The Ornish Diet for Weight Loss

The Ornish Diet, is the brainchild of Dr. Dean Ornish, MD, founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, and a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

What’s significant about the Ornish diet plan is that it can be modified to address a variety of health concerns such as  losing weight, reversing diabetes, reversing heart disease,  lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and for preventing certain types of cancer. The plan is comprehensive to your entire lifestyle, and includes changes in eating habits, exercise, and even addresses how your emotions can affect your weight and health.


From a food perspective, loading up on complex carbohydrates and vegetables is the most beneficial place for participants to start this diet. Some examples from different food groups are fruits like apricots and plums. Broccoli, turnip greens, spinach and cucumbers are highly recommended choices from the vegetable group. Legumes are a great source of complex carbs, and include many different beans including soybeans, garbanzo beans, kidney, beans, black beans, and peas.  Wild salmon and whole wheat pasta are considered to be an excellent choice as an entree.

The Ornish diet categorizes foods into five groups and ranks them on a scale of 1 to 5 from best for your health to worst for your health. Once you understand the Ornish food categories, you naturally pay closer attention to what goes in your shopping cart;  You are likely to select food items that rank in the first 2 categories which are your healthiest options. This diet plan will show you how to make better choices, and healthier food substitutions. It is as simple as choosing multi-grain breads over white bread, or eating soy hot dogs instead of those made from beef or pork.


Exercise is a necessity if you are planning to lose weight by following the Ornish diet. The plan highly recommends incorporating resistance exercises and aerobics into your exercise routine. Resistance exercise, in its simplest form, involves “pushing” against something, which causes muscle contractions that build strength.  Aerobics are more on the gentle end of the scale, low impact, easier pace, like swimming, jazzercise, and even walking.


One of the big differences between the Ornish diet and other weight loss plans is that with the Ornish diet emphasis is placed on how stress affects both your health, and dieting effort.   Dr. Ornish explained many different ways to reduce your stress level.  You may wish to consider meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga. Dr. Ornish is a big fan of the relaxation aspect of spending time with people you love and care about, and of course, they can be a great support system for you as well.


The Ornish diet is easily adaptable to meet your personal goals, whether they include weight loss, disease reversal, or preventative medicine.  To accomplish this, the Ornish weight loss plan emphasizes and encourages flexibility in your approach to this lifestyle change. There have not been any recognized health risks as a result of the plan. The Ornish diet is suitable for just about everyone, and the plan falls within the standard government nutrition guidelines. However, if you have an existing health condition or are presently taking prescription medication, you should talk with your health care provider before beginning any new weight loss or exercise programs.

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