Healthy people can also benefit from the immune-balancing benefits of plant sterols and sterolins. This was shown in a group of athletes gearing up for a marathon. People participating in marathons and other endurance sports typically experience a dip in their immune function and become more prone to upper respiratory infections post event. However, during the study, which appeared in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, those runners who took a pre-race dose of sterols and sterolins showed considerably less immune suppression than those in the placebo group. They also retained higher DHEA levels and prevented spikes in their cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone that compromises the immune system and sabotages performance in endurance athletes when levels climb too high during an event. Most importantly, the athletes in the phytosterol group came down with fewer upper respiratory tract infections after the race compared to their placebo-pumping counterparts. Getting Enough In a perfect world, we could get all of the plant sterols and sterolins we needed from our diet. In fact, the human diet provided as much as 1,000 mg of plant sterols a day as little as 100 years ago. Today however, most Americans eat a diet woefully low in phytosterol-rich vegetables, fruits, grains, and plant oils. Instead, we fill our plates with overly processed, calorie-dense “foods” that contain few nutrients, including phytosterols. The minimum recommended intake for vegetables and fruits according to the National Cancer Institute is one to two-and-a-half cups of fruit and one to four cups of vegetables daily. Even people who do make an effort to consume the recommended amounts of whole, unprocessed foods each day may not be getting the plant sterols and sterolins needed for feeding the immune system. Here’s why: In their natural state, sterols are bound to the fiber in the plant. Because of this, they are extremely difficult to absorb during digestion.To make things worse, sterolins are extremely fragile and easily destroyed by cooking or freezing.Without the sterolins, the plant sterols lose much of their immune- enhancing affects. Extensive research has shown that plant sterols and sterolins should be in the proper ratio of 100:1 in order to have maximum effect with respect to both balance and improved immune system function. Fortunately, you can get this exact ideal ratio with a daily proprietary phytosterol supplement.You can think of sterols and sterolins as the ultimate daily plant-based food to support your immune system at whatever stage of life you are in. Both adults and children can benefit from these phytosterol nutrients. Finding the Phytosterols in Food Plant sterols and sterolins can be found in all plant life. But some plants provide more of these immune-regulating compounds than others. For instance, plant oils boast the highest levels. Nuts and seeds provide moderate amounts. And fruits and vegetables tout only modest quantities. The following are just some examples of dietary phytosterol sources. Total Phytosterol Content of Selected Foods Food Serving Size Amount of Phytosterols (mg) Food Serving Size Amount of Phytosterols (mg) Wheat germ ½ cup 197 Brussels sprouts ½ cup 34 Rice bran oil 1 tablespoon 162 Rye bread 2 slices 33 Sesame oil 1 tablespoon 118 Macadamia nuts 1 ounce 33 Corn oil 1 tablespoon 102 Olive oil 1 tablespoon 22 Canola oil 1 tablespoon 92 Carrots ½ cup 15 Peanuts 1 ounce 62 Spinach ½ cup 10 Wheat bran ½ cup 58 Strawberries ½ cup 10 Almonds 1 ounce 39 White Potato ½ cup 5