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Ornish Diet Plan: How to Lose Weight and Improve Your Heart Health with a Low-Fat Plan

Source: You Tube
Source: You Tube

Some popular diets today, like paleo, keto, and Whole30, tell you to eat a lot of animal foods and fats. But 20 years ago, people liked low-fat diets, like the Ornish Diet.

The Ornish Diet was used by former President Bill Clinton. It is a low-fat diet that works well if you do it right. It is one of the best diets of 2019, according to a report. It is also very good for your heart, just like the Mediterranean diet.

The Ornish Diet was made by Dr. Dean Ornish, who is a doctor and a teacher at a university. He wrote a book about his diet in 1995. He says you should eat mostly plant foods, like grains, fruits, and vegetables, and avoid foods that have a lot of sugar, animal parts, or fat. You should only get 10 percent of your calories from fat. He says his diet can stop and reverse heart disease.

The Ornish Diet also helps you with your mind and emotions. It teaches you how to relax and cope with stress. You can do this by breathing deeply, doing yoga, and meditating.

Dr. Ornish also tells you to do different kinds of exercises, like lifting weights, stretching, and moving fast. He also wants you to have good relationships with your family and friends and get support from others. He says this can make you healthier.

What are the benefits of the Ornish Diet?

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The Ornish Diet is a way of eating that can improve your health in many ways. It encourages you to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and less processed foods, salt, and alcohol. The diet is especially good for people who have chronic health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes, because it can help them manage and even reverse their condition. The diet also helps you to exercise more, reduce stress, and connect with others, which can make you feel happier and healthier.

Dr. Ornish has done a lot of research to show how the Ornish Diet can prevent and treat different diseases, such as heart disease, prostate cancer, and diabetes, as well as help you lose weight and feel less depressed.

One of his most famous studies, the Lifestyle Heart Trial, was the first study to show that heart disease can be reversed without drugs or surgery. The study followed 48 people with severe heart disease for six years and found that those who followed a healthy lifestyle—similar to the Ornish Diet—had less heart problems after five years. On the other hand, those who did not change their lifestyle had more heart problems.

Another study from 2005 showed that the Ornish Diet can also help stop and even reverse early stage prostate cancer. A similar study from 2005 found that people who followed the Ornish Diet needed less diabetes medicine and had better blood sugar levels.

When it comes to weight loss, a study from the American Journal of Cardiology showed that following the Ornish Diet can help you lose weight because of the healthy changes you make in your life. Some studies have said that low-carb, high-fat diets are better for losing weight quickly, but a recent study from 2018 said that there is not a big difference in weight loss between low-carb and low-fat diets, like the Ornish Diet.

What can you eat on the Ornish Diet?

The Ornish Diet is not about eating less calories, but eating smarter foods. The program has two different plans: a flexible prevention diet and a stricter reversal diet.

The prevention diet lets you choose what to eat based on your personal goals. You can eat some fish, chicken without skin, avocados, nuts, and seeds. The reversal diet is more strict and limits how much fat and cholesterol you can eat per day. You also have to avoid meat, fish, poultry, and caffeine (except green tea), limit sugar, salt, and alcohol, and eat only one serving of soy per day.

Both diets tell you to avoid saturated fat from animal foods and full-fat dairy products. Dr. Ornish suggests getting complex carbs from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and lean protein from nonfat dairy products, soy, and egg whites.

The drawbacks of the Ornish Diet

The Ornish Diet has some disadvantages too. While it is not a low-calorie diet, it limits fat and animal protein a lot, which can make you feel less full after meals and lack some nutrients like B12 and iron. For people on the reversal diet, which is basically vegan, the diet may be hard to follow for a long time. The diet can also be very low in calories and some nutrients if you don’t choose your foods carefully.

Simple steps to follow the Ornish Diet plan

The Ornish Diet plan has two levels: one for preventing heart problems and one for reversing them. Both levels require you to eat less animal proteins, such as chicken and beef, and more plant-based proteins, such as tofu, beans, lentils, or tempeh. You can also eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for your meals and snacks.

If you are on the prevention level, you can have some healthy fats, such as nuts, avocados, and olive oil, but make sure you don’t eat too much of them. If you are on the reversal level, you should work with a nutrition expert who knows the Ornish Diet plan to make sure you get enough calories and nutrients every day.

Before you start any new diet, you should talk to your doctor or a nutrition expert. They can help you choose the best weight loss plan that suits your needs and lifestyle. You should also know that some health insurance plans cover the Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease as part of their benefits for people with heart problems or type 2 diabetes. You can ask your doctor if you are eligible for this program.

The Ornish diet is not just about what you eat. It is also about how you live your life. It encourages you to exercise regularly, manage your stress, and have loving and supportive relationships. This diet was created in 1977 by Dr. Dean Ornish, who was a medical professor at the University of California in San Francisco. He believed that diet, exercise, and relationships all affect your health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I eat potatoes on the Ornish diet? What about bread?

Yes, you can eat potatoes (and sweet potatoes) on the Ornish diet. Bread is also allowed, but it should be whole grain and not white bread, because white flour is not good for this diet.

What are the basics of the Ornish diet?

The first step is to check your food supplies and fridge: Throw away meat, poultry, and fish, and instead stock up on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, soy products, nonfat dairy, and eggs. Read on for a full overview of the diet.

What are the benefits of the Ornish diet?

The Ornish diet encourages healthy, plant-based eating and doesn’t require counting calories. It’s been proven to lower the risk of heart disease, help weight loss, and reduce inflammation in the body, which may have various health advantages.

What are the drawbacks of the Ornish diet?

The Ornish diet is somewhat limiting, so some people may find it hard to follow and maintain long term. It’s also a plant-based diet, so meat lovers may find that change difficult. Fat intake is also lower, which can also be an adjustment.

Can the Ornish diet help me lose weight?

Yes, you can lose weight on the Ornish diet. Research has shown it may lead to more weight loss than other popular diets, such as Atkins, Weight Watchers (WW), and Zone.

How to Follow the Ornish Diet

While there’s no calorie counting involved on the Ornish diet, there are a few things you’ll need to keep track of.

Here are some tips for how to follow the Ornish diet:right up arrow

Eat mostly plants, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and soy.

Limit nonfat dairy food to no more than 2 servings a day.

Limit refined carbs, such as foods made with white flour, sugar, concentrated sweeteners, and white rice.

Be careful of your alcohol intake. If you do drink it, limit to 1 serving per day. Aim for 4 grams (g) of healthy fat per day. In total, no more than 10 percent of calories should come from all types of fat. Healthy fat sources include fatty fish such as striped bass, salmon, and striped bass;right up arrow as well as some nuts and seeds. But in general, choose low- and nonfat foods like grains, beans, legumes, fruit, veggies, and soy foods.

Limit cholesterol to no more than 10 milligrams per day.

Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine is optional if you handle it well but limit it to 1 cup of coffee, 2 cups of decaf coffee, or 2 cups of black tea per day.

Daily calories on the diet should be made up of 10 percent healthy fats, 20 percent protein, and 70 percent carbohydrates per day.right up arrow That makes the diet low in fat. The usual diet for an adult should have 20 percent calories from fat, says Melissa Snover, registered nutritionist and founder and CEO of Nourished based in Birmingham, England.

So even though the Ornish diet calls for just 10 percent of calories from fat, Best doesn’t think you need to worry about that being too low. This fat intake is not a worrying number, she says, adding that it can actually positively affect heart health and weight.

Generally, not getting enough fat in one’s diet could be a concern, but you aren’t likely to experience a fat deficiency on the Ornish diet, Best says.

Possible Advantages of the Ornish Diet

The Ornish diet isn’t as well-known as, say, the Mediterranean diet, so comparatively it isn’t as well studied. But it has been the subject of some research and has also been shown to offer certain advantages such as:

Lower Risk of Heart Disease

One study compared the low-fat Ornish diet with the high-fat Atkins diet and found the Ornish diet had lower indicators for cardio-metabolic risk indicators which can predict

cardiovascular-related events.right up arrow The heart benefits of the diet are likely due to the reduced fat intake Snover says. The focus on fruits and vegetables also helps as those are part of a heart-healthy diet.right up arrow

Boosted Weight Loss

A past study compared Atkins, WW, Zone, and the Ornish diet for losing weight and heart health. After one year, those who followed the Ornish diet lost the most weight of the four diets, at 7.3 pounds on average. However, researchers warned that the other diet plans led to almost as much weight loss, which means the Ornish diet may not have an edge over other eating methods.right up arrow Best says that you may be more aware of what you’re eating while on this diet since you have to know your macronutrient (fat, protein, carb) intake.

Lower Inflammation Another study found the Ornish diet ranked high for anti-inflammatory benefits.right up arrow This could be because fruits and veggies such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens are high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory effects, according to Harvard Health.right up arrow Avoiding inflammation is important because uncontrolled inflammation is linked to many health problems, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and cancer, and could be due to the fact that the diet asks you to reduce sugar and processed foods, Best says.right up arrow

Can the Ornish Diet Help You Lose Weight?

The short answer is: You can lose weight on this diet. According to a systematic review, the Ornish diet led to an average weight loss of 2.9 to 3.5 percent of body weight after six months and 2.6 to 3.2 percent after one year.right up arrow Snover thinks the weight loss is also due to the lower fat intake. Foods that are rich in fat tend to have more calories as well, she says. So, if you’re following this diet and eating less fat, you are also consuming fewer calories, which is helpful for weight loss.

It could also be the result of cutting out meat products. Vegetarians usually consume fewer calories and fat, more fiber, and weigh less than nonvegetarians.right up arrow A Detailed Ornish Diet Food List to Follow Here’s a guide for what to eat, what to limit, and what to avoid on the Ornish diet:

  1. What to Eat
  2. Fruit
  3. Veggies
  4. Legumes
  5. Whole grains
  6. Tempeh
  7. Egg whites
  8. Tofu
  9. Herbs and spices
  10. What to Limit
  11. Nuts
  12. Seeds
  13. Low-fat packaged foods
  14. Caffeinated drinks (maximum of 2 cups a day)
  15. Dairy products (maximum of 2 cups a day)
  16. Fats
  17. Refined carbs (maximum of 2 servings per day)
  18. Alcohol (maximum of 1 cup a day)
  19. Processed foods
  20. What to Avoid
  21. Meat
  22. Seafood
  23. Poultry
  24. Egg yolks

A Week of Easy Meals for the Ornish Diet

If you want to follow the Ornish diet, you need to eat mostly plant-based foods and limit animal products, fat, and sugar. Here are some examples of what you can eat for a week.right up arrow right up arrow.

Day 1 Breakfast Veggie and egg white omelet, roasted garlic potatoes, fresh strawberries

Snack Fat-free plain yogurt, sliced peaches, low-fat crunchy cereal

Lunch Mixed greens salad with balsamic dressing, spicy lentil soup, corn muffin

Snack Cucumber and carrot sticks, chickpea dip

Dinner Green salad with Italian dressing, whole-wheat noodle lasagna with spinach and mushrooms, baked asparagus

Dessert 1 chocolate truffle

Day 2 Breakfast Whole-grain muffin with apple and cinnamon, fat-free yogurt with orange peel, fresh blueberries

Snack Pineapple and mint smoothie

Lunch Cabbage salad, veggie burger with black beans, baked sweet potato fries

Snack Creamy dip with basil and veggies

Dinner Beet and orange salad with arugula, creamy mushroom pasta, colorful veggies

Dessert Chocolate pudding with fresh raspberries

Day 3 Breakfast Tofu and veggie stir-fry, sweet potato hash, melon slices

Snacks Yogurt parfait with fat-free yogurt and fruit

Lunch Salad with citrus fruits, corn tacos with edamame guacamole and smoky sauce

Snacks Pea and herb dip, low-fat whole-grain crackers

Dinner Salad with greens and lemon miso dressing, Thai veggie curry, brown jasmine rice, 1 cup pineapple with mint

Day 4 Breakfast Oatmeal with berries and soy milk

Snack Yogurt parfait with fat-free yogurt, fresh fruit, and whole-grain cereal

Lunch Hummus and veggie sandwich on whole-grain bread, apple

Snack Fresh fruit

Dinner: Salad (greens, chopped veggies, salad dressing, and beans), veggie enchilada with tortilla, black beans, brown rice, enchilada sauce, spinach, onions, and other veggies if you’d like

Day 5 Breakfast Southwestern breakfast wrap (egg white scramble, black beans, salsa, nonfat cheese, and corn or whole-grain tortilla) and fresh fruit

Snack Green smoothie with soy milk or water, fruit or veggies of your choice, and optional Stevia

Lunch Salad (greens, chopped veggies, salad dressing, and beans), onion quesadilla with whole-grain tortilla, onion, spinach, black beans, and nonfat cheese

Snack Carrot sticks and hummus

Dinner: Veggie and tofu stir-fry with frozen mixed vegetables, brown rice, and soy sauce

Day 6 Breakfast Cinnamon French toast made with whole-grain bread (dip in a mixture of ¼ cup soy milk, egg white, 1 teaspoon (tsp) vanilla extract), fruit and yogurt topping

Snack Fresh fruit

Lunch BBQ bean salad (black beans marinated in BBQ sauce), mixed greens), diced sweet potatoes), sliced onions), oven-baked corn chips

Snack Fruit smoothie

Dinner Salad (greens), chopped veggies), salad dressing), beans), Cajun rice and beans (brown rice), black beans), 1 tsp Cajun seasoning), spinach or kale), salsa or hot sauce)

Day 7 Breakfast Veggie egg white scramble with 3 or 4 egg whites or egg substitute), 1 tsp nutritional yeast), ½ to 1 cup fresh spinach), salsa; sweet potato wedges

Snack Fat-free plain yogurt parfait with fresh fruit), whole-grains (whole-grain cereal), oats), brown rice)), optional Stevia)

Lunch Salad (greens), chopped veggies), salad dressing), beans), chili potato (baked potato topped with chili)

Snack Slice of whole-grain bread and hummus

Dinner Salad (greens), chopped veggies), salad dressing), beans), whole-wheat spaghetti with white beans and tomato sauce), fresh fruit

What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of an Ornish Diet?

The Ornish diet has some good points and some bad points. Here’s what you need to know:


  • No need to worry about calories
  • Eats lots of fruits and veggies
  • Supports exercise, good relationships, and less stress
  • Good for your heart
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Helps you lose weight


  • A bit hard to follow, so you might struggle
  • Might be hard to keep up for a long time
  • Not easy for meat lovers
  • Not enough fat for your health

What Happens When You Follow the Ornish Diet?

In the short term, you might lose weight and feel more energy. The longer you do it, the more you can gain. The Ornish diet has amazing long-term benefits, Best says. By eating more plant-based foods and healthy fats, you can lower your risk of cancer and other diseases that are caused by inflammation. You can also keep your weight down and avoid gaining it back.

The whole-person approach of the diet is also good for your long-term health. This lifestyle helps you take care of yourself in many ways, not just your diet and weight, Best says. Weight is only one way to measure your health, and it’s not always accurate. Being active, having less stress, and having people who care about you makes your life better and healthier.

Our Favorite Resources: Ornish Diet

Best Book to Learn About the Ornish Diet

‘Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease: The Only System Scientifically Proven to Reverse Heart Disease Without Drugs or Surgery’

To understand the Ornish diet well, start from the beginning. Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease: The Only System Scientifically Proven to Reverse Heart Disease Without Drugs or Surgery was published in 1995 and explained the Ornish diet for the first time. The book shows you how to do the program step by step.

Best Book for Recipes That Follow the Ornish Diet

‘Everyday Cooking With Dr. Dean Ornish: 150 Easy, Low-Fat, High-Flavor Recipes by Dean Ornish’

This book is perfect for you if you want to know more about what to eat on the Ornish diet. It has 150 recipes that are fast and easy to make, and that follow the Ornish diet rules for nutrition.

Best Podcast Episodes About the Ornish Diet

‘The Rich Roll Podcast: Dr. Dean and Anne Ornish: The Powder of Lifestyle Medicine to Undo Disease and Live Better’

In this episode, Dean and Anne Ornish talk about how a healthy life is not just about food and exercise, but also about relationships, love, and spirituality. They also mention some studies that show how eating plants can improve your health and how your mental health affects your immune system.

‘Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Dr. Dean Ornish Live Q&A: Reversing Disease and Living Longer’

If you have any questions about the Ornish diet, you might find the answers in this episode. Ornish answers many questions about nutrition, such as what foods can help you live longer, how oil can cause heart disease, and if soy foods are safe to eat.

Best Website for Everything You Need to Know About the Ornish Diet

Ornish Lifestyle Medicine

This website is your one-stop shop for all things related to the Ornish lifestyle. You can find research that supports the diet and tips on how to apply all parts of the lifestyle to your life — from food and fitness to stress management and love and support.


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