Dean Ornish Diet: Diet Plans and Menu Recipes in Dr. Ornish's Diet

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The Ornish's Lifestyle Choice Diet Review

Ornish's Lifestyle Choise Diet

The Life Choice Diet at first was published by Dr. Dean Ornish M.D., in book, "Program for Reversing Heart Disease". The diet aimed to reverse heart disease and was part of a scientifically proven lifestyle improvement program.

Dean Ornish, a cardiologist, is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He is also the president and director of Preventive Medicine Research Institute, a non-profit research facility studying the connection between lifestyle behaviors and the prevention/treatment of heart disease and other chronic conditions.

The Ornish Lifestyle Modification Program is the based on:

  • a very low-fat, high complex carbohydrate diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes

  • regular exercise,

  • stress management

  • Family/community support systems to maintain desired healthy behaviors.

The diet emphasize very low in fat and yet filling foods, including high-fiber grains and legumes ( beans and peas).

Consuming of non-fat dairy foods and processed or refined foods in moderation is allowed.

Dr. Ornish presents two diets: the Reversal Diet and the Prevention Diet.

The Reversal Diet is for people with known heart disease and are aimed to reverse its effects and lower their heart attack risk.

For people who do not have heart disease the Prevention Diet is the recommended one. The diet might assist to Individuals with cholesterol levels above 150, or with a ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good" cholesterol) that is less than 3.0.

Reversal and Prevention Diets are vegetarian diets. The diet supplies only 10% of the calories from fat – it's about 15 to 25 grams of fat per day. It excludes cholesterol and saturated fat, including all animal products (except egg whites and nonfat dairy products), nuts, seeds, avocados, chocolate, olives, and coconuts.

The only allowed oil is a small amount of canola oil for cooking, and oil that supplies omega-3 essential fatty acids. By The Ornish's Diet caffeine is prohibited, but a moderate intake of alcohol, sugar, and salt is allowed. As long as the diet is confined within the recommended foods there is no restriction on calorie intake.



The theory behind the Diet

According to Ornishe's diet consuming of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich plant foods are recommended as they may result in a significant reduction in the intake of calories, saturated/Trans fats and dietary cholesterol to promote weight loss and improve cardiovascular health.

It is essential to eat 3 meals and 1-2 snacks daily as it helps regulate blood sugar and insulin while lowering serum cholesterol levels.



Weight Loss promise

Ornish doesn't define expected rate of weight loss. Instead, gradual weight reduction through eating high fiber, lower caloric density foods is expected. Daily exercise on a regular basis, positive social support and stress management assist the dieter in achieving the desired weight. On the other hand, research study findings, indicate that the Ornish's diet can prevent cardiovascular disease, especially by lowering blood cholesterol levels.



Foods in Ornish's diet

As the diet is a vegetarian one, it's based on whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains (pasta, rice, breads and cereals); dried beans and legumes including soy and small amounts of lean poultry, fish, egg whites meats and nonfat dairy. Plant oils may be used sparingly. Processed and high fat foods, sweets and caffeinated beverages, Alcohol and salt can be consumed in moderation.

Animal fats, red meat and butter should be avoided by the dieter during the diet regimen.


The Ornish's Life Choice Diet Sample Menu:

The Life Choice Menus do not define Portion sizes.

Therefore, for analysis purposes typical weight reducing portions were selected.


1 cup Bite-size shredded wheat cereal
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 cup fresh strawberries
decaffeinated coffee



Stuffed Potato:

1 large baked potato with skin

3/4 cup fresh broccoli, steamed

½ cup garbanzo beans

¼ cup nonfat lemon herb dressing


2 cups Romaine lettuce

medium tomato

2 tablespoons nonfat French dressing

1 large apple




5 melba toast

5 sun-dried tomatoes

1 tablespoon capers

Linguine with tofu and vegetables:

1 cup whole wheat spaghetti

1 medium red bell pepper

1 cup Swiss Chard

3 oz tofu

2 teaspoons olive oil

Asparagus with pepper:

1 cup steamed asparagus

1 lemon wedge

1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

2 tablespoons nonfat Italian dressing

1 tablespoon capers


2 cups mixed field greens

1/4 cup raw tomato

2 tablespoons nonfat French dressing

Spiced Peaches:

1 cup cooked peaches w/ cinnamon & 2 tablespoons red wine


Analysis of Sample Menu:*

Calories: 1957

Protein: 73 gr - 15% calories

Total fat: 23 gr - 10% calories

Carbohydrate: 380 gr - 77% calories

Saturated fat: 4 gr

Cholesterol: 4 mg

Sodium: 2974 mg

Fiber: 54 gr

*Per University of Minnesota Nutrient Data System Analysis



  • possible nutritional problems:
    • Possible essential fatty acid deficiency considering the very low dietary fat restriction.

    • Possible gastrointestinal distress such as diarrhea due to the high fiber content of the Life Choice Diet.

    • Increased risk of osteoporosis due to inadequate calcium and vitamin D intake.

  • Restrictions on plant oils, nuts and fatty fish, foods known to be Cardio protective by many health experts, are contrary to USDA 2005 Dietary Guideline recommendations.

  • High volume of fiber-rich foods (fiber content of Ornish's diet is nearly twice that recommended by the USDA Food Guide Pyramid) may cause gastrointestinal distress and decreased nutrient absorption in the gut.

  • Avoidance of sugar, salt and fat may be unpalatable for some dieters.

  • Focus on a very low-fat vegetarian diet can be an ongoing challenge for Americans who have little time to cook, travel often for business or dine out socially.


More about the Ornishe's life choise diet:

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