The portfolio diet is a plant-based diet aimed specifically at lowering cholesterol. There’s good evidence from research to suggest that it can benefit people with high blood cholesterol. The plan is based on eating a ‘portfolio’ or group of foods that have all been found to help lower blood cholesterol.

These foods include plant stanols, nuts and soy protein, together with foods that provide a specific type of fibre, often referred to as soluble fibre, found in good amounts in oats, barley, pulses, fruit and veg. All of these foods have been found to lower cholesterol in scientific studies. When eaten together, as part of a healthy diet, the cholesterol-lowering effect is enhanced further. The diet is a vegan diet that’s low in saturated fat and salt, high in fibre and packed with fruit and veg. It also includes specific amounts of soya, nuts, plant stanols and soluble-fibre rich foods. 

It involves a combination of a low fat diet and the following 4 key foods:

Food Component

Evidence for % Cholesterol Lowering

Plant sterols/stanols

7-10%

Tree Nuts

3%

Plant fibres

5-10%

Soya protein

3-10%

PLANT STEROLS/STANOL PRODUCTS 

Plant sterols and stanols work by blocking cholesterol absorption from the gut. If taken in the right amounts they can lower LDL cholesterol by 10 to 15%. They are not a replacement for cholesterol medication.

The amount needed for the Portfolio diet can only be achieved by eating foods specially fortified with plant stanols and sterols such as spreads, juices, yoghurts and milk. These products lower cholesterol by interfering with biliary and dietary cholesterol absorption from the gut. These foods should be taken at mealtimes or as part of a main meal.

The recommended 2g per day is usually achieved by consuming three portions of a fortified food:

  • 1 portion equals either 2 teaspoons of spread, 1 yoghurt or 1 glass of milk

           or 1 portion of 

  • 1 mini yoghurt / smoothie drink is equal to 3 portions

 

ALMONDS AND TREE NUTS: 30g DAILY

All nuts are a good source of vegetable protein, fibre, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. Although the research behind the original Portfolio diet is based on almonds, in recent research other nuts have been used with similar benefits e.g. brazil nuts almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, cashews and peanuts.

How can these be included as part of your day?

  • eat as a snack between meals
  • sprinkled on cereal, yoghurt or salad
  • use almonds in cooking or try almond butter in sandwiches 

Be careful not to overindulge with nuts as they may have heart health benefits but do no favours for the waistline as they are high in energy (calories). Stick to the recommended 30g per day.

SOLUBLE FIBRE: 

Found naturally in foods such as oats, oatmeal, oat bran, barley, beans, pulses and fruits. The type of fibre in these foods reduces cholesterol levels by interfering with cholesterol absorption in the gut from food and bile acid cholesterol.

Beta-glucans form a gel in the gut which helps stop cholesterol from being absorbed into the body.

  • 3 x 30g portions per day 
  • A bowl of oats  – 40g portion will provide 1.4g beta-glucans
  • 2 tbsp. (13g) oatbran – sprinkled onto cereals or added to casseroles, stews, soups and smoothies
  • My Breakfast Cookies  –  0.7g beta-glucans 
  • My Porridge oat bread  ( 500g yoghurt, 370g wholemeal flour, 2 eggs, 2 tbsp milk, 2 tbsp linseeds, 2 tsp bp, 1 tsp salt ) 
  • 3 oat cakes as snack or lunch instead of bread

 

80-100g Pulses per day:

  • Add beans/pulses/pearl barley/ lentils/chickpeas in your salads/casseroles/soups/ pasta sauces. Hummus is another good option.

 

1-2 servings of whole grain foods per day e.g. 

  • Use rye bread or whole-grain bread
  • 2 tbsp brown rice
  • 3 tbsp cooked whole-wheat pasta

  

In addition:

  • Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day (approx 10g soluble fibre).

 

SOYA PROTEIN: 15-25g DAILY – 2-3 SERVINGS PER DAY

Soya is a good source of vegetable protein, low in saturated fat and high in fibre. This is by far the most challenging aspect of the Portfolio diet. Start by trying to achieve 25g each day and work up if you feel you can.

How to do it:

  • Soya milk can be substituted for cow’s milk. 250mls of soya milk (ensure it is fortified with calcium) = 7g Soya Protein
  • Try soya nuts as snacks 
  • Soya yoghurts or desserts (3-4g per pot)
  • Use soya beans/mince to replace some of the meat in your dishes
  • Add tofu and/or soya beans to stir fries, casseroles, salads and on pasta
  • Textured vegetable protein as meat substitute

I believe if we have delicious recipes, that are clever and smart and introduce a new mindset that it is not what we have to give up but what we can have instead, it can become very doable and achievable. Over 6 months, we managed to reduce my husbands cholesterol from 6.6 -6.2. Heres how; 

Diet beforehand 

Breakfast 

Eggs 4 days a week , 2 eggs per portion, toast, real butter. 

Weekend  Bacon, sausage, eggs, tea/coffee pastry

 11 o clock –  tea and biscuit, Mr Kipling, fruit 

Lunch  –  sandwich  – ham ( chorizo ), cheese, butter, mayo, salad, fruit, yoghurt 

Dinner: spag bol, curry, lasagne, pizza, stew, chicken pasta

Weekend  BBQ, steak, roast beef

Wine, beers, crisps, snacks

 

What it is  ( to reduce cholesterol from 6.6 – 6.2 ) 

  • Breakfast

Oats  –  porridge, overnight oats, granola, Weetabix, shredded wheat, porridge bread, cashew butter and chia jam

Eggs x 2 times per week. 

Cholesterol-lowering butter

Yoghurt drink 

Soy yoghurt on the granola 

Always wholegrain bread 

Avocado on toast with poached egg 

New habit apple, pear or raspberry at breakfast. 

 11 o clock  –  Benecol yoghurt, 30g handful nuts, fruit with the skin on ( pectin and beta-glucans ) ( soluble fibre ) 

  •  Lunch

No more sandwiches  –  no meat, no cheese, no butter, no mayo

Nourish Bowls  –  flexitarian model –  1/2 plate fruit and veg, wholegrain and lean plant and animal proteins.

Build. – grains, awesome dressing, crunch, nuts and seeds, good fats, nuts, seeds, avocado, oil, oily fish

  • Dinner

More plant-based ingredients are mixed in with meat. 

Meat  –  beans and lentils 

Mince-based  –  rather than reaching for highly processed quoin / tvp it is lentils  – shepherd pie, lasagne, ragu 

50g mince, 50g tinned drained and rinsed green lentils 

Curry –  lentil dhal, red lentils 

Chicken and butter bean pesto pasta 

Weekend  –  fish

No crisps or nuts  –  but not peanuts. Pistachios, cashews. 

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. I encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider

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