It’s not yet as well-known as other popular diets such as the Mediterranean diet or the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, though it shares many features with those, such as an emphasis on plant-based meals.
And though the Portfolio diet is not designed for weight loss or other health goals — its emphasis is on lowering cholesterol — people who follow the diet are likely to see a range of benefits including weight loss.
The Portfolio diet suggests adding more of the following to your daily “portfolio”:
- Fruits: avocados, pears, apples, oranges, bananas, kiwi, peaches
- Vegetables: okra, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, turnips
- Nuts: almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios
- Seeds: flaxseed, sunflower seeds, chia seeds
- Whole grains: oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley
- Legumes: black beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, lima beans
- Soy protein: tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy cold cuts, soy veggie burgers
- Healthy fats: margarine and vegetable oils enriched with plant sterols
In addition to the everyday foods listed above, the diet encourages the use of supplements like psyllium fiber and plant sterols.
Some foods to minimize — or “divest” from — on the Portfolio diet include:
- Processed foods: chips, pretzels, fried foods, convenience meals, french fries, processed meats
- Refined carbs: white pasta, white rice, white bread, tortillas
- Sweets: cookies, cake, candies, baked goods
- Sugar: table sugar, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar
- Beverages: soda, sweet tea, sports drinks, energy drinks
And like a consistently strong-performing stock portfolio, the Portfolio diet has a proven track record.
Previous research has shown the Portfolio diet can lower LDL “bad” cholesterol as much as an early-generation statin.
New research published this week in the AHA journal Circulation looked at the diets of more than 200,000 men and women enrolled in long-term health studies. They answered food questionnaires every four years.
Researchers used the Portfolio diet score to rank the participants’ consumption of plant proteins, nuts and seeds, viscous fiber, plant sterols and monounsaturated fatty acids.
After up to 30 years of follow-up, those with the highest Portfolio diet score had a 14% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke compared to those with the lowest score.
“Through this research, we found that the Portfolio diet score was consistently associated with a lower risk of both heart disease and stroke, highlighting an opportunity for people to lower their heart disease risk through consuming more of these foods recommended in the diet,” lead author Dr. Andrea Glenn of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said in a news release.
“It’s not an all-or-nothing approach. You can take your own diet and make a few small changes and see cardiovascular benefits,” she said.
“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, as we saw in the current study,” Glenn added. “We need to get the word out.”