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Amanda is Healthy Food Guide's nutrition editor with a degree in nutrition and a post-grad diploma in dietetics. She is a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and The Guild of Food...

Medication might seem like the only solution if you have high cholesterol. But following an eating plan known as the Portfolio Diet has been clinically proved to give similar results to statins.

The portfolio approach

This eating plan involves a portfolio, or group, of foods, each of which has a proven ability to help lower blood cholesterol. When eaten together, they’ve been shown to have an even more profound effect. For many people with raised cholesterol and no complications, it can be a useful starting point for helping lower cholesterol. If you are taking medication for high cholesterol, you should continue. But the diet can work alongside statins – talk to you GP if you’re thinking of trying it. The diet can be quite hard to stick to at first. But it’s an incredibly healthy way of eating and you may find you lose some weight, too.

So what can I eat?

These are the foods you need to include daily:

Almonds

Rich in vitamin E, these also seem to reduce certain proteins involved in making LDL cholesterol. They also provide fibre and are low in saturated fat. Try a handful (about 30g) as a snack, or add to cereal, salads or stir-fries.

Soya

Think soya milk, soya yogurt and tofu. Aim for 50g but that’s a lot, so start with 25g daily and work up. Try soya milk in porridge and use to make a latte or cappuccino and you’ll get 17g soya protein (a 300ml serving of soya milk can contain up to 8g protein). Add 200g tofu to a stir-fry or smoothie for another 17g soya protein.

Soluble fibre

Foods such as oats, barley, lentils, peas, kidney beans, chickpeas and fruit (particularly pears and oranges) are rich in soluble fibre. This mixes with liquid in our stomachs and forms a gel, trapping some cholesterol in our digestive systems, then excreting it – lowering the level of cholesterol absorbed into the blood. Best results are seen when eating 20g soluble fibre each day.

Try porridge or an oat-based breakfast cereal, plus soups, casseroles and salads that include beans, chickpeas, lentils or barley. You could also replace some of the flour in baking for oats or swap bread for oatcakes. Eating at least five portions of fruit and veg each day will also increase your levels of soluble fibre.

Plant stannous and sterols

These are naturally occurring substances found in foods such as nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables, olive oil, chickpeas, soya and other beans, and cereals. Research suggests they help lower cholesterol in a similar way to soluble fibre. Products such as Benecol and Flora Pro-activ spreads include these.

Try two servings of Benecol or Flora Pro-activ (around 2g in total a day). Check the labels for the content of plant stanols and/or sterols per serving. Have yogurts, yogurt-style drinks and cream cheeses, which also have these plant extract.

General tips

In addition to eating the foods shown above…

Make sure your diet is low in saturated fat and salt and high in fibre, fruit and vegetables. Include oil-rich fish (such as salmon and sardines) once a week. Other foods to fill up on include wholegrains, such as wholemeal breads, pittas and tortilla wraps, brown rice, pasta and wholegrain cereals.

Cut back on saturated fat by saying no to fatty cuts of meat, pies, pastries and full-fat dairy food. Reducing the amount of red meat is also advised… Stick to two portions of lean steak and pork weekly.

As for liquid, take in plenty…
Try smoothies, lattes, cappuccinos and milky coffee made with unsweetened soya milk. Also a non-dairy oat drink, such as Oatly Oat Drink, may help lower cholesterol.

Avoid sugar in hot drinks and don’t have sugary and fizzy drinks. Limit your intake of alcohol to the odd glass of red wine and half a lager at the weekend.

A typical portfolio diet meal plan

Breakfast: Porridge made with unsweetened soya milk, plus an orange. Or sugar-free muesli made with oats, prunes and unsweetened soya milk

Snack: A pear and a latte made with unsweetened soya milk. Or a fruit soya smoothie

Lunch: Pitta bread with hummus and salad, plus a yogurt with added stanols and/or sterols (eg Benecol/Flora Pro-activ)

Snack: An apple and a yogurt drink with stanols and/or sterols

Dinner: Stir-fry made with tofu, almonds and lots of veg, served with brown rice. Plus a big bowl of raspberries and a small pot of soya yogurt

For more information

Heart UK
British Heart Foundation
NHS Choices

*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.