what is it and should you try it?

Most of the time I roll my eyes at anything that is labeled “Diet”.

Keto Diet … Paleo Diet … Detox Diet … you get the picture. Every now and then, however, a new diet ends up on my desk and I am pleasantly surprised. Recently, the portfolio diet was one of those surprises – here’s what you need to know.

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What is the Portfolio Diet?

The Portfolio Diet aims to lower your cholesterol levels. In case you’ve forgotten, there are two types of cholesterol: LDL, the “bad” type and HDL, the “good” type.

While your body needs some cholesterol, you don’t want high LDL cholesterol as it increases your risk of heart disease. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is beneficial for heart health.

The Portfolio Diet aims to lower cholesterol levels by introducing a “portfolio” of plant foods. It’s a vegan diet, which means that all animal products (such as meat, seafood, and dairy products) are not on the menu and soy products (such as tofu and soy milk) are given priority instead.

In addition, it is recommended to consume two grams of plant sterols daily in the portfolio diet, along with 45 to 50 grams of nuts and lots of soluble fiber. Regular sweating sessions are also recommended.

Should You Try The Portfolio Diet?

Many of the Portfolio Diet recommendations align really well with the cholesterol lowering strategies I would recommend as a nutritionist. Plant sterols, for example, are a very clever idea.

These compounds occur naturally in whole foods, but can also be added to products such as milk, margarine, and breakfast cereals. The Heart Foundation recommends two to three grams of plant sterols per day to help lower cholesterol.

Eating more soluble fiber is also one of my top recommendations for people with high cholesterol. You can accomplish this goal by consuming more plant-based foods – so that’s another catch for the portfolio diet. This special type of fiber absorbs water on its way through the digestive system, forming a gel-like substance in the process. This process not only helps lower cholesterol, but it also slows digestion, making you feel full and satisfied.

You can find soluble fiber in fruits and vegetables, legumes, psyllium, and soy products.

Adding a generous handful of nuts per day to the portfolio diet is also good for your health. Nuts are high in healthy fats, which are important for a happy heart and brain. Your healthy fats will improve your cholesterol profile by increasing your “good” HDL cholesterol levels.

The verdict on the portfolio diet

All in all, the portfolio diet is a good place to start if you have high cholesterol (after consulting your nutritionist). Introducing plant sterols and consuming lots of fiber is definitely worth it – but rest assured, you don’t have to switch to a strictly vegan diet to successfully lower your cholesterol through food.

Eating less meat and more plants is a smart idea, but if you don’t switch to 100% plant-based, that’s perfectly fine with me.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney based accredited practicing nutritionist. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.

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