Integrative Nutrition Blog

What to Know About the Ornish Diet

May 8, 2017

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Diets often lure people in with the promise of quick weight loss, but they can be difficult to maintain for the long term. That’s why IIN teaches over 100 dietary theories with varying degrees of discipline. If you’re looking for flexibility, the Ornish plan might be for you. Never heard of it? The diet ranked in US News & World Report’s 10 best overall diets of 2017, and one of the main appeals is that it can be tailored to your individual needs. You select your own level on the Ornish diet spectrum, depending on whether you want to reduce your heart disease risk, lose weight or begin with baby steps toward better health. 

The Ornish diet—which gets its name from Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in California—goes by the mantra that what you include in your diet is as important as what you exclude. Overall, the diet emphasizes eating good carbs, good fats and good proteins, while reducing your intake of bad carbs, bad fats and bad proteins, according to Ornish Lifestyle Medicine. Fresh produce, whole grains and fish are key components, and sugar, alcohol and caffeine are to be consumed in moderation. At IIN, we believe in a related idea of “crowding out”—meaning that by eating more healthy foods, you’ll naturally start eating fewer unhealthy foods.

The Ornish plan categorizes food into five groups, from most (group 1) to least healthy (group 5), so it’s up to you to choose how rigorous you want to be on the diet’s spectrum. Obviously, the healthier end of the spectrum will produce more noticeable results. Depending on the diet level you choose, Ornish has been shown in some cases to reverse heart disease, prostate cancer and diabetes, as well as help with weight loss. The Spectrum book by Dean Ornish includes a chart of foods included in groups 1 through 5 so you can see where your choices rank, US News & World Report explains.

The Ornish diet advises that those who want to tackle health issues including heart disease—which the diet is best known for reversing—will need to follow a stricter plan. Only 10 percent of calories can come from fat, and most animal products are off limits.

Ornish’s plan also suggests de-stressing mechanisms such as yoga and meditation, as well as time spent with loved ones. Ornish believes that cultivating relationships with those you care about can change your health in positive ways. We like this advice! After all, one of IIN’s core concepts is “primary food,” which emphasizes things beyond food that can bring you happiness. This can include positive relationships, spirituality and self-care. No matter what diet you choose, be sure to nourish your mind and body with primary food.

Have you tried the Ornish diet? What did you think? 

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