The Portfolio Diet naturally lowers unhealthy cholesterol


  4 Minutes

The Portfolio Diet may decrease the chances of cardiovascular disorders and strokes. It is proven to lower the type of cholesterol considered to be one of the major causes of heart disease. This eating plan mostly comprises a portfolio of four main plant-based food groups including legumes (plant proteins), raw and unsalted nuts and seeds (phytosterols), wholegrains, fresh fruit and vegetable (soluble fibre) and healthy monounsaturated fatty acids such as those found in avocados.

The Portfolio Diet is very similar to the Mediterranean Diet except it is plant based, emphasises cutting out dairy and meat, and tends to have a higher daily calorie count. It was developed by Professor David Jenkins who is also accredited with the concept of the glycaemic index which has revolutionised the treatment of insulin resistant diabetes.

The Portfolio Diet is not as well known as the Mediterranean Diet or the DASH Diet. However, a study conducted in association with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health over a 30-year period with 210,240 adults confirms that out of the three diets, the Portfolio Diet resulted in a 14% less chance of heart disease and stroke. This is because it lowers bad cholesterol.

Top tip: Learn how to manage cholesterol in this article or listen to the podcast.

The recommended Portfolio Diet foods

Most of the energy comes from plant-based foods in the science-based Mediterranean Diet. The Portfolio Diet is based on the Mediterranean Diet and has proven to be as effective as statins in reducing bad cholesterols called LDL-C by up to 30%.

With the Mediterranean Diet as the foundation, Living Naturally recommends adding in the following to your diet daily to meet the requirements of the Portfolio Diet:

  • 30g raw and unsalted almonds per day, that is about 23 almonds per day.
  • 20g thick, sticky fibre per day from sources such as rolled oats, barley, psyllium or linseeds.
  • 50g soy protein per day from tofu, soy products or soy milk (ideally non-GMO).
  • Legumes daily (peas, beans, lentils etc.).
  • 2g plant sterols per day available from health shops as a supplement or from avocados, soybeans, olive oil and leafy green vegetables.

Top tip: The proven Mediterranean Diet is more than a diet or an eating plan, it’s a way of life. We explain it in simple terms and provide a useful shopping list. Read the article here.

To meet the official dietary plant sterol requirements every day, the Portfolio Diet advocates margarines enriched with them for convenience. Instead, Living Naturally recommends avoiding margarine and looking to nature for inspiration to meet these  needs.

Some examples of foods rich in plant sterols include:

  • Barley, brown rice, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa, rolled oats, popcorn (unsalted), wholewheat flour, wholegrain breakfast cereals and wholewheat pasta
  • Black beans, broad beans, butterbeans, cannellini beans, kidney beans, red beans, and white beans. Kindly note that tinned beans are allowed and need to be low in brine, salt and sugar. Chickpeas, green beans and lentils may also be enjoyed.
  • A variety of nuts such as chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts. Although almonds and cashews are seeds, and peanuts are legumes, they are also rich in sterols. Remember that they should be enjoyed raw and unsalted.

Top tip:

  • Consider limiting foods that are rich in saturated and trans-fatty acids.
  • These foods are mostly filled with fats that turn solid at room temperature and that smoke or sizzle when you fry food in them.
  • Avoid butter, ghee, margarine and palm oil.
  • Rather use olive oil, coconut butter and coconut oil. These are naturally free from trans-fatty acids. Although they may turn solid at room temperature, they can be digested by your liver more easily.

It goes without saying that regular exercise is a must, especially if you are overweight. This is one of the key ingredients to the long term management of cholesterol and a happy heart. Smokers, getting the diagnosis of high cholesterol may be more motivated to stub out for good.

Andrea Glenn, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors says, “It’s not an all-or-nothing approach. You can take your own diet and make a few small changes and see cardiovascular benefits.”

Continues Glenn, “You also do not have to follow it as a strict vegan or vegetarian diet to see benefits, but the more of the foods from the Portfolio Diet that you eat, the greater your heart disease risk protection.”

We have taken the guesswork out of heart support and blood pressure with these products. Learn more.

Living Naturally has a dedicated helpline to see you through every season of your life. Feel free to get in touch on:
Tel: +27(0)31-783-8000
09:00 to 16:00 – Mondays to Fridays.

Yours in good health,
The Living Naturally Team


  1. Childhood non-HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and adult … Available at:
  2. Ever heard of the portfolio diet? It may lower risk for heart disease and stroke (2023) Available at:
  3. The portfolio diet for Cardiovascular Disease Risk Reduction (no date) ScienceDirect. Available at:
  4. Portfolio diet (2023) Wikipedia. Available at:
  5. ‘Harvard Diet’ may lower disease risk (2023) News. Available at:
  6. David J. Jenkins (2023) Wikipedia. Available at:
  7. Cholesterol – a balanced view on a sticky topic (no date) Living Naturally. Available at:
  8. What foods are included in the portfolio diet? (2011) Harvard Health. Available at:
  9. Coconut oil (2021) The Nutrition Source. Available at:
  10. Portfolio diet may decrease risk of heart disease and stroke (2023) News. Available at: