03.How much do you need?
Most of us eat about 200 to 400mg of plant sterols daily — vegetarians often eat more — via plant-based foods that contain them naturally, including vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, legumes, bread and cereals. But the amount recommended to get a significant cholesterol-lowering benefit is much more — 2 to 3g per day — and that’s where products enriched with plant sterols can really make a difference.
Research suggests that eating 2 to 3g of plant sterols daily can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 10% on average. Eating more than this amount is unlikely to hurt you, but nor will it lower your cholesterol any further. Less than this amount will simply have a lesser result.
In order to get the recommended 2 to 3g of plant sterols a day, you need to eat about three standard serves of sterol-enriched products (see What's a standard serve? below).
This could be three cups of milk or two serves of spread and a tub of yoghurt or any other combination of sterol-enriched products — it’s the quantity, not the type of product, that matters.
What's a standard serve?
Eating about six teaspoons (three serves) of spread may seem at odds with the usual message to cut down on fat for a healthy heart.
However, the Heart Foundation recommends you replace saturated fats (such as those found in butter and dairy blends) with healthier polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which sterol-enriched products have in abundance — and you have the benefits of plant sterols to help lower your blood cholesterol levels further.