Updated: Nov 2
The Portfolio diet is designed specifically to lower cholesterol. The diet promotes eating a ‘portfolio’ of plant based foods with a focus on monounsaturated fats. Developed by Dr. David Jenkins, a renowned nutrition researcher credited with developing the glycemic index, this dietary approach incorporates specific cholesterol-lowering foods that, when combined, create a powerful synergy for heart health.
If you have any concerns about your health or are under treatment, please talk to your doctor or medical practitioner most familiar with your medical history before implementing any changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle. Links to supporting studies are at the end of page.
The Portfolio Diet emphasises replacing saturated and trans fats with these cholesterol-lowering foods. By incorporating a variety of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, soy products, and nuts into daily meals, individuals can significantly reduce their cholesterol levels and lower their risk of heart disease.
The diet can reduce low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) by 20% to 30% if adhered to.
Research studies have shown that the Portfolio Diet can be as effective as statin medications in reducing LDL cholesterol levels, making it a valuable and natural alternative for managing cholesterol.
At the core of the Portfolio Diet are four cholesterol-lowering food groups: soluble fibre, soy protein, plant sterols, and nuts. These foods work in various ways to reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, commonly known as "bad" cholesterol. Soluble fibre, found in oats, barley, fruits, and vegetables, acts like a sponge in the digestive tract, absorbing cholesterol and carrying it out of the body. Soy protein, present in tofu, tempeh, and edamame, helps lower LDL cholesterol without affecting HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, the 'good' cholesterol.
Plant sterols, naturally occurring compounds in plants, inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. They are found in some fruits, vegetables, almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are rich in healthy fats, fibre, and antioxidants, contributing to improved heart health and lower cholesterol levels. One product associated with this diet in its original version is 'sterol fortified margarine'. Despite the health benefits of plant sterols, margarine is considered unhealthy due to its trans-fat content and should not be used.
The Portfolio Diet is not only beneficial for heart health but also supports overall well-being. It provides essential nutrients, promotes weight loss and reduces the risk of other chronic diseases, making it a sustainable and holistic approach to improving one's health. Adopting the Portfolio Diet not only benefits individuals with high cholesterol but also serves as a proactive step towards long-term cardiovascular health and overall vitality.
In a recent analysis (October, 2023) of 3 different studies (with 30 years of data and just under 200,000 participants) those whose eating patterns were closest to the Portfolio diet had a 14% decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, after adjusting for confounding variables.
Enjoying a nutritionally dense diet and maintaining a healthy weight are cornerstones of physical health. To maximise long-term health outcomes cardiovascular exercise and strength training are vital, as is quality sleep. These can also lead to better mental health outcomes. Finally, let's not neglect our social health – having a good circle of close friends that can support you is important.
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Glenn AJ, Guasch-Ferré M, Malik VS, Kendall CWC, Manson JE, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Sun Q, Jenkins DJA, Hu FB, Sievenpiper JL. Portfolio Diet Score and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Findings From 3 Prospective Cohort Studies. Circulation. 2023 Oct 25. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.123.065551. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37877288.
Glenn AJ, Lo K, Jenkins DJA, Boucher BA, Hanley AJ, Kendall CWC, Manson JE, Vitolins MZ, Snetselaar LG, Liu S, Sievenpiper JL. Relationship Between a Plant-Based Dietary Portfolio and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Findings From the Women's Health Initiative Prospective Cohort Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2021 Aug 17;10(16):e021515. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.121.021515. Epub 2021 Aug 4. PMID: 34346245; PMCID: PMC8475059.
Ferro Y, Mazza E, Salvati M, Santariga E, Giampà S, Spagnuolo R, Doldo P, Pujia R, Coppola A, Gazzaruso C, Pujia A, Montalcini T. Effects of a Portfolio-Mediterranean Diet and a Mediterranean Diet with or without a Sterol-Enriched Yogurt in Individuals with Hypercholesterolemia. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2020 Jun;35(2):298-307. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2020.35.2.298. Epub 2020 Jun 24. PMID: 32615714; PMCID: PMC7386117.
Chiavaroli L, Nishi SK, Khan TA, Braunstein CR, Glenn AJ, Mejia SB, Rahelić D, Kahleová H, Salas-Salvadó J, Jenkins DJA, Kendall CWC, Sievenpiper JL. Portfolio Dietary Pattern and Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Controlled Trials. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2018 May-Jun;61(1):43-53. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2018.05.004. Epub 2018 May 26. PMID: 29807048.