Washington: If you need to lower your cholesterol, new research reveals that a diet combining soy, nuts, plant sterols, and fiber, known as the portfolio diet, may work better than a traditional low-fat diet.

The University of Canada study, announced August 23, found that people with high cholesterol who followed the portfolio diet lowered their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by about 13 percent after six months on the diet.

That is compared with a 3 percent LDL reduction among those who followed a diet low in saturated fat. The findings appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The portfolio diet focuses on four kinds of food groups:

1) Substitute soy-based foods for meat and dairy, such as soy burgers, soy hot dogs, soy milk and soy dairy substitutes.

2) Eat a lot of sticky fiber, such as adding a natural psyllium supplement to your diet and eating oats, barley and vegetables such as eggplant and okra.

3) Replace butter and margarine with plant sterol-enriched margarine. US brands include Benecol and Take Control and brands in other countries are Becel and Flora pro-activ. Plant sterols are also available in capsule form.

4) Eat a handful of nuts every day.

The new study is the latest in a series of research studies by Dr. David Jenkins from the University of Toronto. Prior research from his lab revealed that following the portfolio diet is almost as effective as taking a statin drug.

"If we let people know that they can control their own cholesterol levels themselves, we're putting some of the responsibility but also the power back into the hands of ordinary citizens," Jenkins said.