Dr. Dean Ornish
This is a high-fiber, low-fat vegetarian diet. It was one of the first medically proven diets that can help reverse heart disease without drugs or surgery. Dr. Ornish says you won't lose weight by counting calories but by choosing carefully the ones you eat.
Vegetables. Lots of them.
Beans, fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables. You can eat these any time you're hungry until you're full.
Non-fat dairy products such as cheese, skim milk or yogurts should be eaten in moderation. That includes non-fat or very low-fat products such as frozen dinners or fat-free desserts. One caution Dr. Ornish gives is that products whose ingredients list sugar near the top (even if they're low or no-fat) should be avoided completely.
Alcohol, dairy products (other than what was mentioned above), meat of any kind, nuts, oils and oil containing products, seeds, sugar or anything commercially prepared with more than two grams of fat per serving should be avoided completely.
Dr. Ornish maintains that if you stick to this plan you will take in less than 10% of your calories from fat and you won't have to count calories or fat grams. He also recommends eating several small meals throughout the day.
Dr. Ornish also stresses that it's critical to include at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, or one hour three times each week. Stress management techniques are also suggested including massage, meditation, psychotherapy and yoga.
How it Works
The high-fiber foods Dr. Ornish recommends slow the absorption of food into your digestive system. These foods help you feel full, longer.
Dr. Ornish's diet also removes many empty calories from sugars and fats. Combine both of these with the exercise as recommended and it would be difficult not to lose weight.
Pros and Cons
Dr. Ornish's diet was one of the first to document not just weight loss but also the reversal of heart disease. It is medically sound and built on good science.
Unfortunately for many people Dr. Ornish's diet requires learning completely new eating habits. The changes are so drastic that many doctors believe dieters will have a difficult time staying on it for a long time.
Another point of criticism for some doctors is how severely fat is limited. There are several studies that show certain types of fat can be beneficial. Unfortunately Dr. Ornish doesn't differentiate the good fats (like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) from the bad (such as trans fats).
Finally Dr. Ornish also recommends that no meats should be eaten, including fish. For bodybuilders or competitive athletes this diet may not provide enough calories, proteins or healthy fats.
The Bottom Line
If you're a vegetarian or willing to become a vegetarian this diet is ideal. You should also consider this diet if you are obese, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or heart disease. If followed properly dramatic improvements in health can be made. We cannot recommend this diet for bodybuilders or competitive athletes.
As with any diet what these books suggest should NEVER be attempted without the supervision of a Medical Doctor or licensed Nutritionist.
General Reference Links
American Heart Association
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institutes of Health
United States Department of Agriculture