These heart-protective plant compounds occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and oils, but you'll need a higher concentration than those amounts to nudge cholesterol. Now, concentrated doses are added to margarine-like spreads and other foods; research shows they can lower LDL levels by as much as 20%! Experts believe that sterols and stanols, with chemical structures similar to cholesterol, help prevent cholesterol from being absorbed into the bloodstream. More about sterols/stanols.
These fatty acids don't lower LDL or raise HDL directly, but they do help slash triglyceride levels, which is another important heart disease risk factor (and high levels can be common in people with elevated cholesterol). Plus, the supplements are so important for overall heart health: They reduce inflammation and help slow plaque buildup in blood vessels.
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