Which Foods Contain the Highest Amount of Phytosterols?

Tim Garner

Phytosterols are cholesterol-like molecules found in many types of foods and supplements. Also referred to as plant sterols, phytosterols have recently gained popularity due to their ability to lower cholesterol levels. Some studies have found that consuming two grams of phytosterols a day may help you lower your LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, by 10%. While there are supplements that contain phytosterols, there are plenty of healthy foods that also contain phytosterols.

Studies have shown that in order to obtain the cholesterol-lowering benefits that phytosterols possess, you would need to consume more than 2 grams a day.

Unfortunately, phytosterols are difficult to quantify in foods because more than 200 of them exist. Because of this, the most commonly found phytosterols in foods -- sitosterol, stigmasterol, anthrasterol and campesterol -- are usually the only ones that are measured. While this list isn’t inclusive, it should give you an idea of phytosterol content in your favorite healthy foods. Additionally, due to the different methods used, measured phytosterol content may slightly vary from study to study.

The following foods contain the highest amounts of phytosterols:

  • Nuts
  • Whole grain products
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits

Whole-Grain Foods

Whole grain foods - including rye, barley, and oatmeal - are high in many types of nutrients. Some whole grain products also contain high amounts of phytosterol.

The following grains have the highest phytosterols content:

  • Flaxseed – 210 mg per 100 g serving
  • Wheat germ – 197 mg per one-half cup
  • Rye bread – 33 mg per two slices

To make these foods healthy, you should make sure not to add high-calorie syrups or fatty ingredients to your whole grain dishes. 


Nuts also contain high amounts of phytosterols, ranging between 95 and 280 mg per 100 g serving of nuts.

Studies have shown that a handful of most nuts can have a favorable impact on your lipid profile. These nuts have the highest phytosterol content:

  • Almonds - 187 mg per 100 g serving
  • Walnuts – 113 mg per 100 g serving
  • Pistachios – 280 mg per 100 g serving
  • Macadamias – 198 mg per 100 g serving
  • Pecans – 150 mg per 100 g serving

Roasting or eating them plain are healthy ways to prepare nuts; however, frying or heavily salting nuts could have an adverse effect on your heart health if you consume these types of nuts on a regular basis. 

Veggies & Fruit

Although fruits and vegetables may contain lower amounts of phytosterols compared to nuts and whole grains, they also contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, soluble fiber, and other healthy ingredients that make them cholesterol-friendly. The following fruits and vegetables contain the highest amounts of phytosterols:

  • Broccoli – 49.4 mg per 100 g serving
  • Red onion – 19.2 mg per 100 g serving
  • Carrot - 15.3 mg per 100 g serving
  • Corn – 70 mg per 100 g serving
  • Brussels sprouts – 37 mg per 100 g serving
  • Spinach (frozen) – 10.2 mg per 100 g serving
  • Strawberry – 10 mg per 100 g serving
  • Blueberry – 26.4 mg per 100 g serving
  • Banana – 16 mg per 100 g serving
  • Lettuce – 38 mg per 100 g serving


    Piironen V, Toivo J, Puupponen-Pimia R, et al. Plant sterols in vegetables, fruits and berries. J Sci Food Agric 2003;83:330–337.

    Chen CY, Blumberg JB. Phytochemical composition of nuts. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2008;17 (S1):329-332.

    Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 13th ed 2013.

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