The Ornish diet, mainly, is an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet. That is, we have unprocessed foods that do not come from animal origins, although within vegetables, legumes, and whole grains it adds egg white and skimmed dairy.
“This regimen is very high in vegetables and very low in fat and protein, given that through legumes, egg white and 0% dairy, it is sometimes very difficult to reach the minimum protein amounts that our body needs to maintain muscle mass ”, Rubén Bravo, spokesperson for the European Medical Institute of Obesity (IMEO) and nutrition expert.
It is not just about an eating pattern, as this diet also recommends 90 minutes of physical activity at least three times a week.
In the 90s, the creator of this diet, Dean Ornish, Professor of Medicine at the University of California (San Francisco, United States), published the book entitled Dr. Dean Ornish’s program to reverse heart disease.
Does the Ornish diet really help prevent heart disease? According to Bravo, “the Ornish diet can help us in various aspects of health: to avoid diabetes type 2; to control overweight or levels of obesity; to protect the heart, as it removes all the foods that are related to different types of heart disease, such as saturated fats and excess animal proteins. It also totally eliminates the consumption of alcohol and tobacco ”.
Thus, the IMEO spokesperson considers that this diet, being very rich in vegetables and very restrictive in any type of variable that affects cardiovascular risk, would be indicated for those people who are already at that cardiovascular risk or who have a genetic tendency predominant heart disease when reaching a certain age.
What food groups does this regimen restrict?
The Ornish diet restricts all foods of animal origin, meats from ground animals and poultry, as well as fish. It also bans egg yolk and all whole dairy products. Likewise, restricts fats that can be taken in vegetarian diets, such as avocado, dried fruits, and olive oil.
On the contrary, it allows you to take all kinds of vegetables, fruits, and legumes. It does allow to ingest skimmed dairy and egg white.
Interestingly, the Ornish diet eliminates the consumption of foods rich in omega 3 such as nuts and oily fish, but, instead yes recommends taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
Why is Dean Ornish making this recommendation? “I suspect that it may be to reduce the calories in the diet, to reduce and control obesity, because every 100 grams of nuts we are talking about 500 calories. In addition, there are studies that say that nuts are addictive because it is very easy to take 100 or 200 grams of them without realizing it, ”Bravo assumes.
Does it pose any danger?
Analyzing the Ornish diet in detail, Bravo sees a major flaw: “The difficulty of reaching the number of recommended daily proteins, especially if it is followed by an athlete who needs more grams of protein per kilo of weight. If this part is well controlled and prescribed by a doctor or a nutritionist, I do not see malnutrition problems, since it is a low-calorie diet but with a high nutritional density by providing a significant amount of vitamins and minerals. If, in addition, we choose grapes or red fruits, which are rich in tannins and resveratrol, we further increase the cardioprotective efficacy of this regimen ”.
Mediterranean diet and cardioprotection
Apart from the Ornish diet, “the Mediterranean diet has shown cardioprotective benefits. The problem is that processed foods, the Anglo-Saxon trend, and fast food have distorted the Mediterranean diet, losing that cardioprotective effect. We see it very clearly with the decrease in the consumption of legumes and fruits and vegetables and the increase in the intake of refined cereals, with few micronutrients they provide an excess of calories. Furthermore, obesity levels in adults and children are rising ”, says Bravo.
Even so, the IMEO spokesman recalls that Spain is one of the countries with the lowest mortality in the world and fewer deaths from cardiovascular accidents thanks to the fact that, in part, a correct Mediterranean diet is followed.