Healthplan Spain


What Is The Portfolio Diet? Health Tips

A recent study, featured in the peer-reviewed American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation on October 25, has shed light on a lesser-known dietary regimen with the potential to enhance heart health. Surprisingly, it's not the renowned Mediterranean or DASH diets that take the spotlight, but rather the Portfolio Diet.

What makes this revelation intriguing is the fact that this diet remained largely under the radar, absent from the AHA's scientific statement on the top ten heart-healthy diets published in April 2023, where the DASH diet received a perfect score, and the Mediterranean and pescetarian diets ranked in the top three.

According to the AHA, the omission of the portfolio diet was primarily due to its relative obscurity, as the statement primarily evaluated widely recognised dietary plans. So, what exactly is the portfolio diet?

Aims to reduce 'bad' LDL cholesterol

Dr. Jessica Schachter, an interventional cardiologist at the MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute, describes it as “a specialised dietary pattern aimed at reducing ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke”. This diet focuses on specific plant-based foods and components known for their cholesterol-lowering properties, setting it apart from diets like DASH and Mediterranean, which do not discourage the inclusion of lean animal protein.

Incorporates heart-healthy foods

Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietician with Balance One Supplements, pointed out that the portfolio diet was developed by Dr. David J.A. Jenkins, a Canadian researcher, with a primary focus on reducing cholesterol levels and diminishing the risk of heart disease. She explained that “it's important to note that this diet is not a specific weight loss diet but rather a way of eating that focuses on incorporating a variety of heart-healthy foods.

The core components of the portfolio diet include soluble fibre (found in foods like oats, barley, and psyllium), soy protein (abundant in tofu, tempeh, and soy milk), plant sterols (naturally occurring in plants like lentils, fruits, and vegetables, and sometimes added to juice and yoghurt), and nuts like almonds, peanuts, and walnuts.

Portfolio diet is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events

While the portfolio diet may not be as widely recognised as the Mediterranean or DASH diets, it has garnered attention in the scientific community for its potential benefits. For instance, a 2021 study involving over 123,000 postmenopausal women found that a higher adherence to the portfolio diet was associated with reduced instances of cardiovascular and coronary events, as well as heart failure. Additionally, other research from the same year indicated that this diet could lower LDL cholesterol levels in overweight adults, a crucial factor in heart health.

The optimal range for LDL cholesterol is about 100 mg/dl, according to the CDC, and experts share that it is crucial to be within that range.

LDL cholesterol, often referred to as "bad cholesterol," can contribute to arterial plaque formation, potentially leading to heart attacks or strokes. The emphasis on high-fibre, plant-based foods in the portfolio diet has been shown to improve blood lipid profiles. Specific foods like almonds have been linked to cardiovascular benefits and are known to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol levels.

However, it's important to consider that while the 2021 research involving postmenopausal women was promising, it did not provide detailed meal plans, portion sizes, or calorific intake recommendations for the portfolio diet. Furthermore, comprehensive comparisons with other diets, such as the DASH or Mediterranean diets, are still needed to evaluate its overall health benefits thoroughly.

Despite its potential advantages, the portfolio diet is not suitable for everyone. One of its main drawbacks is that it may be challenging for individuals unwilling to give up meat and dairy. The diet's loose structure, while offering flexibility, may not provide sufficient guidance to ensure individuals maintain the right balance of nutrients daily, which is crucial for long-term health.

Starting the Portfolio Diet

Before embarking on any dietary plan, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, particularly if you have allergies or sensitivities, gastrointestinal issues, kidney disease, a history of eating disorders, or are taking long-term medications for chronic conditions. Children, pregnant and lactating women also have different nutritional requirements, so consulting with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider is essential to tailor the diet to individual needs and life stages.

For those interested in adopting the portfolio diet, here are some tips to get started:

  • Transition Gradually: Begin by slowly incorporating the key components of the portfolio diet into your meals, allowing your taste buds and digestive system to adapt to the changes.
  • Make a Plan: Create a meal plan to facilitate grocery shopping and ensure you are meeting your dietary needs, with the assistance of a registered dietitian if needed.
  • Get Creative: Experiment with recipes that incorporate foods mentioned in the portfolio diet to make the dietary changes enjoyable and varied.
  • Portion Control: Be mindful of portion sizes, especially for calorie-dense foods like nuts, to prevent overconsumption.
  • Track Your Cholesterol: Regularly monitor your cholesterol levels to assess the impact of the diet on your health and make any necessary adjustments.

In summary, the portfolio diet, while lesser-known, shows potential in reducing LDL cholesterol and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, it may not be suitable for everyone, and further research is needed to fully understand its long-term benefits and potential drawbacks. Before embarking on any new dietary plan, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider to ensure it aligns with your individual needs and goals.


The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is important to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for personalised guidance regarding your specific health situation. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read in this article. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Reliance on the information in this article is solely at your own risk.