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The Pritikin Diet Program

The Pritikin Diet Program: Main Image

The Basics

The Pritikin Diet Program was developed in the 1950s by Nathan Pritikin, who found that he was able to significantly improve his health by changing his dietary habits. There is some evidence to support that following a diet like the Pritikin Program can reduce the risk of heart disease, decrease blood pressure, and improve blood sugar control. The program includes dietary changes to severely decrease fat intake and increase fiber intake. It also includes stress management, smoking cessation, and exercise. In these ways it is similar to the Dean Ornish diet.

According to the Pritikin Program Web site, there are "go," "caution," and "stop" categories of foods:

  • Go (recommended foods)--Five servings of whole grains per day, at least four vegetable servings per day, three fruit servings per day, two servings of calcium-rich foods per day, and no more than one serving of animal protein per day, where fish is preferable to poultry, and red meat is limited to once a month. In this section it is also recommended to choose more vegetables and fewer whole grains if you wish to lose weight. If your weight is satisfactory, you can use the recommendations above.
  • Caution (the less the better)--Oils, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, salt and high-sodium foods, and condiments.
  • Stop (stay away)--Animal fats, processed or refined oils, tropical oils, meats (more than once per month), whole and low-fat dairy products, coconuts, egg yolks, deep fried foods, rich desserts, and salty snack foods.

Best bets: Whole grains, lots of vegetables and fruits, and most kinds of seafood (once daily). You can have poultry once a week. See our article on the Dean Ornish diet for more ideas.

More about this diet

In the late 1950s, Nathan Pritikin was diagnosed with heart disease. Soon after, he adopted a low-fat, high-fiber diet and began a moderate exercise program. Subsequent medical examinations revealed dramatic improvements in his health. Mr. Pritikin developed the Pritikin Diet Program based on his experience and opened the first Pritikin Longevity Center in 1976 so that he could help other people with similar medical problems restore their health.

The Pritikin Diet is almost completely vegetarian, and encourages the consumption of large amounts of whole grains and vegetables. It is high in fiber, low in cholesterol, and extremely low in saturated fat and total fat, containing less than 10 percent of total daily calories from fat. Individuals following the diet are encouraged to eat six or seven meals each day, and are not required to restrict portion sizes. The diet excludes nearly all processed grains and sources of animal protein. In addition to these dietary recommendations, the Pritikin Diet Program includes regular exercise. Program participants are required to walk for at least 45 minutes each day.

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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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