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The plant-based ‘Portfolio’ diet

Did you know that heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in both the United States and Canada? 1,2

The quality of our diets ties into just about every aspect of our lives—from cardiovascular health to fitness, to neurological health, and to our risk of developing various diseases (such as different cancers, heart disease, and diabetes).

Current nutritional lifestyles range from the typical omnivore to various ‘stages’ of vegetarianism to vegan.

Plant-based diets are defined based on how strict a person is on limiting animal products. These ‘diets’ can range from pesco-vegetarian (allowing fish but no chicken, beef, or pork), ovo-lacto-vegetarian (allowing milk, egg, and cheese), to vegan.3

Over the years, studies have shown that there is a beneficial effect of moving away from animal products (or at least limiting the amount of animal products) for weight loss (or stabilization) and improving glucose and insulin levels.3 In addition to improvements in weight and blood glucose levels, plant-based diets have been shown to help in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.5

The ‘Portfolio’ Diet

In the early 2000s, a plant-based diet called the Portfolio Diet was developed to help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol levels (specifically low-density lipoproteins [LDL]). The basis of the diet was foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol, in addition to a ‘portfolio’ of cholesterol-lowering foods and nutrients.4

Adhering to the portfolio diet was associated with an 11-14% lower risk for total cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease during a 24-year study with post-menopausal women. 4

Another long-term study (32 years), showed both that having a “nutritionally rich plant-centered diet [long-term] is associated with a lower risk of [cardio vascular disease]” and that changing one’s habits even in adulthood can lead to lower risks of cardiovascular disease.1

Numerous associations (such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for American) recommend plant-based diets to improve overall health.5

For those who like eating meat and don’t want to give it up—it is as simple as trading the steak and hamburgers for chicken breasts, pork chops, and fish fillets. While livestock does contribute a larger greenhouse gas emission footprint than crop production—switching from ‘red’ meat to ‘white’ meat lowers that livestock footprint.6

Also, it is possible to add edible insects to the diet for protein (they’ve been part of traditional diets of numerous countries for centuries), and in 2018, there had been “584 products available for purchase on using the search phrase ‘insect protein’”.6

Switching to a plant-based diet can help improve overall health (weight loss/management, lower cholesterol, and other blood markers), and can have a positive influence on the environment. Though you don’t have to become a vegan to see the benefits—simply try using whole grains, eating one more serving of fruits or vegetables daily, and using unrefined vegetable oils for cooking. 3


  • Choi Y, Larson N, Steffen LM, Schreiner PJ, Gallaher DD, Duprez DA, Shikany JM, Rana JS, and Jacobs DR. (2021) ‘Plant-centered diet and risk of incident cardiovascular disease during young to middle adulthood’ Journal of the American Heart Association 10:e020718; doi:10.1161/JAHA.120.020718
  • Statistics Canada. ‘The Daily-Death, 2019. Visited September 3, 2021
  • Nedawar E, Huhn S, Villringer A, and Witte AV. (2019) ‘The effects of plant-based diets on the body and the brain: a systematic review’ Translational Psychiatry 9:226;
  • Glenn AJ, Lo K, Jenkins DJA, Boucher BA, Hanley AJ, Kendall CWC, Manson JAE, Vitolins MZ, Snetselaar LG, Liu S, and Sievenpiper JL. (2021) ‘Relationship between a plant-based dietary portfolio and risk of cardiovascular disease: findings from the women’s health initiative prospective cohort study’ Journal of the American Heart Association 10:e021515; doi:10.1161/JAHA.121.021515
  • Satija A and Hu FB. (2018) ‘Plant-based diets and cardiovascular health’ Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine 28(7):437-441; doi:10.1016/j.tcm.2018.02.004
  • Lynch H, Johnston C, and Warton C. (2018) ‘Plant-based diets: Considerations for Environmental Impact, Protein Quality, and Exercise Performance. Nutrients 10:1841; doi:103390/nu10121841
  • Image by Sean Hayes from Pixabay 


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