How much: As a supplement, 1,000 mg to -2,000 mg, daily or two to three servings of fish weekly.


What they are: A class of water-soluble fibers found naturally in foods like oats and barley.

How they can help: It is thought that beta glucans binds with cholesterol in the digestive tract, helping some of it to pass through the body without being absorbed. But because beta-glucans are only moderately effective at lowering LDL cholesterol, Dr. Jenkins recommends making them just one part of a diet rich in heart-healthy foods.

Beta-glucans also seem to be helpful for regulating blood sugar in people who have diabetes.

If you choose to take a beta-glucan supplement, a word of caution: Animal studies have shown that the higher doses of beta-glucans found in supplements may increase the toxicity of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). And because beta-glucans appear to stimulate the immune system, supplements may work against immune-suppressing arthritis drugs, including prednisone and cyclosporin, which are given for autoimmune forms of arthritis.

Best sources: Oats, mushrooms, barley and supplements.

How much: Try for at least 3 grams daily. A half-cup of dry, rolled oats has about 2 grams of soluble fiber and a quarter-cup of uncooked pearl barley contains 2.5 grams of beta glucans.

Plant Sterols and Stanols

What they are: Plant sterols and stanols are naturally occurring compounds found in small amounts in nuts, seeds, grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits. mention certain manufacturers have concentrated them as additives in functional foods.

What they may do: Plant sterols compete with cholesterol in the intestine to reduce its absorption by the body. A clinical review published in the British Medical Journal found that people who ate 2 grams of sterols in fortififed margarine each day reduced their artery-clogging LDL cholesterol by 10 percent to 15 percent.