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Ornish Diet

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The Ornish diet plan was created by Dr. Dean Ornish for reversing heart disease. This diet program was initially aimed at people with heart disease but lately has been followed as a weight-loss program. The diet is strictly vegetarian and stresses on the use of low fat, filling food that include legumes and other fiber-rich food.

Ornish diet emphasizes on a combination of exercise and diet, this combination assists the fat-burning process of the body to work more efficiently.


Understanding Ornish diet

Ornish diet is a very strict diet plan. It recommends limited consumption of food items that have more than a small quantity of cholesterol and saturated fat. This diet stresses on consumption of complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, etc and restricts consumption of simple carbohydrates such as alcohol, sugar, honey, etc. Simple carbohydrates contain a small amount of fiber and nutrients but are loaded with calories.


A typical Ornish diet is composed of 10% fat, 20% protein, and 70% carbohydrates. Along with diet pattern, this plan recommends moderate levels of exercise. An average American's diet includes 45% fat, 25% protein, 30% carbohydrates, with almost 500 grams of cholesterol per day. Ornish diet recommends lesser protein intake as compared to the average American's daily protein consumption.


Ornish diet plan


Ornish diet believes that restricting calories will not aid weight loss but watching what we eat will help in setting back the extra pounds. Dr. Ornish has classified food into three types. Food that has to be eaten all the time (in plenty), food that has eaten some of the time (in moderation) and food that has to be eaten none of the time (that needs to be avoided).


All time food - Eat in plenty

Food that can be eaten all the time, you can eat plenty of this food whenever you are hungry. The list includes


  • vegetables
  • Beans and legumes
  • Grains
  • Fruits like watermelon, apple, pineapple, raspberries. In fact you can eat any type of fruit in this diet plan.

Food in moderation - food eaten some of the time

You can eat these food items in moderation and restrict regular intake.


  • Non-fat dairy products - the list includes non-fat yoghurt, skimmed milk, egg white, non-fat cheeses, and non-fat sour creams.

  • Very low fat or non-fat commercially available products - list includes Haagen-Dazs frozen yoghurt bars, Entenmann's fat-free desert, etc. Remember to check if sugar is listed in the ingredients. If so it is better to avoid those food items.

Food to be avoided completely

These food items have to be completely cut-off from the diet system. The list includes


  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Dairy products (excluding the non-fat ones mentioned above)
  • Alcohol
  • Everything manufactured commercially that has a fat content of more than two grams of fat per serving.
  • Meat of all kinds - red meat, white meat, fish, and fowl. If you are unable to cut-off meat completely, at least minimize it.

Benefits of Ornish reversal diet

  • Lowers blood cholesterol and reverses obstruction of arteries (atherosclerosis). This works well as a dietary therapy for patients suffering from heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

  • Recommended to prevent diabetes, strokes, heart problems and other conditions associated with high fat consumption.

  • Allows people to eat (food items permitted in the diet) whenever they feel hungry thereby restricting the eating spree in dieters (which they normally do while on a diet plan).

  • Hunger is substantially reduced due to the consumption of high-fiber food, thereby aiding weight loss.

  • Ornish diet plan is highly economical and serves both as a treatment and a preventive measure for various ailments.

    Disadvantages of diet Ornish

  • If the diet is extremely deficient in fats, it can lead to essential fatty acid deficiency and retard the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

  • Strict adherence to the Ornish diet does not give the person the protective power of monounsaturated fats as found in nuts, olives, avocados and olive oil.

  • If careful planning of the diet is not undertaken, there is a possibility of deficiency of proteins, iron and Vitamin B12.

  • The extreme nature of this diet may make it difficult to maintain over a long period of time. While following this diet remember

  • Eat plenty of small meals. This diet makes you feel hungry very soon and makes you also feel full quickly. You will be eating plenty but without increasing the number of calories.

  • If you follow this diet schedule seriously, you will be gaining less than 10% of your calories from fat (as per the diet recommendation). You can be free from counting fat grams or calories while eating.

  • Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes every day, else for one hour thrice in a week.

  • Follow any stress-control techniques like yoga, meditation, psychotherapy or massage.

  • An Ornish diet needs to be supplemented with a multivitamin B12 as well as fish oil or flaxseed capsules.
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