Dr. Dean Ornish, a specialist in cardiac disease, was interested in the part played by diet in controlling heart and circulatory illness in severely affected patients. He devised a low-fat, mainly vegetarian diet for his heart patients, which often involved them eating greater quantities, but of different types of food, than they had consumed previously. As well as having a beneficial effect on the health of the heart, it was noted that patients routinely lost weight while following the diet. This plan is built upon obtaining no more than 10 percent of daily calories from fat and never eating food that contains more than 2 g of fat per serving.

Recommended for
Those who need to lose weight because they suffer from or are at risk of heart disease.

Not recommended for
Growing children who need essential fats in their diet.

A wide variety of recipes are provided, based upon the whole grains, peas, beans and pulses, vegetables and fruit. Other foods, permitted in small amounts, include very low-fat or no-fat dairy products and some commercially-prepared foods, as long as these are also low in sugar content. Foods to be avoided are all those that contain 2 g of fat per serving, meat, poultry, fish, oils, margarines, dairy products, nuts, sees, sugar and alcohol. Dean Ornish’s recipes are tasty, nutritious and satisfying but may contain ingredients which are not readily available in all parts of the British Isles so some adaptations may be necessary.

A typical day’s menu
Portion of cantaloupe or other melon
Fat-free cottage cheese
Spicy-persimmon muffin
Sugar-free fruit preserve
Hot drink with fat-free milk
Whole wheat burrito filled with a portion of whole grain rice, mixed with beans and vegetables
Green side salad
Portion of sugar and fat-free chutney or dressing
Lentil soup with garlic croutons
Spinach ravioli
Green side salad

This diet has provided successful both in helping people to lose weight and in protecting the health of the heart, with the added benefit of allowing a good quantity of certain foods to be eaten, so preventing hunger pangs. The diet is even more successful when accompanied by a regular programme of exercise. Dr. Ornish has devised two main diet programmes, both primarily aimed at protecting the heart but with the ‘side effect’s of weight loss. These are ‘The Reversal Diet’ for people who already have diagnosed cardiac disease and ‘The Prevention Diet’, for those who have a cholesterol level of 150 or less and who wish to protect their heart.

Several other diet plans follow similar guidelines to those of Dean Ornish, including those of Dr. Terrt Shintani, Dr. John McDougall and Dr. Gabe Mirkin. These diets drastically reduce the amount of fat that is eaten and base their weight loss programme upon the consumption of beans, whole grains, vegetables and fruits, with some low-fat dairy products allowed and other foods included only rarely or not at all.