Cholesterol Lowering With the Portfolio Diet

Category: Heart Health
Heart Health

The Portfolio Eating Plan is a dietary approach to lowering cholesterol. It can be tried before starting on cholesterol lowering medication or if intolerant to cholesterol tablets. It is not recommended instead of cholesterol medication. It has the potential to lower cholesterol by between 5-24% if followed strictly. It involves a combination of a low fat diet and the following 4 key foods:

Food Component

Evidence for % Cholesterol Lowering

Plant sterols/stanols


Tree Nuts


Plant fibres


Soya protein


Have a look at each option and decide which you would like to try. You can choose ONE, TWO, THREE or ALL OF THEM.

The Portfolio Diet was researched in Canada. Recently it has been adapted in the UK and is called the UCLP (Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Diet). There is however no scientific evidence supporting the use of the adapted version to suggest it has the same cholesterol lowering benefits as the original Portfolio Diet. Although both are similar, the Portfolio Diet is discussed here.

*If you are following a special diet already e.g. diabetic or renal diet it is important to discuss using the Portfolio Diet with your  dietitian before using it.

Step 1: Follow a  Balanced Low Fat Diet

Start with a diet that is low in saturated fat (mainly fats from animal origin), high in fibre, low in salt and rich in fruit and vegetables. Use the Food Pyramid as a guide. We have lots more information on ways to reduce cholesterol here.

Step 2: Plant Sterols / Stanol Products Check out our advice here for more information.

Plants 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, yogurts 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

Step 3: 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

Step 4: Soluble fibre: 20g daily

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.

Aim to eat:

3g Oat based fibre daily (3 servings per day) 1 serving equals:

  • 30g Porridge oats or an oat based cereal for breakfast
  • 2 tbsp. (13g) oatbran – sprinkled onto cereals or added to casseroles, stews, soups and smoothies
  • 3 oatcakes as snack or lunch instead of bread
  • Oat based sliced pan breads that include oatbran and oat flakes

 80-100g Pulses per day:

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

1-2 servings of wholegrain foods per day e.g.


  • Use rye bread or wholegrain bread
  • 2 tbsps brown rice
  • 3 tbsps cooked whole-wheat pasta


 In addition:

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

Step 5: 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

Sample Meal Plan on The Portfolio Diet


Porridge made with 250ml soya milk and chopped banana

Glass of juice

Mid-morning snack

Piece of fresh fruit


Vegetable soup such as pea and bean soup served with a whole grain roll

1 pot soya yogurt

Mid-afternoon snack

Handful of nuts (unsalted)

Evening meal

Salmon with vegetables and chickpea mash

Fruit salad topped with soya yogurt


Created by Aoife McCarthy, on behalf of the Cardiology Interest Group, October 2013.

Review date: October 2015

© 2013 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a dietitian. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.