Ornish Diet

What is Ornish Diet?

The Ornish Diet was created in 1977 by Dr. Dean Ornish – a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in nearby Sausalito – to help people “feel better, live longer, lose weight and gain health.” The diet is low in fat, refined carbohydrates and animal protein, which Ornish says makes it the ideal diet. But it’s not just a diet: It also emphasizes exercise, stress management and relationships. On nutrition, for instance, Ornish categorizes food into five groups from most (group one) to least (group five) healthful. It’s the difference, for example, between whole-grain bread and biscuits, between soy hot dogs and pork or beef ones. Ask yourself what groups tend to fill up your grocery cart, and decide how you want to fill it up. As for exercise, Ornish stresses aerobic activities, resistance training and flexibility; you decide what you do and when. To manage stress (long a core element of his program), you can call on deep breathing, meditation and yoga. Find a combination that works for you and set aside some time each day to practice. Finally, Ornish says that spending time with those you love and respect, and leaning on them for support, can powerfully affect your health in good ways.

While followers can cater the plan to their goals – whether that’s losing weight, lowering blood pressure or preventing cancer – the program to reverse heart disease is the one for which Ornish is best known since, as he says, it’s the only scientifically proven program to do so in randomized controlled trials without drugs or surgery. If that’s your aim, only 10% of calories can come from fat, very little of it saturated. Most foods with any cholesterol or refined carbohydrates, oils, excessive caffeine and nearly all animal products besides egg whites and one cup per day of nonfat milk or yogurt are banned, though the plan includes some seeds and nuts. Fiber and lots of complex carbohydrates are emphasized. Up to 2 ounces of alcohol a day are permitted. This regimen, combined with stress-management techniques, exercise, social support and smoking cessation, formed the basis of Ornish’s landmark heart disease-reversal trial in the 1990s.

U.S. News experts rank the diet highly in most categories – especially heart health, where it tied for the No. 2 spot in 2018 – due in part to its solid evidence-base. The whole foods, plant-based diet is made up predominantly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, minimally processed and low in fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates. But it’s not just a diet: It also emphasizes exercise, stress management and relationships.

Pros & Cons

  • Solid nutritionally
  • Your heart will love you
  • Staying the course could be tough if you’re aiming to reverse heart disease
  • Not exactly cheap

How does Ornish Diet work?

You can ease into the Ornish Diet if you goal is a general health boost or modest weight loss, but if you want to reverse heart disease, you’ll have to get more serious. Either way, these tips apply:

  • Trade refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta for whole-grain options like whole-grain bread or quinoa spaghetti.
  • Avoid saturated fat by limiting many animal products and processed foods.
  • Stock up on fruits and vegetables.
  • Trade full-fat dairy for low-fat or nonfat versions.
  • Add meditation or another stress-management technique to your morning routine.
  • Plan to spend time with friends and family.

For more guidance, turn to any number of Ornish’s books, including the original 2007 book “The Spectrum,” in which Ornish lays out your nutrition, exercise, stress management and emotional support options as a guide toward achieving any goal, from weight loss to preventing or reversing chronic diseases. “Undo It!: How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases,” co-authored with his wife, Anne Ornish, delves into decades of research to detail how making dietary and other lifestyle adjustments can help to combat conditions ranging from cancer to diabetes to heart disease.

Link to Ornish Diet Website: https://www.ornish.com/

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