Ornish Diet – 6 Benefits Of Following Ornish Diet

Ornish Diet

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What is the Ornish Diet?

Are you on the lookout for a vegetarian diet that can aid your health as well as lead to weight loss? Try the Ornish diet. The modern unhealthy lifestyle has led to a massive increase in several health issues. Nutritionists, health and fitness experts and dieticians have devised various dietary programmes that significantly lower the health risks as well as aid in maintaining a healthy weight.


The Ornish diet, as the name suggests, is an ultra-low fat vegetarian diet designed by Dr. Dean Ornish, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco and MD, founder and President of the Preventive Medicinal Research Institute in Sausalito. Being a vegetarian diet, it lays stress on the consumption of fruits, vegetables and grains, and very little fat. It has been tailored to reverse the symptoms of heart disease and diabetes. It also provides other health benefits like lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, causing weight loss and preventing prostate or breast cancer. This diet claims to improve your health, make you feel better and live longer.

How does it work?

The Ornish diet works in a very systematic manner to provide you with multiple health benefits and aid in weight loss. It lays stress on nutrition, stress management, exercise and emotional support options for preventing or reversing chronic diseases and shedding pounds.

Categorization of Foods:

Dr. Ornish has written a book called ‘The Spectrum’ on the basis of his 35 years of scientific research. In this book, he categorized foods into five groups. The respective groups included the food items ranging from the healthiest (first group) to the least healthy ones (fifth group). The spectrum also provides ways of using it for your purpose i.e. weight loss, prevention or treatment of diabetes or heart disease, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels etc. For example, you can reap more benefits in terms of weight loss and overall health if you stick to the foods from group 1 end of the spectrum.

1. Restriction on Fat Consumption:

Like most other diets, the Ornish diet is also based on the premise that eating fewer calories and fat helps you lose weight and maintain heart health. Fat is more calorie-dense than carbohydrates. A gram of fat has 9 calories as against carbs and proteins which have just 4 calories. Lowering your fat intake would mean lowering the intake of calories. Consumption of more fruits and vegetables in your diet will make you less likely to overeat.

2. Exercise:

The diet advises you to indulge in aerobic activities and resistance training to remain fit. Regular exercise will improve blood flow and enable you to shed pounds. It is advisable to exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week or 60 minutes at least thrice a week.

3. Stress Management:

Reducing stress is an equally important part of your diet. For this purpose, you can try deep breathing, yoga and other forms of meditation.

4. Emotional Support:

Emotional support also makes you feel happier and less likely to overeat out of anger and frustration. Spending quality time with those you love and respect and getting their support can also affect your health in a positive manner.

Ornish Diet Plan:

Nutrition forms an important component of any diet and the Ornish Diet is no exception. The diet plan should be designed in such a manner that the foods incorporated fulfill your nutritional requirements. Given below is the sample diet menu as per the Ornish Diet Plan.

BreakfastWhole grain cereal, oatmeal, fat free yoghurt , 4 oz. orange juice or any vegetable juice
Morning Snack1 banana, a low fat granola bar, a cup of tea or green tea without milk and sugar
LunchStir fired vegetables with brown rice, baked potatoes stuffed with fat free cheese, green salad made with edamame, spinach, broccoli, beans, chickpeas and fat free dressing, a whole wheat roll
DinnerBread with capers and tomatoes, tacos made with brown rice, black beans, fat free sour cream and cheese, and salsas
Evening SnackHummus with dipping vegetables

The Ornish diet chart should include grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and low fat milk products. The following points should be kept in mind while incorporating food items in your diet.

  1.  Whole foods should be consumed instead of packaged and processed foods.
  2. It is advisable to stick to a low fat vegetarian diet. Animal products like eggs (except egg whites), meat, pork, bacon, and high fat dairy should be avoided. You can consume small amounts of fish and lean chicken.
  3. Consumption of simple carbs like white rice, white potatoes and white pasta should be restricted.
  4. Whole grains like whole wheat or brown rice should be consumed instead of refined grains.
  5. Other foods not allowed in an Ornish diet include fats or oils, seeds, nuts and avocados.
  6. Unhealthy habits like excess smoking and alcohol consumption should be kicked off.
  7. Eat smaller and frequent meals to combat hunger. Avoid overeating as you are eating more frequently.
  8. Low fat or non fat dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese should be consumed in moderation. Ensure that 10% of your calories come from fat.

Benefits of the Ornish Diet:

The Ornish diet is associated with several health benefits apart from weight loss.

1. Fulfillment of Nutritional Requirement:

One of the biggest benefits of the Ornish diet is that it incorporates the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables and fiber on the basis of the USDA’s 2010 dietary guidelines. This diet can effectively provide you the required nutrition. The table given below shows the fulfillment of nutritional requirement by the Ornish diet.

Ornish DietSpectrum
Disease Plan
21-25: 2,000
26-50: 1,800
51+: 1,600
21-40: 2,400
41-60: 2,200
61+: 2,000
Total Fat16%11%20%-35%
Saturated2%1.5%Less than 10%
Total Carbohydrates60%71%45%-65%
(total except as noted)
4% (added
Fiber56 g.44 g.WomenMen
19-30: 28 g.
31-50: 25 g.
51+: 22 g.
19-30: 34 g.
31-50: 31 g.
51+: 28 g.
Sodium2,232 mg.1,621 mg.Under 2,300 mg., under
1,500 mg
for 51+
Potassium4,703 mg.5,243 mg.At least 4,700 mg.
Calcium1,026 mg.1,110 mg.19-50: 1,000 mg.
51+: 1,200 mg.
Vitamin B-128.54 mcg.2.6 mcg.2.4 mcg.
Vitamin D14.7 mcg.15.3 mcg.15 mcg.

Recommendations apply to adults, 19 and older except as noted. Recommended calories assume a sedentary lifestyle. g.: grams. mg.: milligrams. mcg.: micrograms.

2. Cardiovascular Benefits:

The Ornish diet has been designed to reverse the risk of heart disease. Research has shown that this plan can reduce and eliminate heart disease. An experiment conducted on 48 patients showed a reversal in heart disease and artery blockages after a year.

3. Good for Bone Health:

Since the diet incorporates food items that are high in minerals and low in acid, it can significantly improve bone health and ward off osteoporosis.

4. Low in Sodium:

The meal plans incorporated in the Ornish Diet are low in sodium and conducive to overall health.

5. Aids Weight Loss:

Adherence to the Ornish Diet can enable you to lose weight as it restricts the consumption of sugar, refined carbohydrates and alcohol. This diet comprises of 10% fat, 15 to 20% protein and 70 to 75% complex carbohydrates. A drastic cut in fats and consumption of more fruits and vegetables provide you the needed nutrition and promote short term weight loss.

6. Other Health Benefits:

Regular exercise recommended by this diet improves heart health and helps manage chronic conditions. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease bad “LDL” and total cholesterol. This diet focuses on the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and soy products in their natural, unrefined forms. This not only reverses heart diseases but also possesses anti-ageing and anti-cancer properties.

Drawbacks of the Ornish Diet:

Like most other diets, the Ornish diet is not without its defects.

1. Difficult to Follow:

This diet is extremely low in fat and difficult to follow in the long run.

2. Lack of Vitamins and Minerals:

Besides being extremely low in calories, the Ornish diet is also low in Vitamin B12 and iron. These are vital vitamins and minerals for proper cell metabolism. Careful planning of meals is extremely important to get these nutrients.

3. Low in Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

This diet restricts the consumption of unsalted nuts and seeds. These are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are great for heart health. Using them in moderation improves the taste of meals and helps you feel fuller.

4. Difficult to Stick to the Plan:

This plan is not suitable for those who are accustomed to eating non-vegetarian food. Elimination of meats and sweets might make it difficult for them to stick to the diet plan.

Those who are heart patients and want to lower their risk and improve overall health through a change in lifestyle and nutrition, can go for the Ornish diet. Do leave us your thoughts below.

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