Plant stanol and sterol supplements can change the way you absorb some of the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. If you are taking one of these supplements to lower your cholesterol, it’s worth taking a little more care with the quantity and type of fruits and vegetables that you eat.
Stanols and Sterols such as Flora Proactive and Benecol are a popular choice for lowering cholesterol. There is little doubt that they are effective and many people find the drinks in particular are convenient. A downside to taking stanols and sterols is that they are so good at stopping our bodies from absorbing cholesterol that they can also stop us from absorbing some of the fat soluble vitamins from our food. The absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K is reduced by around 10 to 15% and levels of beta carotene in the blood can become lower (beta carotene is a pre-cursor to Vitamin A and also an anti-oxidant in its own right).
The level of loss isn’t life threatening or likely to result in a serious nutritional deficiency, but as some of the nutrients lost are heart protecting anti-oxidants it makes sense to take some easy steps to replace them.
Practical advice for people taking a stanol or sterol to keep up their fat soluble vitamin levels:
This is the advice the UK Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes recommend for people taking a stanol or sterol regularly:
1. Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day
This is always important but particularly important if you are taking a stanol or sterol to reduce your risk of heart disease
2. Make sure that at least one of these fruits and vegetables is rich in carotenes
Beta carotene rich fruits and vegetables are usually dark green or at the red, yellow, orange end of the colour spectrum. Good sources include:
- Red, yellow and orange peppers
- Squash and pumpkin
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard and kale
- Sweet potatoes
- Peaches and nectarines
- Orange-fleshed melons
- Pink and red grapefruits, tangerines, satsumas and oranges