Combining diabetic diet with the Portfolio Diet


I've been on the Portfolio Diet for 9 months and have reduced my cholesterol very succesfully and while we tend to have DIY breakfasts and lunches my partner would have a tofu stir fry in the evening with me.

He has now been diagnosed as pre-diabetic and I'm wondering how to help him adjust and incorporate his needs without either of us feeling too deprived. For many recipes I can just susbstitute artificial sweeteners but we've both got quite a sweet tooth; it would be nice to have cakes and puddings occasionally but fat and sugar seem to be the basis of most of them and I'm not sure when they are essential for the structure of the recipe. Unfortunately he hates nuts and I've got to reduce salt for blood pressure.

Can anyone help, please?




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22 Replies

  • Dear Tricia,

    Both my daughter and I have pre diabetes. I really reduced my sugar levels by ordinary boring sensible eating, especially cutting right down on refined carbs. The other key I found is taking more exercise.

    We had a leaflet through the door today from the British Heart Foundation with a free recipe card from their Heart Healthy Cookbook which uses sunflower oil instead of butter or margarine and only 25g of sugar in a plum dessert. Might be worth checking out.

  • Hi Tricia,

    I have just looked up about the Portfolio diet as I had never heard about it. Did you find it difficult sticking to it and did it have a big effect on your cholesterol levels?

  • Hi Aliwally

    Thanks for your first suggestions, found the plum dessert on the BHF website, I've also realised that bread and butter pudding, more bread and fruit, less butter would be OK, also summer pudding, which I've liked the look of but never tried.

    Re the Portfolio diet, My cholesterol was skyhigh at 11, probably because I was addicted to cheese, so I knew I had to be pretty strict and it has come down to 7.3 in 9 months without statins. I need to increase my exercise though. I want to avoid statins because several friends had side ettects. I've taken to it well because I liked stir fries anyway and am not hugely bothered about meat and make sure I am stocked up on suitable supplies so there is no excuse to get fish and chips or a pizza. I didn't lose weight at first because I was dipping into the almonds every time I passed the bag in the kitchen but packing them in 1oz portions helped.

    Getting the soy into the diet is the biggest challenge. I have a box of silken tofu blended with oatbran and fruit in the morning which is very filling and half a pack of Cauldron firm tofu in a stir fry for tea most days, varying the sauces from Chinese to Indian to Italian, changing the veggies and adding rice, pasta or cous cous. I use soy milk and have a Benecol yogurt drink every day and Alpro yogurts and desserts. Sometimes I don't bother with more than a piece of fruit for lunch or have rye bread with salad and/or low fat hummous, beans, fish or eggs.

    I spent quite a long time on research at the beginning but now it is OK. Tofu is pretty tasteless on its own but my local Chinese supermarket and the Internet were very helpful with suggestions for Oriental sauces, although now I'm trying to adapt recipes from a tofu recipe book with less sugar and salt. Tofu was difficult to get hold of until I explained at Sainsbury's customer services that I and several other people in Huddersfield are all doing this special health diet and need a packet every day, since then there has been no problem. I had flatulence with all the beans and veggies at first but a London health food shop will send "Yes to Beans" capsules mail order which help.

    When eating out I usually have salmon or chicken salads and only occasionally red meat for variety, some coffee shops do soya milk coffees. Some restaurants have fruit salad on the children's menu and will bring two portions without the ice cream.

    Sorry for the long answer. Hope this helps if you are interested in trying it.

  • Hi Tricia,

    My two impoverished student daughters have filled me in about tofu! My youngest went to Thailand in her gap year and tells me they use it all the time there as a meat substitute. I will definitely try it in a stir fry.

    I have real admiration for you trying this diet. My cholesterol was 9. My GP nearly fell off her swivel chair when she read it off her screen, but the prescription for statins was printed out before I even sat on mine!

    I am on a low dose but am desperate not to have to increase them. There is a lot of diabetes type 2 on my mum's side so if I get that, my present LDL readings will not be good enough, so happy to try anything. I do not think I could follow it like you do but will try elements of it. Many thanks.

  • Thanks. My doctor's computer told her that I only had a 13% chance of CVD in the next 10 years so she didn't push statins because I was so determined against them. But then I talked to both BHF and Heart UK and both advisers said they had not heard of anyone with cholesterol so high unless it was genetic and that factoring in my weight and borderline blood pressure really increased the risk to high and even statins would not be enough to get it to a healthy level but Baldeesh Rai at Heart UK suggested if I did the Portfolio Diet and stuck to it rigidly I might be able to get the levels lower, although she still thinks I need statins too. That scared me but being told that there was something positive I could add to my diet rather than just giving stuff up was a help. My GP had just seen a TV programme about the Portfolio Diet and was happy when my results had gone down in 3 months and told me to try for another 6 months. I have still got to see her to discuss my latest results but last week the receptionist said someone at the practice had marked them as requiring no further action so I am hoping my GP agrees. I've still got quite a way to go before my Total and LDL levels are healthy but my HDL was good, although it has dropped slightly this time.

    The Portfolio diet gets its name because adding each item into your diet increases how effective it is so you can do part of it and still get some benefit.

    There are other ways of getting soy like soy milk, desserts and Tesco do dried soy nuts which make a crunchy snack and big Sainsbury's stores have frozen soy beans with the frozen peas. I find some soy milk types are better than others both in flavour and amount of soy protein but I love Alpro Custard and Dark Chocolate dessert. "This Can't Be Tofu" by Deborah Madison has 75 recipes for all sorts of dishes; I must try some more of them for variety rather than just throwing everything in the wok, although in some dishes she adds things like coconut milk and oils which are not good for heart health and you have to know that cilantro is coriander leaf and scallions are spring onions.

  • How refreshing to have a GP who is supportive of views that fall outside the mainstream. Mine actually sneered at me when I dared to suggest that results for women on statins, especially primary prevention, were not as fantastically spectacular as we are led to believe.

    She said to me "Where did you read that , in the "Daily Mail?" At least now, 3 years down the line I can say no actually I read it in the American Journal of Cardiology, the Lancet and the BMJ!!

    Thank goodness for the internet.

  • I did not realise how many soya products there are in the supermarkets. Courage failed me in Waitrose yesterday as my daughter told me that soya milk tasted disgusting and curdled in tea. However a work colleague told me it is fine with cereal. I came away with an oat based drink which tastes OK, but will try the milk.

    There is a nice dessert recipe on the HEART UK website using Alpro yoghurt.

  • soya milk only curdles in coffee

  • Yes, I was exhausted until I discovered all the types available, which ones I like and where the different supermarkets store them. No doubt they will rearrange the shelves soon and I'll have to start again. LOL

    I've heard other people say soy milk curdles but my partner uses it in tea and coffee wth no problem; it may help if it isn't boiling hot when you add the milk (can you tell I used to be a food scientist?). I heat it in a microwave for hot milk in the evening, if left to stand and cool it sometimes settles out a bit but stirs back in and still tastes fine to me. I was told at a coffee shop last month that you can't get it to froth for a cappuccino but Costa coffee and Starbucks do.

    Flavours of soya milk vary even within brands. I find Alpro Original too sweet and custardy but like the unsweetened brands including Sainsbury and Tesco. They also do UHT versions. Aldi's UHT version tastes more beany/nutty which I quite like as a change. I tried the Alpro yogurt, my favourite is pineapple in the Exotic Fruits pack but the natural flavour has too much vanilla for my taste. I will try some of the recipes though.

    If you are calculating the amount of soya protein check the box, Alpro Original Milk has 3% but the unsweetened and most of the supermarket's brands are only 2%. It makes quite a difference when multiplying up to a litre, also when comparing the price. For oatbran, which has more beta glucan than ordinary oats, I found Tesco's own brand much cheaper than Sainsbury's. Check the prices of almonds they are often sold in diffferent packs in different parts of the store at hugely different prices.

    Anyway, good luck. After the slog of the original research I find it much easier and certainly don't feel deprived.

  • I have tried the Alpro milk on cereal for 2 days running and it tastes fine. I am not a very milky person so I don't mind the taste.

    Do you think just adding a little bit of soya here and there will make any difference to cholesterol levels or do you think you have to really do the whole Portfoli have seen a dramatic fall which is fantastic.

  • Well done. Apparently you don't get the full effect without adding all the components and sticking to it, but it depends how much you need to reduce your results by, my starting figures were stratospheric so I had to be strict or resort to medication but every bit of the Portfolio Plan that you can incorporate into your diet will have a small additional effect. As well as soya there are lots of different foods that will help like fruit, nuts, oatbran and other beans, lentils, chickpeas etc and sterol/stanol products so I keep well stocked with those and just have other foods as occasional treats. My blood sugar is smoothed out by all the soluble fibre so I feel the need to binge less on fatty and sugary foods. It makes shopping quicker too, I head for the "good" products and don't bother to browse and tempt myself with things that are not good for me. I think it is probably a good thing to change more slowly anyway, the bugs in your gut take time to get used to all the fibre.

  • Hi Tricia,

    I am doing well with the soya milk on cereal. I even bought some long life by mistake and that is fine as well. I am slightly worried now that I am not getting enough calcium in my diet. I am 57 and worried about the dreaded osteoporosis. I love cheese, but obviously can't eat too much of that. I will continue to have cows' milk in tea and coffee. Grateful for any advice.

  • Hi Ali

    I'm glad that you are enjoying soy milk. Have you tried it in tea and coffee?

    I think soy milk has calcium added to bring it up to the same levels as milk but you should check that your brand is one of them and if you are still worried contact the dieticians at Heart UK. I am pretty sure that if soy milk was calcium deficient that we would have been told to boost it some other way.

    There is some stuff on the internet about bioavailability of different calcium compounds etc but I think this is one area where it is better to ask an expert because some things on the internet are rubbish.

    I've just had my blood tested for folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron and they are all fine. In fact, I don't absorb folic acid properly and had added another tablet to be on the safe side but it came back as slightly too high so I am going back to one tablet again.

    Best wishes


  • Almond milk is quite nice, not to good in hot drinks though

  • Panic over. It was just the long life Tesco's brand that didn't have calcium added, Alpro fresh milk does and it's the same amount as semi skimmed cows' milk.

    Bit alarmed to discover that a post menopausal woman should have 1,300mg of calcium a day though. The highest content is in tinned sardines (500mg) and I couldn't eat 3 tins a day! I think you would be hard pushed to get that amount in your diet, not put on weight and keep cholesterol down at the same time.


  • If you ate 3 cans of tinned sardines a day the mercury levels in the fish would probably poison you.

    I just googled "calcium sources apart from milk" and discovered this:

    which says that almonds, soy beans and leafy vegetables (and several other foods) have a lot of calcium and they are recommended on the Portfolio Diet. I don't think doctors and dieticians would be recommending it as a diet without it being balanced.

    I would recommend ringing Heart UK because I had a long conversation with their dietician who was really helpful. She will be able to suggest ways of incorporating parts of the diet if you aren't ready for the whole thing. After I discovered where to get all the soy products and decided how to incorporate them into foods I like it was much easier than I thought. You don't have to convert to stir fries like me, that is just my preferred cooking method because I like crunchy vegetables and don't want to spend a long time cooking.

    I would certainly recommend oatbran which has most betaglucan. Although tests show I have not got diabetes I was always feeling my blood sugar dropping and looking for a sugar hit to the point that I did the Carbohydrate Addicts Diet and found things like WeightWatchers hard because a carrot stick or celery just didn't give me the boost but the Portfolio has smoothed out my sugar levels. The only thing I find difficult is not continually dipping into the almond packet because I love the crunchiness.

    I'm trying to get over to my partner that more of this fibre rich diet would also help his prediabetes, he is still stuck on removing sugar from his diet like his father had to forty years ago, I'm not stopping him doing that because it will still be healthier than what he was eating before.

  • Hi Tricia,

    I have just cooked with tofu for the first time. Amai udon from my daughter's Wagamama's cookbook. The main problem was the texture of the tofu. It tasted fine but the texture was a bit wobbly for our liking. The girls tell me that this is a problem with tofu. I did compress it for about 10 minutes and got a lot of moisture out, should I do it for longer?

    Had tofu in a Japanese restaurant a couple of weeks ago and the texture was much firmer. Going fine with the soy milk, think I prefer it to cows milk on cereal.

  • Hi Ali

    I have got used to the texture, although you can drain it for longer. One suggestion I saw was to weight it with a saucepan a quarter full with water then add more water every 20 minutes. What brand of tofu did you use? The restaurant may use extra firm types which I haven't found in supermarkets. For blending I use silken tofu and for stir fries the Cauldron brand. I struggled at first and got fed up of the time it took to drain and using loads of kitchen roll and/or having lots of wet tea towels to wash. Then I tried freezing it which dries it out and makes pores which absorb marinades and makes it firmer but it is rather grainy. I also had problems with it sticking to my stainless steel pan. Now I use it straight from the packet on my George Forman grill, the grill plates are non-stick, heavy and sloping (to allow fat to drain from meat) so the liquid drains out and runs away and it gives it a drier skin which doesn't break up and stick so easily when I toss it in the wok. There is quite a lot on the Internet about different types of tofu and I found the book "This Can't Be Tofu: 75 Recipes to Cook Something You Never Thought You Would by Deborah Madison" helpful. It is an American book so we can't get some things and she came to the same conclusion as me that spicy oriental flavourings are best for firm tofu. There are some delicious smoothy recipes too, and a few ideas I haven't tried yet.

  • Hi Tricia,

    I have just come across soya nuts which I had never even heard of before. Are they another additional source of soy? I did notice that they are quite high in fat, but I suppose all nuts are.

  • I assume these are like Tesco's variety. I've not bothered to go into the subject in this much detail but assumed that as long as you get the right amount of all the foods suggested eg 25-50 g soy protein then the other nutrients work out OK.

  • Could do the Portfolio diet without the tree nuts as I am very allergic to all try nuts including coconut. Also I am intolerant to wheat/gluten.


  • Hi Dee

    I think the almonds are necessary to give things such as Vitamin E, but I wonder if taking a supplement might be OK. I would talk to the dieticians at HeartUK first in case you might have to add something else too.

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