Tara Tomaino, RD
T&B Coach, Nutrition Director
The portfolio diet was developed by Dr. David Jenkins out of the University of Toronto. It is a modified vegan diet that emphasizes foods shown to reduce LDL cholesterol. This diet encourages the consumption of key ingredients shown to support healthy cholesterol levels in addition to regular physical activity.
The foods of focus on the portfolio diet include plant sterols, tree nuts, soluble fiber, and soy protein. It is recommended to consume 2 g of plant sterols, 50 g of nuts, 10-25 g soluble fiber, and 50 g soy protein daily. Plant sterols can be found in a variety of plant foods, sesame oil, wheat germ oil, fortified spreads and foods, and supplements. 50 grams of nut is about 1 small handful and a variety of tree nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are great choices. Black beans, brussels sprouts, avocados, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas are a few examples of foods high in soluble fiber. Soy protein can be consumed in the form of tofu, soy milk, soy veggie burgers, or soy yogurts. A variety of colorful vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, plant sources of protein and healthy fats are also encouraged on this diet. There are no strict rules as to what to eliminate on this diet, however limiting your consumption of highly processed foods, meats, dairy, sweets, excess sugar, and sweetened beverages may help to maximize the cholesterol-lowering benefits.
Think of the portfolio diet as something that you can add to your “healthy eating portfolio” to support an overall healthy eating pattern. Adding the foods highlighted in this diet to a poor diet would likely not. The four foods emphasized on this diet are meant to be included in a balanced diet consisting of an abundance of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, plant-based proteins, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.
It is recommended to discuss the portfolio diet with your doctor before starting. It is also important to consider any allergies as nuts and soy are key ingredients. Consulting with a registered dietitian can help you find practical ways to incorporate principles of the portfolio diet that fit with your lifestyle. Remember that although this diet may help reduce LDL cholesterol, it does not act as a replacement to medication for those with very high cholesterol who may still need it.
This diet can be sustainable as it is essentially adding a few key cholesterol-lowering ingredients to your diet. You can gradually work on including the four foods of focus to make this diet more approachable and sustainable. For example, start by including a serving of nuts as a snack consistently before adding the next of the four portfolio foods.