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They decrease the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine, so more cholesterol is excreted from the body, resulting in reduced levels of "LDL (“bad”) cholesterol" and causing no impact on "HDL (“good”) cholesterol" levels. 2-5

As Canadians continue to be affected by heart disease, incorporating plant sterols into the diet is just one way to embrace heart-healthy living.

Nutrition and benefits of plant sterols

Today, many Canadians are living with high cholesterol. In fact, about half of the Canadian adult population has elevated cholesterol,4 which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.1

Furthermore, a third of deaths in Canada are due to heart disease.7 A meta-analysis of 34 randomized clinical trials (which included 270,288 participants) also found that a more intensive intervention to lower "LDL-cholestrol" was associated with a greater reduction in risk of cardiovascular mortality, compared to the control group.8

The science has demonstrated that plant sterols can help lower "LDL cholesterol".1 In fact, a daily dose of 2-3g of plant sterols can lead to an "LDL-cholesterol" reduction of around 6-15%.9

Including more plant sterols in the diet is just one way to take greater control over cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

Where to find plant sterols

Plant sterols are found naturally in plant-based foods, with the highest concentrations in unrefined plant oils, followed by nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. However, it’s difficult to get the recommended daily amount of 2-3g per day from whole foods alone.1 A healthy diet, which would include many of these plant-based foods, only provides approximately 160-400mg per day of plant sterols, with vegetarian diets providing up to 600mg per day.2,3

Getting 2g per day of plant sterols, which can help lower "LDL cholesterol" by about 10%, means eating 2-3 servings of plant sterol-fortified foods every day.9 Health Canada has approved the addition of plant sterols into some foods, including spreads, mayonnaise, margarine, calorie-reduced margarine, salad dressing, yogurt and yogurt drinks, and vegetable and fruit juices.10

It’s important to note that plant sterols aren’t a replacement for prescription medication, and people taking cholesterol-lowering medications should talk to their doctors before adding plant sterols to their diets.Plant sterol fortified foods are not recommended for children, breastfeeding or pregnant women.11

Get to know more about plant sterols and their role in healthy eating.


  1. Heart and Stroke Foundation. Blood cholesterol. 2019. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  2.  British Heart Foundation. Plant sterols and stanols. 2014. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  3. British Dietetic Association (BDA). Plant stanols and sterols. 2015. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  4. Health Canada. Plant sterols and blood cholesterol lowering - Summary of Health Canada’s assessment of a health claim about plant sterols in foods and blood cholesterol lowering. 2010. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Cholesterol: top foods to improve your numbers. 2018. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  6. US Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Eighth edition. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  7. Heart Research Institute (Canada) Facts about heart disease. 2019. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  8. Navarese EP, et al. Association between baseline LDL-C level and total and cardiovascular mortality after LDL-C Lowering: A systematic review and meta-analysis JAMA 2018 Apr 17; 319(15): 1566–1579. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  9. Casas R, et al. Nutrition and cardiovascular health. Int J Mol Sci 2018;19(12):3988. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  10. Health Canada. Plant sterols (phytosterols) in foods. 2010. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  11. Government of Canada. General Qs and As on plant sterols. 2011. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
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