needed to lower my cholesterol, she gave me several dietary suggestions.  According to the now-faded yellow-stickie I kept from that appointment, here’s what she suggested I begin to eat daily/near-daily:

  • Psyllium (aka Metamucil) daily – check
  • Oatmeal – check
  • Fish Oil – check
  • Multi-vitamin and/or margarine with plant sterols – Huh?

I dutifully followed her advice on the first three, but had completely forgotten about the plant sterol thing.  Until, that is, I received an email from a company called Corazonas Foods, complimenting my efforts to lower cholesterol without meds, and asking if I would like to try some of their ‘Cholesterol-Lowering Snacks.’

So they sent a box (free of charge – full disclosure!) and after ripping it open, I was sad to find there was not a ‘cholesterol-lowering snack’ in the form of Phish Food ice cream.  (Yes, OK, I know… Duh, right.  But a girl can dream hallucinate, no?)

My husband, however, was thrilled as chips are his food vice.

But first – what on earth are plant sterols and why did my doctor suggest I add them to my diet?  According to the Cleveland Clinic (and many other sources), plant sterols have indeed been proven to help lower cholesterol:

“Plant sterols and stanols are naturally occurring substances found in plants. They are present in small quantities in many fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, cereals and legumes…

Research has shown that plant sterols/stanols included with a heart healthy eating plan may reduce your risk for heart disease. The sterols/stanols work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine. Clinical research trials have documented safety and effectiveness for use by the entire family…

Effectiveness has been shown with dosages of 2 to 3 grams plant stanols per day…   Regular and light margarines are available, both with only trace amounts of trans fatty acids. In order to achieve the needed 2 grams or more of plant stanols per day, a serving size of 2 to 4 tablespoons per day is needed.”

Oh, right!  Now I remember why I didn’t try plant sterols: since I rarely add butter or margarine to anything, my doctor and I agreed it wouldn’t make sense for me to ADD margarine (even with plant sterols) to my diet.

Instead, I was supposed to take Centrum Cardio, which also has plant sterols.

Let’s not ask why I forgot about that.

Well, OK, if you must know – I bought the darn vitamins, but you have to take them TWICE a day and they are VERY BIG and so, well, let’s just say there’s a full vitamin container on my kitchen counter.  But I did just crack it open, and…

Back to Corazonas.  They kindly sent samples (again: for free) of their tortilla chips and snack bars, and even though chips are not my thing, I have to say, they were quite good.  For chips.  I liked the ‘squeeze of lime’ tortilla chips, while my husband preferred the extremely spicy habanero flavor.  So, if you jones for chips/bars instead of ice cream like me, you’re in luck… you can have your chips and get plant sterols too.

Though, you’ll probably also need the big-honking vitamins and/or ‘Heart Smart’ spread to get to the level of plant sterols that are effective.

But hey – if you’re snacking on chips anyway…

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