Changing cholesterol levels

Cholesterol levels do increase with age – keeping your cholesterol low is important at all ages

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HEART UK - The Cholesterol Charity
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FH Video

Video showing why Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) needs to be addressed. 

Fish factsheet

Eating fish has consistently been associated with a reduced risk of circulatory disease such as stroke and fatal heart attack.

Fruit & vegetables
Fruit & vegetables

Fresh, frozen, canned or dried, they all count towards your 5-a-day target. Read our factsheet for ways to help to reach your 5-a-day target.


The Portfolio Diet

The Portfolio Eating plan is a recognised dietary approach to lowering cholesterol. It involves a combination of plant sterols/stanols, almonds, plant fibres and soya protein alongside regular physical activity and a largely vegetarian diet.

The portfolio diet was made popular by Dr David Jenkins, a researcher in Toronto Canada.

He took a group of foods, all of which lower cholesterol independently, and put them together in one single diet which he called the portfolio diet.  He wanted to test his theory that this special combination of foods, when eaten together, would have a reasonably large cholesterol lowering effect.

Dr Jenkins was able to show that:

  • The portfolio diet lowered cholesterol significantly
  • In short term studies the portfolio diet lowered cholesterol about as much as a low dose statin
  • In longer studies the portfolio diet lowered cholesterol on average by 20%
  • Those sticking to the diet more rigidly lowered their cholesterol the most

What is in the Portfolio Diet?

First start with a diet that is low in saturated fat, high in fibre, low in salt and rich in fruit and vegetables.

Then add the following:

 Plant Stanols and/or Sterols: 2g daily

 How to do it:

  • Eat 3 portions of a fortified food every day:
  • 1 portion equals either 2 teaspoons of (fortified) spread, 1 (fortified) yoghurt or 1 glass of (fortified) milk
  • 1 fortified mini yoghurt drink is equal to 3 portions


Plant 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%.

Almonds: 30g (about 23 almonds) daily

All nuts are a good source of vegetable protein, fibre, heart healthy monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. Although the research behind the Portfolio plan is based on almonds, it is likely that other nuts have similar benefits.

How to do it:

• eat as a snack between meals
• sprinkled on cereal, yoghurt or salad
• use almonds in cooking or try almond butter in sandwiches

Soluble fibre: 20g daily

Found naturally in foods such as oats/oatmeal/oat bran, barley, beans, pulses and fruits.

How to do it:

• Aim to eat two good portions daily such as porridge or an oat based cereal for breakfast and beans/pulses/pearl barley/ lentils/chick peas in your salads/casseroles/soups and pasta sauces
• In baking replace part of the flour with oats
• Add oats and dried fruits to favourite cereals
• Replace bread with rye/pumpernickel bread or oatcakes
• Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day (approx 10g soluble fibre)

Soya protein: 50g daily

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 cows milk. One pint is around 20g of soya protein (ensure yours is fortified with calcium)
• Try soya nuts and soya yoghurts as snacks
• 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

How easy is it to achieve follow the Portfolio Diet?

Following the portfolio diet may mean making significant changes to your dietary habits.  Most people can achieve this for short periods of time, but achieving long term change can be difficult.  To maximise your chances of success start by make a few changes to your normal routine and establish these before making any further changes.  By making small changes and embedding them in your normal routines before you make any further changes you will be able to adjust your eating habits slowly.  In this way you will be able to gradually work towards all the dietary goals in the portfolio diet.

Why not try the Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan?

This diet incorporates elements of the portfolio diet in an easy to follow step-by-step dietary plan.