Phytosterols are a special kind of bioactive compound; essentially fatty acid esters found in plants with a molecular structure much the same to cholesterol. There are over 200 different identified phytosterols; such as beta sitosterol, brassicasterol, campersterol and sigmasterol. These prized plant bioactive compounds are so special because they work in the intestine to lower the absorption of cholesterol and dietary fats. Phytosterols work by acting as competition for the cholesterol, blocking its absorption of dietary cholesterol through the digestive tract. Consumed cholesterol in the gut is bound to bile acids. Sterols competitively interact with the bile acid and displace the cholesterol. By preventing cholesterol’s entry into the bloodstream, it reduces the chance of depositing it ectopically and causing disease. Instead it is just lost through waste. The aim is to reduce the number of active low density lipoproteins (LDL), considered “bad cholesterol”. So it’s clear to see how phytosterols are on our side and can help us to maintain a happy, healthy heart. In addition to this, phytosterols have been highlighted as being beneficial to prostate health;4 can help replenish and restore the skin;5 could have anti-oxidation; anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-atherogenicity,capabilities,6 Phytosterols in our diet can actually improve the activity of immune cell function while also preventing the activity of the cells that cause inflammation and chronic disease.
The richest natural sources of phytosterols include vegetable oils, nuts and nut oils, seeds, whole-grains, flour and various types of beans, such as soy and black bean. Eating fruits and vegetables, such as asparagus, tomatoes and oranges are also a way to boost phytosterol intake