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How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally With Plant Sterols and Stanols

If you have high cholesterol, do your heart a favor and dig into foods rich in plant sterols and stanols.

Certain foods can help lower cholesterol, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and some vegetable oils, because they naturally contain health plant sterols and stanols.

"Plant sterols and stanols are natural substances that are in the same family as cholesterol but are produced by plants instead of animals, and because they're not normally absorbed by people, they compete and interfere with the absorption of animal cholesterol that you eat," explains Ivan V. Pacold, MD, a professor of cardiology at Loyola University's Stritch School of Medicine and director of cardiology at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

When this happens, your body grabs up extra LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream and sends it your liver, where it's used to make important digestive juices. This causes your LDL cholesterol and your total cholesterol to go down, while your HDL (good) cholesterol stays the same.

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