The Ornish Diet Meal Plan

Is The Ornish Diet A Healthy Choice For You

Introduction to Nutrition | Ornish Lifestyle Medicine

The Ornish diet shares many characteristics with other low- or no-meat and “heart-healthy” diets. It also generally meets US Department of Agriculture recommendations on nutritional balance, with some planning and effort.

Although the USDA MyPlate guidelines include meat as a source of protein, the Ornish diet can meet these recommendations based on its emphasis on plant-based proteins .

The USDA suggests roughly 2000 calories per day for weight maintenance, although this number can vary significantly based on age, sex, current weight, and activity level. The Ornish diet is based on reducing fat, not calories, so calorie intake will be different for everyone following the diet.

The Ornish Diet fits into the USDA’s recommendations using mainly plant-based proteins. This may require careful planning to obtain enough high-quality protein as well as calories due to the low fat content.

Dean Ornish Recipes Ideas

The Ornish Diet is a plan developed by Dr. Dean Ornish, a physician, researcher, and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California.

Millions have reversed their heart disease with the help of practitioners, and so can you! Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Joel Kahn, and other leading cardiologists have shared how diet heals heart disease. We share their insights, recipes and more with you to help you make small daily changes for better health. These are simple and affordable changes.

1 teaspoon black pepper. Instructions. Bring a pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook the orzo for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse , and set aside to cool. Transfer the cooled orzo to a large mixing bowl. Add the spinach, chopped vegetables, and olives, then crumble half of the feta cheese over the pasta.

The Ornish Diet is designed to help people feel better, live longer, lose weight and gain health. According to its creator, Dr. Dean Ornish who is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco the low fat, refined carbs, and animal protein content of this diet makes it the ideal diet.

What The Ornish Diet Looks Like

After you experience a cardiac event, like a heart attack, your doctor will most likely recommend you participate in a cardiac rehab program. There are two types of rehab traditional and intensive. Intensive cardiac rehab, or ICR, is more comprehensive, focusing not just on regaining your strength but on making permanent lifestyle changes for a healthier heart.

Your cardiologist or primary care physician can refer you to the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program at Sentara Princess Anne for intensive cardiac rehab. You start with an individual assessment and then join a group of approximately 10 other participants for 9 weeks of cardiac rehab. Each week consists of 2 sessions that are 4 hours each.

One of those hours focuses on learning about Ornish nutrition. Created by world-renowned heart disease expert Dean Ornish, M.D., this nutrition plan focuses on the healthiest food groups for a lifestyle that is proven to improve heart health.

The staples of your new diet include:

  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Plant-based proteins
  • Egg whites
  • Nonfat dairy

We also encourage using no added oils or fats during cooking, says Abbott. Some fats, like olive oil, do contain monounsaturated fats that are heart healthy. But to truly reverse heart disease, the diet has to be very low in fat.

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Pro: Flexibility & Cost

The Ornish Diet is designed to be relatively flexible and easier to follow due to no foods being completely avoided, but instead limited in amount. Depending on where you are on the spectrum of the diet, the most healthful end may be more expensive to follow. In general, processed foods are often less expensive than plant-based products and whole foods, which are all a large part of the Ornish Diet. However, buying whole grains in bulk and other smart shopping tips can help limit your spending while partaking in this plan.

What You Need To Know

The Ornish Diet

Dr. Ornish has written several how-to books to fully describe his recommendations and cookbooks to help those on his diet learn a new way to cook. The Ornish diet also encompasses lifestyle changes, including exercise, stress management , relationships , and smoking cessation if you are a smoker.

What to Eat

  • Alcohol and caffeine

Fruits and Vegetables

This diet is vegetarian, so prepare for plenty of produce. In addition to those fruits and veggies, you will use vegetarian sources of fats, such as olive oil, for cooking.

Whole Grains

You must swap refined carbohydrates for whole-grain versions on this dietso, whole-wheat bread instead of white, for example.

Legumes, Seeds, and Nuts

Legumes are a good source of protein in a plant-based diet. More nuts and seeds are available on the prevention plan.

Meat, Poultry, and Fish

On the reversal Ornish diet, no animal proteins are allowed since they contain saturated fats. On the prevention plan, some fish is included since it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.


Egg whites are permitted, but not yolks, because of their cholesterol content.

Dairy Products

Small amounts of nonfat milk or yogurt are allowed.

Alcohol and Caffeine

Both are permitted, but only in minimal amounts .

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What Is The Ornish Diet

The Ornish diet, conceived by Dean Ornish, MD, is designed to be a heart-healthy eating plan. It restricts dietary fat quite severely and requires that all fats come from plant sources. The goal of the diet is not necessarily weight loss it is to prevent coronary artery disease progression and improve coronary artery plaques.

However, clinical studies in which dietary fat was restricted to less than 25% of daily calories have failed to demonstrate a cardiovascular benefit. The American Heart Association once recommended a low-fat diet, but has since changed its guidelines.

The 2021 U.S. News and World Report Best Diets ranks the Ornish diet number 9 in Best Diets Overall and gives it an overall score of 3.6/5.

The Downsides Of The Ornish Diet

While the Ornish Diet plan isn’t a calorie-restricted diet, fat and animal protein intake is severely restricted, which can lead to decreased satiety from meals as well as nutritional deficiencies in B12 and iron. For people on the reversal diet, which is essentially vegan, the diet may be hard to maintain long-term. The diet can also be very low in calories and certain nutrients, depending on what people choose to eat.

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Foods To Eat And Avoid

The Ornish Diet is about making better food choices rather than consuming fewer calories.

The program provides two distinct plans: a lenient prevention diet and a stricter reversal diet.

The prevention diet gives people more flexibility depending on their personal goals and can include moderate amounts of fish, skinless chicken, avocados, nuts, and seeds.

Guidelines for the reversal diet, on the other hand, include consuming no more than 10% of calories from fat and no more than 10 milligrams of cholesterol per day. It also recommends avoiding meat, fish, poultry, and caffeine , as well as limiting sugar, sodium, and alcohol.

Both eating plans advise avoiding saturated fat from animal proteins and full-fat dairy.

Low Fat Diets May Cause Issues

Introduction to Nutrition | Ornish Lifestyle Medicine

The ornish diet can be defined as being very low fat, as it provides less than 15% of total calories from fat.

This has the potential to be problematic for certain individuals, as fat serves very important physiological purposes such as building cell membranes, synthesizing hormones, and aiding the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Despite low fat diets being originally promoted due to the health implications that were associated with saturated fat, more recent data has revealed saturated fat does not cause heart disease .

Other studies also support the position that significantly lowering fat intake does not improve heart health, outside of the benefits from caloric restriction .

This is not to say that dietary fat does not come with some health concerns, but it should be part of a balanced diet and severely restricting its consumption to very low amounts is not recommended.

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Ornish Diet: What Is It What You Need To Know

    The Ornish Diet was created in 1977 by Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California. The diet was created to help people feel better, live longer, lose weight and gain health, and consists of three major components: nutrition, stress management, and exercise.

    In terms of nutrition, the diet recommends low-fat, plant-based foods, such as:

    • Fruits
    • Egg whites in their natural form
    • Good fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids

    Unlike many other diet fads, the Ornish Diet does not solely focus on what you eat, rather emphasizing the importance of exercise, stress management, and relationships in addition to the foods on your plate.

    Four Grams A Day Of Healthy Fats

    An important aspect of the Ornish Diet is that it is very low-fat, with a nutrition plan having no more than ten percent of calories being from fat. These calories from fat should come from fats found in whole foods.

    According to the Ornish Diet, healthy fats include:

    • Fish oil
    • Plankton-based omega-3 fatty acids
    • Small amounts of nuts and seeds

    Ornish also notes limiting cholesterol to 10 milligrams or less per day. Instead of using non-fat dairy products, you can also use nondairy products, which tend to be cholesterol-free.

    Due to the high concentration of fat in nuts, they are only allowed in small amounts, with the suggestion of three or less servings per day. However, specific nuts and seeds contain antioxidants and cardio-protective phytochemicals that contribute to cardiovascular health benefits. For example, studies have shown that almonds lower LDL cholesterol and protect heart health.

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    Food To Eat On The Ornish Diet

    Here is a list of foods allowed on the Ornish diet

    Most of the foods are low in salt, which is beneficial to most individuals.

    • Fruits: Pears, Lemons, Pomegranate, Apple, Bananas, Strawberries, Blackberry, Blueberries, Grape, Oranges, Apricot.
    • Vegetables: Kale, Spinach, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage.
    • Legumes: Pinto Beans, Kidney Beans, Lentils, Chickpeas, Black Beans, Lima Beans.
    • Protein: Tempeh, Tofu, Egg Whites.
    • Spices: Garlic, Cumin, Turmeric, Coriander, Cilantro, Parsley, Cinnamon, Nutmeg
    • Seeds and Nuts: Chia Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Pistachios, Almonds, Cashew Nuts, Walnuts, Pecans, Peanuts, Flax Seeds.

    How Does The Ornish Diet Work

    The Ornish Diet: Pros, Cons, and What You Can Eat

    The Ornish Diet, in contrast to many other diets, is simple and easy to follow.

    There is no need to track your nutrient intake or count calories, and no foods, with the exception of most animal products, are completely off-limits as part of the diet.

    Ornish divides food into five groups, also known as a spectrum, ranging from the healthiest to the least healthy .

    Each group on the spectrum follows a set of guidelines:

    • Group 1: Predominantly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and non-fat dairy products.
    • Group 2: Mainly consists of plant-based foods, but with slightly higher levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, also known as healthyfats. Avocados, nuts, and seeds are examples of these foods.
    • Group 3: Includes some seafood, such as salmon, as well as low-fat dairy products.
    • Group 4: Foods with fewer nutrients and more fat, as well as animal products. Poultry, whole milk and dairy products, mayonnaise, cakes, cookies, and pastries are examples of these foods.
    • Group 5: At the opposite end of the spectrum and the least healthy, has the highest levels of saturated fat and trans-fatty acids, or unhealthy fats. This category includes fried foods, red meat, and a variety of other high-fat foods.

    Depending on your health needs and goals, you can determine where you fall on the spectrum and make dietary changes as needed.

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    Dean Ornishs Diet Outline

    Meat, poultry, and fish arent recommended. The only dairy allowed is fat-free yogurt, milk, fat free cheeses, and egg whites.

    Foods not allowed are all fats, oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, refined carbohydrates .

    Other than these banned foods, the diet allows you to eat all you want without any weighting or measuring. Whats left is predominantly fruit and vegetables, and grains.

    List Of The Cons Of The Ornish Diet

    1. For some people, the Ornish diet is extremely restrictive.If you cannot eat some of the permitted foods under the Ornish diet, then you will find this health management plan to be very restrictive. Youre allowed to eat all the legumes, grains, vegetables, and fruits required to reach a feeling of fullness. If food allergies or sensitivities are part of your daily routine, finding alternatives to eat becomes difficult. Some people discover that theyre permitted to eat a handful of items only on this diet, which increases the risk that theyll stop following it one day.

    2. It can be challenging to maintain adherence to the diet for a long time.When you follow the Ornish diet, youre following a lifestyle that is very close to what vegans follow with their eating habits. The one exception is that youre permitted up to 10% of your calories from dairy products which are low- or no-fat items. Cheese, yogurt, and milk are allowed in moderation only. No full-fat dairy products or high-sugar products are included, which means you must read ingredient labels with care when choosing foods to eat which fall outside of the five groups permitted at all times.

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    Flexible And Easy To Follow

    Unlike other diet plans that require you to carefully count calories or track your nutrient intake, the Ornish Diet requires minimal effort and is relatively easy to follow.

    According to the diets creator, aside from certain animal products, no foods are completely off-limits on the plan though some ingredients should be limited.

    Even certain prepackaged convenience items like veggie burgers or whole-grain cereals are permitted in moderation, provided they contain fewer than 3 grams of fat per serving.

    Given that the diet is not overloaded with complicated rules and regulations, its easy to stick to in the long run.


    The Ornish Diet may increase weight loss and aid disease prevention. Its also more flexible and easier to follow than other diet plans.

    How To Follow The Ornish Diet

    Stocking the Kitchen | Ornish Reversal Program

    Unlike many other fad diets, the Ornish Diet is straightforward and easy to follow.

    There is no need to count calories or track your nutrient intake, and no foods are completely off-limits as part of the diet, aside from most animal products.

    However, meat, fish, and poultry are not included in the diet, and high-fat foods like nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils are permitted only in limited amounts.

    Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and soy foods are key components of the Ornish Diet and should comprise the majority of your meals.

    Egg whites are also permitted, and up to two daily servings of non-fat dairy products like milk and yogurt can be enjoyed as well.

    Healthy fats should make up about 10% of your total daily calorie intake and mostly come from naturally occurring fats in whole foods like whole grains and legumes.

    Three or fewer servings of foods like nuts and seeds can also be eaten per day. However, its important to keep in mind that the serving sizes are very small, and one serving should contain fewer than 3 grams of fat.

    Also, caffeinated beverages, refined carbs, sugar, alcohol, and low-fat packaged foods should be limited as part of the diet.

    In addition to making changes to your diet, its also recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily to optimize results.


    The Ornish Diet involves eating mostly low-fat, plant-based foods and limiting animal products, refined carbs, high-fat foods, and processed ingredients.

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    Does The Ornish Diet Plan Work

    Following the Ornish Diet plan can lead to some positive outcomes, such as increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, and fiber and reduced intake of refined carbohydrates, sodium, and alcohol. The diet is great for people living with chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, who are looking to improve and potentially reverse their condition. And because it draws additional focus to exercise, stress reduction, and social support, the Ornish Diet can be good for people who are seeking to improve their overall health.

    Dr. Ornish has conducted numerous studies about the effectiveness of the Ornish Diet for the prevention and treatment of various diseases, including heart disease, prostate cancer, and diabetes, as well as weight loss, and depression.

    One of the most groundbreaking studies, the Lifestyle Heart Trial, was the first randomized clinical trial aimed at reversing heart disease without drugs or surgery. The study, which followed 48 patients with severe coronary heart disease over a six-year period, concluded that those who adhered to a healthy lifestylesimilar to the recommendations outlined in the Ornish Diethad greater reductions in cardiovascular disease after five years. On the other hand, those who didn’t follow the lifestyle change continued to experience a progression of heart disease.

    Us News & World Report Names Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Best Heart

    ATLANTA, January 4, 2017 U.S. News & World Report has awarded the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Diet the No. 1 ranking for the Best Heart-Healthy Diet for the seventh year in a row, every year since the publications rankings began. The Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program now part of Sharecare through its 2016 acquisition of Healthways is supported by nearly 40 years of rigorous clinical studies by Dean Ornish, M.D. and colleagues, and addresses the root causes of heart disease by using lifestyle changes as a less invasive and more effective treatment option than drugs or surgery.

    The U.S. News rankings are determined by a panel of nationally recognized health experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease. The experts reviewed information on 38 diet plans, scoring each in nine categories: overall, weight-loss, fast weight loss, easiest to follow, diabetes, healthy eating, heart disease, and plant-based. In addition to the No. 1 heart healthy diet ranking, the Ornish diet ranked third for Best Plant-Based Diet and fourth for Best Diabetes Diet.

    Dr. Ornishs whole foods plant-based nutrition plan is naturally low in both fat and refined carbohydrates and is only one of four equally important components of his transformational Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program, which remains the number one Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation program in the country.

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