This Is the Best Diet for Heart Health—And You've Probably Never Even Heard of It
It tied with the Mediterranean Diet.
The U.S. News & World Report just released their list of best diets for 2019. Coming in first, for the second year in a row, was the Mediterranean Diet. That’s not exactly surprising, considering the Med diet promotes cutting out processed food and eating lots of seafood, produce, whole grains, and healthy fats. But we were surprised when a diet we’d never heard of tied the Med Diet for the number-one spot on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best heart-healthy diets.
The Ornish Diet, a plan created by Dr. Dean Ornish, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, cinched the number one spot alongside the Med Diet. It got us wondering: What exactly is the Ornish Diet?
What Is the Ornish Diet?
In a nutshell, it’s a diet that’s low in fat, refined carbs, and animal protein. The Ornish diet encourages swapping refined carbs for complex ones, limiting sat fat intake by eating fewer processed foods and animal products, eating plenty of fiber-rich fruits and veggies, and trading full-fat dairy for low-fat options. Beyond nutrition, the plan also places importance on exercise, stress management (via activities such as yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation), and cultivating a support system through personal relationships.
According to U.S. News & World Report, “The Ornish Diet categorizes food into five groups from most (group one) to least (group five) healthful. It's the difference, for example, between whole-grain bread and biscuits, between soy hot dogs and pork or beef ones.”
For the full breakdown on how foods are categorized, you’d have to read one of Ornish’s books, like Undo It!: How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases, which is co-authored by Ornish’s wife and was released earlier this month. The book explores decades of research to show how making lifestyle changes, such as the ones Ornish recommends, can reverse chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
If you’re trying to reverse heart disease, the plan is a little stricter than the standard Ornish Diet. Only 10 percent of your calories can come from fat, and you have to cut way back on things like refined carbs and oil. On this plan, you’re required to be almost totally vegan as well.
Despite the diet being restrictive, “close to 80 percent of the nearly 3,000 participants in the 2011 American Journal of Health Promotion study were still enrolled in the program after one year. In contrast, less than 50 percent of people are taking statins after one year, one study found,” according to U.S. News & World Report.
The bottom line: If you’re struggling with heart disease, you may want to give this diet a try. Just make sure to check with your doctor first to see what’s right for you.