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The Dean Ornish Diet

Also indexed as:Ornish Diet
The Dean Ornish Diet: Main Image

The Basics

The Dean Ornish Diet is a vegetarian, low-fat, high-fiber diet designed by Dean Ornish, MD, to improve heart health by decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol. It does not restrict calories, but dieters usually lose weight while following it.

There are actually two Dean Ornish Diets:

  • Reversal--The reversal diet is designed for people who already have been diagnosed with heart disease or high cholesterol and want to prevent further problems.
  • Prevention--The prevention diet can be customized to any specific health profile, including risks and goals.

Both diets are vegetarian, and exclude plant foods high in fat such as avocados, nuts, and seeds.

Best bets: Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nonfat dairy products in moderation

More about this diet

In his best-selling book titled, Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease, initially published in 1990, Dean Ornish, M.D., outlines a diet scientifically proven to reverse heart disease. In this book, Dr. Ornish presents two diets: the Reversal Diet and the Prevention Diet. The Reversal Diet is for people with known heart disease who want to reverse its effects and lower their heart attack risk. The Prevention Diet is recommended for people who do not have heart disease, but whose cholesterol levels are above 150, or for people with a ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good" cholesterol) that is less than 3.0.

In practical terms, the Reversal and Prevention Diets differ very little. Both diets are vegetarian and contain only 10% of calories as fat. They exclude all cooking oils and animal products, except nonfat milk and nonfat yogurt; they exclude plant foods high in fat, such as avocados, nuts, and seeds; they are high in fiber; they allow the moderate use of salt, sugar, and alcohol; neither diet restricts calories; and both diets include moderate exercise, stress reduction, and smoking-cessation techniques.

The Dean Ornish Life Choice Program, made famous by the best-selling book Eat More, Weigh Less, is built upon Dr. Ornish's dietary recommendations for preventing and reversing heart disease, but is marketed as a weight-loss diet. Like the Reversal and Prevention Diets, the Life Choice Program is vegetarian and very low in fat. Unlike other weight-loss diets, the Life Choice Program does not limit the amount of food you can eat. The diet advocates "grazing" throughout the day rather than eating three big meals.

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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2016.

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