What you include in your diet is as important as what you exclude.
On this page:
Spectrum of Choices
Foods are neither good nor bad, but some are more healthful for you than others. You have a spectrum of choices.
Based on the latest science, while recognizing the limitations of research, I have categorized foods into a spectrum ranging from the most healthful (Group 1) to the least healthful (Group 5).
I started to say “most indulgent” to describe Group 5, but that’s part of the problem. Whether or not a food is healthful is not the primary determinant of how good it tastes. How fresh are the ingredients? Where was it grown? Local? Organic? How processed is it? How skillfully was it prepared?
You can make Group 1 and Group 2 foods that are good for you and also taste great and feel indulgent. Conversely, you can make Group 5 foods unappealing if they’re not well-prepared.
What matters most is your overall way of eating. I am not saying that you should never consume foods from Group 5 (unless you have a serious health condition). If you indulge yourself one day by eating foods from Group 4 or 5, spend a little more time in Groups 1 and 2 the next day.
If you get on a diet, chances are you’ll get off a diet. Sooner or later. For most people, being on a diet—any diet—is not sustainable.
Even the word “diet” conjures up feeling restricted, deprived, controlled—all the manipulative, fascist feelings that are not sustainable.
In contrast, the Spectrum approach is all about freedom and choice. There is no diet to get on and no diet to get off. Nothing is forbidden. No “Thou Shalt Not’s,” no “You Better!” No guilt, no shame; no right, no wrong.
The Spectrum is based on love, not willpower. It’s about feeling good, not just avoiding feeling bad. Joy of living, not fear of dying. Losing weight and gaining health. What’s sustainable is pleasure, feeling good, and freedom of choice.
OK, here’s how it works:
Find your place on the Spectrum based on the foods that you tend to eat most of the time. Then, according to your own needs and preferences, decide how far, and how quickly, you want to move in a more healthful direction (if at all). In general, the farther you move towards the Group 1 end of the Spectrum, and the faster you move there, the more benefits you’re likely to gain and the more quickly you’ll experience them.
It’s not all or nothing.
In my book, The Spectrum, I describe how you can use this nutrition spectrum for specific conditions—to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, decrease your cholesterol level, and to help prevent or even reverse the progression of diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and heart disease. Of course, the health benefits of making these changes are not limited to these illnesses; rather, these are examples of how powerful these changes may be.
In general, if you’re healthy and just want to stay that way, you may not need or want to make very many changes at all. If you’re trying to reverse heart disease, then you probably need to make much bigger changes than otherwise.
Foods in Group 1 are, in general, the most healthful. As Michael Pollan writes in the opening of one of his essays, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Group 1 foods are predominantly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nonfat dairy, and egg whites in their natural forms, as well as some good fats that contain omega 3 fatty acids. These are the foods that are rich in good carbs, good fats, good proteins and other protective substances. There are at least 100,000 substances in these foods that have powerful anti cancer, anti-heart-disease and anti-aging properties.
Group 2 foods are also predominantly plant-based but somewhat higher in fat (predominantly monosaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat) such as avocadoes, seeds, nuts. Oils are included but in small amounts, since they are so dense in calories. Canola oil is a better choice than olive oil, as previously described, since canola oil contains some of the good omega 3 fatty acids and a better ratio of omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3 fatty acids than olive oil. Group 2 also includes foods canned in water (rather than sugary syrup), canned vegetables (if sodium is not too high), low-fat dairy (1 percent), decaffeinated beverages, low-sodium soy sauce, and so on.
Group 3 foods include some seafood, some refined carbohydrates and concentrated sweeteners (in moderation), some oils that are higher in saturated fat, oils that have a higher ratio of omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3 fatty acids, some reduced fat (2 percent) dairy products, margarines free of trans fatty acids, sweeteners containing high fructose corn syrup, and higher sodium.
In Group 3, I have given preference to seafood that is higher in omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon. Anchovies are high in omega 3 fatty acids but also high in fat if packed in oil. Wild salmon tends to be lower in bad stuff (mercury, dioxin, PCB’s) than farmed salmon, which should especially be avoided in pregnant and nursing women (although pregnant and nursing women should be sure to take omega 3 fatty acid supplements each day, which may make their babies smarter and healthier). The table below is a guide to the content of omega 3 fatty acids in various fish, recognizing that there will be some variability.
Remember, you don’t have to eat fish to receive the omega 3 fatty acids. Three grams per day of most fish oil capsules contain about one gram of DHA + EPA, which is all that most people require. If you take fish oil capsules in which the bad stuff has been removed, then you receive the benefits of the omega 3 fatty acids without the potential toxicities. Also, vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids are now available.
Group 4 foods contain additional fat, higher fat animal protein and fewer protective nutrients. These include poultry, fish that are higher in mercury, whole milk/dairy products, margarine, mayonnaise, doughnuts, fried rice, pastries, cakes, cookies, and pies.
Group 5 foods are, in general, the least healthful foods. They are the lowest in protective substances and are highest in “bad fats” (especially trans fatty acids and saturated fat). Group 5 foods include red meat in its various forms, egg yolks, fried poultry, fried fish, hot dogs, organ meats, butter, cream, and tropical oils.
If you’re consuming red meat, look for brands that are organically raised in which the animals have been raised and slaughtered in ways designed to minimize the animal’s suffering. Sometimes this information is on the label; other times you may need to go to their web site if you’re interested. Compared with natural grass-fed animals, meat from animals raised in feedlots contains more total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories. It also has less vitamin E, beta carotene, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids.
I put “bad carbs” in Group 3 and “bad fats” in Group 5 because the harmful effects of bad carbs can be offset by consuming them in a meal along with good carbs and other high-fiber foods that have a low glycemic index and glycemic load. In contrast, the unhealthful effects of consuming too much saturated fat and trans fatty acids are not mitigated as much by consuming these with more healthful foods. Eating too many “bad carbs” on an empty stomach puts them in Group 5.
The Spectrum of Food Choices Table is just a guide. Other factors can change a food’s category, including the type of food, the amount of food, and other foods it’s consumed with.
For example, you can turn a healthy food into an unhealthy one if you eat too much of it. A little olive oil belongs in Group 2, but pouring it over your pasta and dipping your bread in it will move it to Group 3 or even Group 4 due to the excessive calories, saturated fat, and omega-6 fatty acids from eating so much of it. Margarine made out of canola oil is healthier than margarine made out of oils high in trans fatty acids and saturated fat. A little dark chocolate every day may lower your blood pressure, but eating a lot of chocolate gives you a large amount of sugar, calories, and saturated fat. A tiny sliver of butter may be healthier than a large scoop of margarine. You may want to explore alternatives to both.
In general, choose smaller portion sizes if you’re trying to lose weight, lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, or reverse the progression of a chronic disease than if you just want to continue to stay healthy. If you’re going to eat more indulgent foods, have them with healthier ones.
As I’ve said, it’s not all or nothing. When we eat more of our foods on the healthier end of the Spectrum, it makes us feel better. It also does less violence, helps reduce global warming, and frees up more arable land to grow food for those who most need it. In short, it’s the healthiest way to eat both for us and for our planet.
We all need to find our place on the food spectrum that’s comfortable and congruent with our own personal values as well as with our health needs. And it may evolve, or devolve, over time. The point of the spectrum is to provide you information that you can use to make informed and intelligent choices.
But this I know for sure: only you can decide what’s right for you. Only then is it sustainable.
Spectrum Food Choices:
|Description||Lowest in bad stuff, highest in good stuff.|
|Fruits||Fresh; choose locally grown fresh fruit when available. Apples, Bananas, Berries, Cranberries, Cherries, Currants, Figs, Grapes, Guava, Kiwi, Lemon, Lime, Litchi nuts, Mango, Melon, Oranges, Papaya, Persimmons, Pomegranates, Quinces, Rhubarb, Starfruit , Tangerines, Watermelon, Winter melons, Zapote, Dried fruit, without added sugar (Cherries, Cranberries, Dates, Mango, Papaya, Raisins)|
|Vegetables||Fresh, frozen or low-sodium canned: Choose locally grown fresh vegetables when available. Artichokes, Arugula, Asparagus, Bamboo shoots, Bell peppers (red, green, yellow or orange), Bok choy, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots or celery, Cauliflower, Celery, Chilies, Chinese celery, Corn, Cucumber, Dandelion greens, Edemame (soy beans), Eggplant, Escarole, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Grape leaves, Green beans, Green leafy vegetables, Jicama, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Mustard greens, Napa or Chinese cabbage, Okra, Onions, Parsnips, Pickles, Potatoes, Radicchio, Scallions, Seaweed, Shallot, Spinach, Squash, summer and winter, Sun dried tomatoes (not in oil), Swiss chard, Tomatoes, Tomato paste, Tomato sauce, Water chestnuts, Watercress|
|Grains/Cereals||100 percent Whole grain bread, bagels, English muffins, pita bread, 100 percent Whole grain low-fat crackers (Woven Wheat, Finn Crisp, Wasa), Amaranth, Barley, Brown rice, Buckwheat, Bulgur, Corn, Corn tortillas (not fried), Couscous (whole wheat,) Faro, High fiber whole grain cereals (containing at least 4 grams fiber per 100 calories and less than 5 grams sugar), Hominy grits made without fat, butter or bacon, Kasha, Millet, Oatmeal, Oats, Pasta made from whole grain, Polenta, Polvillo, Potatoes, Quinoa, Rice crackers (whole grain), Rye, Soba noodles, Spelt, Sweet potatoes, Tabouli grain salad made without oil, Tortillas (fat free), Udon noodles, Wheat, Wheat berries, Wheat tortillas (fat-free), Wild rice, Yams|
|Legumes||Fresh, dried, frozen, canned (no added salt), jarred (no added salt), vacuum sealed (no added salt): Black beans, Black-eyed peas, Cannelinni or butter beans, Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), Fava beans, Great white northern beans, Italian white beans, Lentils, Lima, Mung beans, Navy beans, Peas, Pinto beans, Red beans (kidney beans), Sprouted beans, Wax (yellow) beans|
|Protein||Egg whites or liquid egg substitutes, Hummus made without oil or Tahini, Soy and soy alternatives: Tofu, Tempeh, Natto, Edemame, Soy hot dogs, Soy fat free sausage, Veggie burgers|
|Dairy and dairy substitutes||Enriched oat milk, Enriched rice milk, Enriched soy milk, Fat-free or skim milk, Fat-free buttermilk, Fat-free sour cream, Fat-free cream cheese, Fat-free cottage cheese, Fat-free yogurt, Canned evaporated milk, Fat-free (skim), coconut water, Fat-free dry milk powder|
|Fats/oils||Fish oil (omega 3 fatty acids), Fat-free non-dairy salad dressings, Non-stick cooking spray, Fat-free margarine spreads|
|Herbs, spices and other flavor additives||Bonito flakes, Brewers yeast, Broth (vegetable, mushroom), Capers, Chili flakes, Chutneys, Fennel seeds, Flax seeds, Fresh or dried herbs and spices, such as allspice, cinnamon, basil, cumin, curry powder, corriander, parsley, oregano, etc., Garlic, Green chiles (canned), Hoisin sauce and plum sauce, malt powder, Miso, Mustard, Natural vanilla, Pepper, Plain and flavored vinegars, Poppy seeds, Rice wine vinegar, low sodium, Salsa or picante sauce, Vinegars, Yeast, Wheat germ|
|Beverages||Green Tea (iced and hot), Caffeine free herbal teas (iced and hot), Fruit juice (up to 8 oz daily), Beer (up to 12 oz daily), Wine (up to 6 oz daily), Sake|
|Description||Somewhat higher in monosaturated and polyunsaturated fat Low sodium, Low-fat dairy|
|Fruits||Frozen and canned (packed in water or its own juice, no added sugar), Avocados, Olives|
|Vegetables||Canned vegetables, regular sodium|
|Grains/Cereals||Reduced fat flour tortilla|
|Legumes||Regular sodium canned, jarred or vacuum sealed beans and lentils, Baked beans|
|Dairy and dairy substitutes||Low fat dairy (1 percent), Sweetened non-fat and 1 percent yogurt, Fat free frozen yogurt, Fat free puddings and sweets (up to 2 servings daily), Parmesan cheese as a flavor enhancer|
|Fats/oils||Canola oil, Flaxseed oil, Olive oil, Safflower oil, Sesame oil, Nuts and nut butters: Almonds (unsalted), Cashews (unsalted), Mixed nuts (unsalted), Peanuts (unsalted), Pecans (unsalted), Pumpkin seeds (unsalted), Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds (unsalted), Walnuts|
|Herbs, spices and other flavor additives||Bouillon cubes/granules, vegetable (low-sodium), Sesame seeds, Soy sauce (low-sodium), Barbeque sauce, Rice wine vinegar, regular sodium, Sofrito, Dark chocolate (small amounts)|
|Sweeteners||Splenda, Unsweetened jam, jelly or preserves|
|Beverages||Black tea, Caffeine free, sugar free colas and other sodas (if sweetened with stevia or Splenda), Decaffeinated coffee, Decaffeinated tea|
|Description||Some seafood, more fat, some refined carbohydrates, higher sodium|
|Fruits||Dried fruit with added sugar, Canned fruit packed in syrup, Coconut meat, raw or shredded (dried)|
|Grains/Cereals||Regular fat flour tortillas, Angel food cake, Fat-free biscuit mix, Rice crackers, white rice, White bread, bagels, pita bread or English muffins, White pasta, White flour|
|Protein||Anchovies (fresh), Arctic char, Butterfish, Canned light tuna, Catfish, Caviar, Clams, Cod, Crab, Crawfish, Flounder, Halibut, Herring, Lobster, Mahimahi, Monkfish, Mussels, Orange roughy, Pacific flounder, Pacific sole, Pollack, Salmon, wild Alaska and Pacific, Sanddabs, Sardines not packed in oil, Scallops, Sea bass, Shrimp, Snapper, Squid/calamari, Striped bass, Sturgeon, Tilapia, Trout, Tuna, fresh or canned light|
|Dairy and dairy substitutes||Reduced fat dairy products (2 percent), Reduced-fat cheese (2 percent), Canned evaporated milk, reduced fat (2 percent), Non-dairy creamer (1 Tbsp)|
|Fats/oils||Lite or reduced fat margarines free of trans-fats, Low-fat mayonnaise, Corn oil, Peanut oil, Sesame oil, Soybean oil|
|Herbs, spices and other flavor additives||Bouillon cubes/granules, vegetable (regular sodium), Table salt|
|Sweeteners||High fructose corn syrup, White, brown, or raw sugar or syrup, Corn syrup, Honey, Maple syrup, Molasses, Sweetened jam, jelly or preserves|
|Description||Foods containing additional fat, higher fat animal protein and fewer protective nutrients.|
|Protein||Poultry (light meat chicken, turkey), Products made from light chicken and turkey, such as poultry-based luncheon meats, poultry-based sausage, poultry-based hot dogs, Deli sliced turkey, Albacore tuna, Anchovies in oil, Oysters, Fish high in mercury(King mackerel, Shark, Swordfish, Tilefish (golden snapper))|
|Dairy and dairy substitutes||Lite coconut milk, Full fat dairy products (4 percent), Full fat goat milk, Non-dairy whipped cream|
|Fats/oils||Margarines (regular), Mayonnaise (regular)|
|Herbs, spices and other flavor additives||Chicken broth|
|Description||Highest in bad stuff, lowest in good stuff.|
|Grains/Cereals||Fried breads, Fried desserts, Pastries, Pies, Donuts, Cakes, Cookies, Fried rice, Fried noodles, Fried tortillas, Biscuits, Croissants|
|Legumes||Pork and beans|
|Protein||Bacon, Bacon bits, Bologna, Beef, Bison, Deli sliced ham, pastrami, roast beef, Deviled eggs, Egg salad sandwich, Egg yolks, Elk, Fried chicken, Fried fish or shellfish, Ham, Head cheese, Hot dogs made from pork or beef, Lamb, Organ meats, Pork, Sausage made from beef or pork, Venison|
|Dairy and dairy substitutes||All other full fat cheese, Coconut milk, Half & half, Heavy cream, Butter|
|Fats/oils||Trans fats, Tropical oils: Coconut oil, Palm kernel oil, Palm oil|
|Herbs, spices and other flavor additives||Beef broth|
Nutrition Guidelines For Reversing Heart Disease:
Fat — No more than 10% of calories are from fat. This is achieved by not adding any fats, oils, seeds, nuts, avocados, coconut and olives to a mostly plant-based diet. The 10% of calories from fat comes from fat that occurs naturally in grains, vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes and soy foods.
Cholesterol — No more than 10 milligrams of cholesterol per day. To meet this goal, non-fat dairy products are limited to 2 servings per day. Non-fat dairy products are optional. Soy products can be used instead of dairy products because they are cholesterol free.
Animal Products — Meat, poultry, fish and any products made from these foods are eliminated. Non-fat dairy foods (no more than 2 servings/day) and egg whites are included.
Calories — Unrestricted unless weight loss is desired. Small frequent meals spread throughout the day help avoid hunger and keep energy levels constant. Portion control will assist in reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight and controlling blood sugar levels.
Sugar — Permitted in moderation. No more than 2 servings/day including non-fat sweets. A serving is equivalent to 1 tablespoon or 12 grams of sugar.
Caffeine — All sources of caffeine are eliminated, including regular and decaffeinated coffees and teas, chocolate, cocoa, and regular or decaffeinated dark colas, with the exception of green tea. Caffeine’s effect on the central nervous system interferes with the mind body connection and therefore meditation and relaxation. Why is green tea an exception? Evidence from recent studies on tea shows that the health benefits of green tea outweigh the risks for most individuals. Green tea contains a variety of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols, especially the flavonoids such as catechins, which may reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. Individuals with arrhythmia and elevated stress should still avoid any caffeinated beverage. Although green tea contains some caffeine and its caffeine content is lower than that found in coffee, black or oolong teas and caffeinated cola soft drinks, it should be limited to no more than 2 cups per day. Additionally, decaffeinated green tea can be consumed. Be sure to purchase green tea that has been decaffeinated with the “effervescence” method (uses water and carbon dioxide), which preserves most of the polyphenols present in regular green tea. Naturally caffeine-free herbal teas, grain-based coffees (i.e. Postum, Caffix and Roma), carob powder, Sprite, 7-Up or Ginger Ale are also good alternatives. For more information on the benefits of green tea, see Dr. Ornish’s recent column, Touting Tea.
Sodium — Moderate salt use, unless medically indicated otherwise.
Alcohol — Allowed in small amounts but not encouraged. If consumed, enjoy one serving a day: 1.5 ounces liquor, 4 ounces wine or 12 ounces beer.
Soy — One serving per day of a “full-fat” soy food. A full-fat soy food is one that contains greater than 3 grams of fat per serving, with none of the fat coming from added fats or oils. Always read the label for portion sizes and ingredient content.
Supplements— A low dose multivitamin and mineral supplement with B-12 (without iron, if not of childbearing age), fish oil and, possibly upon the advice of a physician, calcium supplements. Antioxidant vitamins and folic acid are optional and are based on health history and nutritional intake of these nutrients.
Prevention Food Guide Pyramid:
Moderate exercise, stress management techniques, social support, a multivitamin, and 3 grams/day of fish oil to provide omega-3 fatty acids are also recommended for most people. Fresh, organic produce is optimal.
Dean Ornish, M.D.
Founder and President, Preventive Medicine Research Institute
Clinical Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
This pyramid is a visual representation of Dr. Ornish’s dietary recommendations. The foundation of this diet comes from whole, unrefined plant-based foods, as close as possible to their original state. These are whole grains such as whole wheat and brown rice, fresh fruits and vegetables, and legumes (beans, peas, lentils), including soy. These foods provide carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals and an immense variety of disease-fighting chemicals found only in plant foods (phytochemicals, where phyto = plant), which may help protect us from chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
The bottom two layers of the pyramid, with the addition of 1-2 servings of egg whites and non-fat dairy products, characterize the stricter version of Dr. Ornish diet, meant for people who have heart disease and want to reverse it.
Healthy individuals, who want to prevent disease and achieve or maintain a healthy weight, can add the top layers to the foundation of the pyramid. These include:
- Higher fat-foods, such as nuts and avocados and plant oils low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. canola oil) can be added occasionally.
- Fish can also be enjoyed in small amounts, especially the varieties rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, and halibut. Alternatively, one can consume fish oil capsules, and enjoy the benefits of omega-3 fats (decreased risk of sudden cardiac death, lower triglycerides, reduced inflammation (e.g., arthritis) and lower risk of some cancers), without the contaminants that may be present in fish, such as mercury, PCB’s, and dioxin.
- Non-fat dairy products and egg whites can be included to provide excellent-quality protein and important vitamins
- Lean poultry can be added occasionally if a vegetarian diet is not acceptable, as it provides very little additional fat and saturated fat.
Simple carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour are limited in a whole-food diet. These foods are low in fiber, and provide calories that don’t make us feel full, and they get absorbed quickly, causing blood sugar to spike and insulin surges that may cause us to gain weight. Equally important, refined carbohydrates are deprived of many of the vitamins, minerals, and health-promoting phytochemicals present in their unrefined versions.
Red meat and trans-fatty acids are excluded. Red meat is rich in artery-clogging saturated fat and has been linked with an increased risk of cancer. Trans-fatty acids have been found to be equivalent, or possible worse than, saturated fat in increasing the risk for heart disease.
What this pyramid visualizes is not a “diet” in the common use of the word – one that is followed for a short period of time and than abandoned because it is too difficult to maintain. Dr. Ornish approach, on the other hand, is to embrace a dietary lifestyle that offers a spectrum of choices. If we look at our food choices each day as part of a spectrum of choices, then we feel free rather than constrained. If we indulge ourselves one day, we can eat more healthfully the next. To the degree we move in this direction on the food spectrum, we may lose weight, feel better, and gain health.
Reversing Heart Disease Program:
Serving size for one person: 2 egg whites + ¼ cup veggies
- 1 ½ cups shredded zucchini
- ½ medium yellow onion, minced
- ½ red bell pepper cup into ¼ inch strips
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons Italian parsley or basil, chopped
- 10 egg whites
- 2 tablespoons non-fat milk
- Salt and pepper
Coat large oven-proof skillet with non-stick cooking spray and warm over medium-high heat. Preheat broiler.
Add zucchini, onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
Drain off any moisture from the vegetables.
Combine egg whites, salt, pepper, milk and half of herbs. Pour mixture over the vegetables in the skillet. Allow to cook undisturbed until the egg begins to set and the edges appear done, then place under broiler. Cook until top is lightly browned and eggs are set. Sprinkle with remaining herbs.
Cut into wedges and serve.
Mango & Beet Salad
serving size for one person: 1½ cup
yield: 8 cups (4 to 6 servings)
Although the combination of mangoes and beets may seem strange, they taste wonderful together. The green of the lettuces, the dark pink of the beets, and the orange of the mango makes a spectacular presentation. The beets and the vinaigrette can be prepared and refrigerated up to two days in advance.
- 4 medium-sized fresh beets, leaves and stems removed
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1 bunch watercress, large stems removed
- 1 small bunch Frisee or American chicory
- 2 small heads Bibb lettuce
- 2 peeled and sliced (strips) ripe mangoes
- Mango Vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 peeled, seeded, and chunked ripe mango
- Pinch salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook the beets in boiling water for thirty minutes and drain. When they have cooled enough to permit handling, peel and chop into small cubes. Toss the beets with the red onions and three tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Set aside.
On a medium-sized serving platter, arrange the lettuces on the outside of the plate. Place the watercress in the center of the platter and spoon the beets and onions over it. The mango strips can be arranged around the beets.
serving size for one person: 1½ cups
- 2 cups red onion, diced
- 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
- 1 jalapeno (4), minced
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder, toasted
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, crushed
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ½ cup wheat berries
- ½ cup lentils
- 1 can kidney beans
- 1 can lima beans
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Spray a Dutch oven with non-stick cooking spray, add vegetables and sauté. Add chili powder, cumin powder, ground coriander, ground cinnamon and cayenne. Cook vegetables in spices. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
Add plum tomatoes, vegetable broth, wheat berries, lentils, kidney beans and lima beans. Bring to simmer and serve, or freeze.
serving size for one person: 1×5”square
yield: one 9x 5-inch loaf (10 servings)
- 1 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 1 egg white
1/4 cup fresh corn kernels or chopped jalapeño chili peppers (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix all of the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, combine the water and egg white. Fold the dry ingredients, and the corn or chili peppers if they are being used, into the wet ones. Be careful not to overmix or it will not rise. Pour the batter into a nonstick 9 3 5 3 3-inch bread pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.
Green Pea Guacamole
serving size for one person: ½ cup with six whole wheat pita bread wedges
Makes 2 cups
- 1 cup defrosted green peas, drained
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons red onion, minced
- 1 teaspoon Serrano chile, minced
- 1 small tomato, chopped
- ½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
- pinch of salt
- pepper to taste
In a food processor, pulse green peas until smooth. Spoon peas into mixing bowl. Add avocado, lime juice, red onion, chile, tomato, cilantro leaves. Season with sea salt and pepper. Carefully mix everything together. Serve immediately with vegetables.
Fennel and Arugula Salad with Fig Vinaigrette
serving size for one person: 1½ cups
- 1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced vertically
- 3 cups baby arugula or combination of arugula and spinach
- 1 cup dried figs, chopped
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup apple juice
- 1 ½ tablespoons shallots, minced
- ¼ cup sherry vinegar
Boil half of the figs in ½ cup of water.
Place figs and water in a blender or food processor. Add the apple juice, shallots and vinegar. Blend until smooth. Arrange the fennel, arugula, and remaining figs on a plate and drizzle with the dressing.
Whole Wheat Penne with Roasted Vegetables
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 cups roasted vegetables (zucchini, red bell pepper, broccoli, tomatoes), coarsely chopped
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, mint or oregano
- 1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
- Salt and pepper
Place vegetables on baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Salt a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Place broth, garlic and chili flakes in a large sauté pan. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Do not let garlic get brown. Add roasted vegetables and turn heat down to low. Drain pasta (reserving ½ cup of pasta water) after it is cooked and place pasta back in pot with ½ cup water. Add vegetable mixture, herbs. Season with pepper and a small amount of salt to taste. Serve in one large bowl or individual bowls.
Fruit & Yogurt Trifle
Serving size for one person: 1½ cups
- 2 6-ounce containers nonfat yogurt
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cranberry juice
- 2 cups fresh pineapple
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup strawberries
- 1 kiwi, peeled and cut into pieces
- 2 cups cantaloupe, cubed
In a bowl, mix yogurt and juice. In a clear serving bowl, layer fruit and yogurt. This can be made in advance and refrigerated.
1-2-3 Tasty Morning Scramble
Adding a touch of garlic to your eggs gives them a burst or flavor with no extra effort.
- 2 egg whites beaten
- 1 sprinkle of granulated garlic
- 1 handful baby spinach
- ¼ cup of chopped tomato
- fresh pepper
Spray a non-stick pan with non-stick cooking spray. Add spinach. After spinach begins to wilt add eggs, garlic and salt and pepper. Continue stirring the eggs until cooked. Top with tomato.
- 1 bowl of fresh blueberries, strawberries, and/or raspberries in nonfat milk or soy milk
- 1 cup of tea or decaf coffee
- 1 slice of 100% whole grain toast
Roasted Tomato Soup
Tomatoes roasted in the oven with onions, garlic and herbs make a simple and superb soup.
4 cups plum tomatoes, halved
- 1 onion cut into wedges
- 1 head of garlic, halved
- 1 red bell pepper, halved
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons freshly copped herbs (basil, thyme, tarragon)
- Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place vegetables on baking sheet. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and roast for 10 to 12 minutes until caramelized. Remove from oven. In small batches, puree vegetables in blender with broth until it all has been pureed. Add chopped herbs.
Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Shrimp
serving size for one person: 2 cups + 5 shrimp
- 1 14-ounce package rice noodles or buckwheat soba noodles
- 1/2 medium red onion in thin half moon slices
- 5 shrimp
- 1 medium red bell pepper cut into long thin strips
- 1 handful fresh cilantro, minced
- 1 carrot cut into small pieces or strips
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon black or white sesame seeds
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bring pot of water to a boil then remove from heat and place rice noodles in until softened (about 7 minutes), then drain.
In a large bowl toss noodles with vegetables, vinegar and half of cilantro.
If noodles are dry add a bit of vinegar.
Place noodles in a serving bowl or on a platter and top with remaining cilantro, sesame seeds and lime wedges
Peach Whole Wheat Griddle Cake
- fresh peaches or 1 can peaches, drained
- 2 tablespoons natural brown sugar
- 2 cups multi-grain flour
- ½ tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
- ¾ cup fat-free milk or soymilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a non-stick skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Over medium heat add drained peaches, browning them lightly on one side. Sprinkle with natural brown sugar, and remove from heat.
Mix multi-grain flour, baking powder, cinnamon and a pinch of salt with a whisk. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and milk. Do not over mix. Pour liquid mixture into flour mixture and blend until it becomes a batter. Pour batter into skillet over peaches.
Place skillet in oven and bake until cake is firm, approximately 12 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges and serve with fat-free plain yogurt.
Wild Salmon with Pear, Butter Lettuce and Fresh Herbs with a Honey Infused Vinaigrette
serving size for one person: 1 cup + 3 oz. salmon
- 2 heads butter lettuce
- 1 Bosc or Bartlett pear cut into thin slices
- 18 oz wild salmon, poached in white wine or steamed
- 1 cup fresh herbs (basil, mint, Italian parsley, and dill are good choices)
- Edible flowers (optional)
- 1 small shallot
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons water
- ¼ cup champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- pinch of salt and add pepper to taste
Chop shallot and mix in a blender with honey, half of herbs, water and vinegar, slowly adding oil, salt and pepper.
Toss mixture with pears, greens and herbs.
Finish with edible flowers and toasted pine nuts.
Sweet Corn, Black Beans and Tomato Salad
This can be eaten on its own or makes a great side dish for grilled chicken and fish.
- 1 can black beans drained
- 1 cup sweet corn (either frozen or freshly chopped from 2 ears)
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, cubed; or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- ¼ cup of red onion finely chopped
- Juice of 3 limes and zest of the one
Mix all ingredients together and serve at room temperature or chilled.
Peach Bread Pudding
serving size for one person: ½ cup
yield: 8 cups (16 servings)
- 6 medium peaches
- 2 cups skim milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound loaf of stale sourdough bread
- 1 teaspoon Amaretto
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup apple juice concentrate
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 6 egg whites, beaten
Blanch, peel, pit, and then dice the peaches. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the skim milk and salt. Tear the bread into 1-inch cubes. Mash the bread into the milk and let soak for 15 minutes.
While soaking, use another bowl to combine the Amaretto, nutmeg, apple juice concentrate, lemon juice, and peaches. Add the beaten egg whites. Add to the bread mixture and toss gently.
Pour into a nonstick 8- or 9-inch square pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F. for 45 minutes, or until set and browned on top. Serve warm.
For more recipes and information about Dr. Ornish’s recommendations for a healthy lifestyle:
Purchase the Spectrum book from the links below.
Dr. Ornish’s Latest Book: The Spectrum
New York: Ballantine Books, 2007.
Dr. Ornish’s Latest Book: The Spectrum [AUDIO BOOK]
New York: Ballantine Books, 2007.
Nutrition Supplement Recommendations:
Multivitamin with Minerals
1 per day, with vitamin B12 (2.4 micrograms/day), without iron (unless woman of childbearing age or prescribed by your physician), providing 100% RDA.
Fish oil supplements vary in their eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content. Aim for a dosage that includes approximately 1g of combined EPA and DHA per day. This dosage is usually found in 4 grams of fish oil in capsule form per day.
Strict vegetarians may opt to take flaxseed oil capsules or ground flaxseed. However, this is not the general recommendation, as the omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed are not as bioavailable as those in fish oil. Plankton-based omega-3 fatty acids are another alternative.
Warning: people who have unstable angina or severe congestive heart failure should not take omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), as taking fish oil may increase the risk of sudden cardiac death for people with these conditions. For more information see Dr. Ornish’s Newsweek column, The Dark Side of Good Fats.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are available at most retail stores, health food stores and local grocery stores. Select brands that have toxic substances removed such as mercury, PCB, dioxin, etc. Products with “liver” in their title, such as cod liver oil, are not appropriate. Fish oil supplements should not contain cholesterol.
Participants are encouraged to check with their physician before taking any vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement.
(Choose food sources first for these nutrients)
Vitamin C: 1-3 grams per day
Vitamin E: 100 International Units per day (Check with your physician if taking statin medications)
Folic Acid: 400-1000 mcg per day
Selenium: 100-200 mcg per day
Food Label Guidelines:
These guidelines can be used to determine if a packaged food (other than full-fat soy products) fits within the guidelines of the Dr. Dean Ornish reversal eating plan. Please refer to the Nutrition Facts label on the food package, and follow these guidelines:1. Look at the nutrient analysis section of the label.
- Check the serving size listed on the label to determine what 1 serving is defined as. All nutrition information is based on 1 serving of this product, not the entire package.
- Look at the “Total Fat” content of the food. Does the food contain less than or equal to three grams of fat per serving? If greater than 3 grams of fat, reject this product and find a better option. If less than or equal to three grams of fat per serving, check the ingredient list to see where the fat is coming from before selecting.
2. Read the ingredient list.
- Reject any food that contains any quantity of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats as an ingredient.
- Reject any food that contains ingredients that are not allowed on the Dr. Dean Ornish nutrition plan, such as whole or low-fat cheeses, whole eggs, other animal products, or unacceptable added fats or oils.
- If there is a trace amount of an acceptable, unsaturated fat listed at or near the end of the ingredient list, 0 to 3 servings per day can be included within the context of a well balanced, plant-based diet. Remember to check the serving size to determine what 1 serving is.
3. Determine if the trace amount of added fat or added oil is an acceptable fat.
- Ornish friendly foods that have 0 grams of fat per serving may contain an acceptable fat or oil anywhere in the list of ingredients. (Total of 0-3 servings per day)