The essentials of the Dean Ornish, MD, diet plan are these:
It is a vegetarian (with the exception of nonfat milk and yogurt) diet that is intended to promote heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
There are actually two types of the Ornish diet: one aimed at Reversal of existing heart disease; and the other aimed at Prevention of heart disease.
There are no calorie restrictions within the general guidelines. Even with no calorie restriction, weight loss is a common side-effect for those who use the diet.
The diets are low in fat, with no cooking oils used. Avocados, nuts, and seeds are also excluded due to their high oil content.
The diets are high in fiber content.
Other key foods allowed in the diet are whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. I presume beans are also allowed in the diet.
Moderate ammounts of sugar, salt, and alcohol are also permitted for those using the diet.
The biggest complain about the diet are that it is “hard to follow” and that, by not including fish, it is low in the Omega-3 fatty acids which are very heart-healthy. Dr. Ornish does recommend fish oil capsules and flaxseed oil as supplements to boost the Omega-3 component of the diet.
It could be agued that any healthy diet is hard for the average American to follow because health is so far from the focus of any element of the standard American diet of meat, potatoes, and the occasional boiled-to-death vegetables, with a big, fat-laden dessert at the end.
It is the typical American diet that has strayed from the commonsense norms of a healthy diet, as enjoyed by most of the longest-lived people on the planet. The Ornish diet goes to extremes perhaps because it is intended to be a cure for the diseases caused by high levels of saturated fats and refined sugar in the American diet. In trying to reverse the occlusion of arteries with cholesterol buildup, it is only natural to go to the other extreme, so as not to add more plaque to the already-plugged arteries.
On the positive side, the diet receives praise for accomplishing its aim of reducing cardio-vascular disease without putting the patient through the expense and danger of surgery. That should be worth something.
There are also purported benefits for those with incipient cancers, especially those of the prostate, which respond well to a low-fat diet such as this one.
We should keep in mind that there can be no progress without some sacrifice and effort. Returning to a diet that is much closer to that prescribed to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden than is our present diet that requires mass slaughter of animals to keep us fed doesn’t seem like to much to ask if we wish to live free from heart disease.