How to Lower Your Genetically High Cholesterol – Step Two

In honor of Cholesterol Awareness Month, I am updating our popular cholesterol-lowering series from a few years ago.

Animal sterols are more commonly known as “cholesterol”. All animal products contain cholesterol. Since humans are animals, we produce our own cholesterol. That’s why some of us have high cholesterol levels no matter what we eat – we just produce more cholesterol than other people.

Plant sterols are the plant version of cholesterol. Their fancy name is phytosterols, but we usually just call them plain old plant sterols. Since we are not plants, we get all of our plant sterols from our food.

We know that an excess amount of some types of cholesterol leads to arterial “plaque build-up” – yup, the artery version of yucky teeth. But plant sterols are completely benign and don’t lay down layers of “plaque”. The great thing is, our bodies can’t tell the difference, and are just as happy grabbing plant sterols as animal sterols. So if there are lots of plant sterols floating around our bloodstreams, less cholesterol builds up in our arteries, and more cholesterol gets flushed out of our system. Ok – that’s the simplified version but the result is -eating more plant sterols leads to healthier arteries and lower bad cholesterol levels.

So when I was putting together a plan to lower my cholesterol without using statins anymore, in addition to following a meatless Mediterranean Diet (see earlier post), I worked to increase my plant sterols. That means more whole grains, dried beans, and almonds and walnuts every day. I also take Centrum Cardio supplements (they have extra plant sterols added) every day because it’s difficult to get enough plant sterols from food alone, even when you are a vegetarian. Plant sterols are also added to several other products like some orange juices and margarines (fortified). Since it makes no sense to me to eat a fortified product that I don’t normally eat anyway, I seldom use fortified products. If you are an orange juice drinker or someone who uses margarine on a regular basis, purchasing the fortified products is a good idea.

I wish I could say it was this easy, but following a Mediterranean type diet and making sure I increased my plant sterols are only two steps taken to lower my cholesterol level. Stick with me – I’ll let you in on the rest of the plan later this week.

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at and

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