Well Being

Plant Sterols: The Next Heart Healthy Food Fad

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Plant sterols are a type of heart-healthy phytochemical thought to lower bad cholesterol when consumed regularly. They’re in a group of micronutrients with sulfur compounds and flavonoids (another nutrition buzzword you’ve probably heard) that may be important in reducing the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. According to the American Heart Association, “substantial evidence” exists that these micronutrients can lower heart disease risk. In honor of February being American Heart Month, I interviewed Ramona Cappello, CEO and founder of Corazonas Foods, which makes snacks like oatmeal squares, tortilla chips and potato chips that are fortified with plant sterols.

Why are plant sterols beneficial?

Plant sterols help lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting the absorption of LDL cholesterol from the small intestines into the blood stream by up to 50%. They’ve been shown in more than 140 clinical studies to fight heart disease by lowering cholesterol.

And they occur naturally in fruits and vegetables?

Yes, plant sterols are found naturally in foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and vegetable oils, but the levels are usually too low to have a significant effect on LDL cholesterol. The FDA recommends that individuals consume at least 0.8 grams of plant sterols per day in order to keep cholesterol at a healthy level.* With just one Corazonas Oatmeal Square, people are able to receive the recommended FDA amount.

How do you know that your snacks contain plant sterols at beneficial levels? I know some fortified foods may have Omega-3’s or vitamins or whatever present, but not in ways or amounts that our bodies can really use.

Corazonas uses a patented process of infusing plant sterols into our snack foods at beneficial levels that actually increases the plant sterols’ efficacy. Our oatmeal squares contain 0.8 grams of plant sterols per serving and our tortilla chips contain 0.5 grams of plant sterols, which are significantly high levels of plant sterols. In order to get the same amount of plant sterols in one oatmeal square, you would need to eat 44 pears, 53 green peppers, 61 tomatoes, or 36 bananas!

Plant Sterols  The Next Heart Healthy Food Fad Cranberry Flax 280x179 jpgSo what makes Corazonas chips better than regular tortilla chips?

Corazonas tortilla chips are made without any trans-fat and have 18 grams of whole grains, 3 grams of fiber, and 0.5 grams of plant sterols per serving. They have heart healthy and beneficial ingredients that traditional tortilla chips do not.

How did you end up starting Corazonas?

I have more than 30 years of experience working in the food industry, with a wide variety of iconic companies. I’ve held top positions at Nestle, Celestial Seasonings, Kendall-Jackson Wineries and more.

I started Corazonas after I lost my father and both grandfathers to heart disease. I wanted to use my experience and passion for the food industry to create a product that would help people around the country, like my dad. He tried very hard to do whatever he could to take care of his heart, which included exercising every day, giving up his favorite foods and sticking to a strict, low taste heart-healthy diet. He loved snack foods like chips and cookies, and it was really difficult watching him give all of that up to lower his cholesterol and stay healthy. After he passed, I was determined to offer the world something better for people struggling with high cholesterol. I knew there was a better way for people to lower their cholesterol, while still enjoying things in life that bring them joy—like great tasting food!

Where can people find Corazonas snacks?

Corazonas Oatmeal Squares and tortilla chips are available at natural food and grocery stores, including Kroger, Safeway, Ralph’s, Vitamin Shoppe, Vons, Harris Teeter, HyVee, Sprouts, Sunflower, Costco and Sam’s Clubs, and online at Corazonas.com and Amazon.com.


* Newer FDA data actually recommends at least 1.3 grams of plant sterol esters per day for significant cholesterol-lowering effect. The AHA states that at least 2 grams are required to achieve the maximum cholesterol-lowering effect.

AHA also cautions that “use of foods containing plant sterols should be reserved for adults requiring lower total and LDL cholesterol levels because they are at high risk of or have had a heart attack.” But Cyril Kendall, a research scientist at the University of Toronto studying plant sterols, said if your cholesterol is healthy, adding extra sterols to your diet won’t hurt—though it may interfere with the absorption of some carotenoids, such as beta-carotene.