Have you heard of palm fruit oil, plant sterols, or ECGC? Registered dietician Dr. Felicia Stoler, author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes: The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great (Pegasus, 2011), says these three functional foods should be part of our diet every day. Here’s why.
Omega-3s have been front and center as a superfood long enough that most people have heard of them and know they are abundant in fatty fish and, for vegans, flax. Omega-3s aren’t the only healthy fats. Dr. Stoler recommends adding palm fruit oil to your list of good-for-you fats. ”Palm fruit oil has been the subjects of nutritional scrutiny for the last 40 years,” the nutrition expert says. ”[But] it contains the highest number of polyunsaturated fatty acids of all the saturated fats — about five times more than coconut oil or butter fat. With the right balance, saturated fatty acids help maintain your HDL (good cholesterol) while polyunsaturated fatty acids decrease your LDL (bad cholesterol).”
Plant sterols, also called phytosterols, are found in all plants with the best dietary sources of plant sterols being vegetables, seeds, and nuts. What are they? “Plant sterols are a class of compounds with chemical structures similar to cholesterol,” says Dr. Stoler. “Clinical evidence over the past 50 years has consistently demonstrated that consumption of 1 to 3 grams per day of plant sterols inhibit the intestinal absorption of cholesterol and may produce decreases in LDL cholesterol of up to 8 to 15 percent.” As a bonus, there are no reported serious side effects or adverse reactions that are possible with cholesterol medication. “Plant sterols, as a functional food ingredient like Corowise, has been added to many foods in every aisle of our supermarket also in everythng from orange juice to snack chips,” she adds.
Green tea has long been promoted as a functional food (drink) because of its high level of antioxidants, including ECGC. ”A recent Japanese study on green tea found that men who drank green tea regularly had lower cholesterol than those who didn’t,” Dr. Stoler says. “Researchers in Spain and the United Kingdom have also shown that ECGC can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.” She recommends dropping the empty-calorie drinks, like soda, and replacing them with tea.