A portfolio diet is linked to a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, a new study finds.
If you’re trying to follow a heart-healthy diet, a specific eating pattern may help.
Whether you’re trying to lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of stroke, or just eat more plant-based, new research, published by the American Heart Association last month, shows a link between the portfolio diet less known and reduced heart risk. disease and stroke.
The purpose behind the portfolio diet is to lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol – a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
To do this, the eating pattern focuses on four main groups that appear to lower cholesterol: soluble fiber, soy protein, plant sterols, and nuts.
Because of these focal points, the diet encourages certain swaps, such as soy milk as a dairy replacement, and avocados and vegetable oils as a butter alternative.
In addition to swapping out certain foods for choices that are more likely to lower cholesterol, the portfolio diet emphasizes the importance of soluble fiber. Foods such as oats, barley, lentils, beans, broccoli, eggplant, and psyllium are encouraged, as they can bind cholesterol in the blood so it can be excreted.
Many of these foods are found in other existing heart-healthy diets, but according to Andrea Glenn, PhD, RD, one of the authors of the new study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, “the this particular study, we were interested in investigating whether the combination of these foods as part of the portfolio diet resulted in a lower risk of heart disease.”
Here’s what you need to know about the practical implications of the portfolio diet, as well as tips for following the eating pattern.
To understand the impact of the portfolio diet on heart health, the research team followed three different large-scale studies and assessed participants’ food frequency questionnaires at baseline and every four years.
The authors established a Portfolio Diet Score (PDS) that ranked plant protein, nuts and seeds, sources of viscous fiber, plant sterols, and sources of monounsaturated fat. After looking at the dietary data over 30 years of follow-up in more than 200,000 individuals, they found that those with a higher PDS score had a 14% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke. at them.
Glenn explained that the original trials showed that LDL cholesterol can be lowered by almost 30%.
“We also saw that the individuals in the current study were not eating as much of the portfolio diet as they were in the trials,” she said, “which shows that the dietary pattern can even have cardiovascular benefits. in part.”
Earlier research also compared the portfolio diet with statin use (cholesterol-lowering medication).
Although the diet can produce clinically meaningful reductions in LDL cholesterol, the 28.6% reduction in LDL cholesterol was close to the 30.9% reduction with lovastatin 20 mg.
So, ultimately, the reductions seen through diet fall short of what could be achieved through medication alone.
“The research doesn’t compare to statin use at all,” said Gregory Katz, MD, a cardiologist at NYU Langone. Health.
He explained that the study did not assess the effectiveness of the portfolio diet in reducing heart attack or stroke. Dietary changes consistent with the portfolio diet may help reduce disease risk, but Katz does not recommend it as a statin replacement.
The study also isn’t clear how many participants were also taking statins, said Jay Chudow, MD, a cardiologist at Montefiore Medical Center. Health.
“It is important to note that statins are not recommended for everyone as primary prevention,” Chudow said, “but for those at higher risk of high cholesterol, diabetes or other conditions.”
Not surprisingly, moving toward a plant-based way of eating helps lower cholesterol levels, but more research is needed before the portfolio diet is more widely recommended for heart health.
The portfolio diet is less well known than the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, but there is significant overlap.
All diets focus on eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, plant protein, nuts, seeds and plant oils. They also emphasize reducing saturated fat from red meat and dairy.
“The main difference between the eating patterns and the portfolio diet is that the portfolio diet emphasizes plant protein, especially soy, as well as sources of viscous fiber and phytosterols,” Glenn said.
Since all of these diets have been shown to have a positive effect on heart disease risk, individuals can choose which features work with their preferences, lifestyles and values.
The best way to implement the portfolio diet into your life is to start with small, achievable swaps.
Try breaking it down by choosing one of the four parts of the portfolio diet to focus on at a time.
For example, start swapping meat with soy-based protein for one meal a week. Or, add one source of viscous fiber to your diet each day, such as oatmeal for breakfast or roasted broccoli for dinner.
Since the portfolio diet is not the only heart-healthy eating pattern out there, your diet may look like some combination of the portfolio diet, the Mediterranean, and the DASH diets based on what suitable for your lifestyle and individual nutritional needs.
The good news is, any step toward heart-healthy choices is a good one.
Chudow advises patients to simply choose whatever healthy diet is easy for them to stick to and make it part of their routine, whether it’s a portfolio, Mediterranean or DASH diet.
“I discuss with my patients ways to increase their healthy food choices by including fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” he said.
For individual guidance and advice regarding your nutritional needs, it is best to consult a registered dietitian.