Diets That Prevent Disease

Want a diet to fight breast cancer? Foods to lower cholesterol? Prevent chronic disease? We've got the eating plan for you

by Meryl Davids Landau
diets that prevent disease
Photograph: Illustrated by Aad Goudappel

In brief | Eat food groups known to lower the artery-clogging LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in your blood.


Canadian doctors wondered what would happen if they pooled various cholesterol-lowering foods in one eating plan. The resulting Portfolio Diet cuts LDL cholesterol “almost as much as a statin drug” like Lipitor, says plan cocreator Cyril Kendall, MD, PhD, research associate at the University of Toronto. This means you can achieve a clinically significant reduction in your cholesterol without chancing the well-documented side effects of statins, such as muscle aches and brain fog.


Are you a fan of almonds? The eggplant dip baba ghanoush? Tofu stir-fry? These are the kinds of foods you eat more of on the Portfolio Diet. The plan calls for adding a variety of foods to your daily menu: 42 grams nuts; 15 grams soluble fiber (found in carbs such as beans, eggplant, okra, barley, flaxseed and oats, as well as the psyllium husks sold in health food stores); 25 grams soy proteins (you’ll need four servings of tofu, soy milk, soy yogurt, soy burgers and edamame); and 2 grams plant-sterol oils, which are used as a food additive in spreads such as Promise Activ.

The Evidence

People with high cholesterol who followed the Portfolio Diet for six months saw a drop in LDL levels of 13 percent, compared with a 3 percent decline for those on a conventional low-saturated-fat plan, according to a study reported last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (A very high dose of statins can lower your cholesterol by 50 percent, and a low dose by 18 to 25 percent, so this diet best suits people with mildly to moderately high cholesterol.) In a sign of further protection against heart disease, Portfolio Diet followers also experienced a decline in blood pressure and triglycerides.

For more information and menu plans click here.

A day on the diet


1 cup oatmeal sprinkled with ½ cup strawberriesand 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed


1 orangeand 23 almonds or other tree nuts


Salad of lettuce, tomatoesand peppers, topped with 5 olives, 1 ounce feta cheeseand 1 to 2 tablespoons Greek dressing

Handful of carrot sticksor pita chipsdipped in ¼ cup hummus


1 pear

½ cup edamame


1 soy burgerwith lettuceand tomatoon a bunspread with 1 to 2 tablespoons plant-sterol margarine

½ cup baked beans


Berry-banana smoothie, made by blending 1 cup soy milk, ½ banana, 1 cup berries, ½ teaspoon psylliumand ice

One-day plan created for Moreby Kathleen Humbert, RD, a clinical dietitian in the lipid and prevention program at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle.

The Core Food Plan

Goal: Reduce your risk of chronic disease

In brief | Vegetables reign supreme.


First published in the November 2012 issue

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