This Is the #1 Diet for Your Heart

Ornish Lifestyle Medicine is a science-backed way to reverse heart disease—and makes it easy for you to eat healthy.

1 / 4

Your diet may be more powerful than you thought. In fact, Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, an eating plan designed by Dean Ornish, MD, a professor of medicine and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, can reverse heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer and other conditions. The program limits fat and encourages a diet filled with all-natural, plant-based nutrition.

Looking to get your eating habits on the right track and reverse your heart disease? Check out the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine—ranked #1 in best heart-healthy diets and #3 in best plant-based diets by U.S. News & World Report. Adopting this eating plan might be a lot easier than you think.

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

Skip These Foods

2 / 4 Skip These Foods

Ornish Lifestyle Medicine does not focus on weight loss, so calories are unrestricted. Instead, the goal is to boost your heart health and overall wellbeing. To keep energy levels steady and stave off hunger, eating small frequent meals may help eliminate overeating. The size and frequency of meals are far less important than what you put in—or leave out of—your body.

Unfortunately for meat lovers, this eating plan eliminates meat, poultry and fish. The goal is to eliminate anything your body doesn’t need, like excess fat, bad carbohydrates and animal proteins. To limit fat, the diet recommends removing foods like oils, avocado and olives.

What To Eat

3 / 4 What To Eat

Except for a few exceptions, like egg whites and nonfat milk, Ornish Lifestyle Medicine relies heavily on a plant-based diet. Why? The focus of this eating plan is on good carbohydrates, heart-healthy fats, fiber-rich foods and plant protein—all of which are abundant in produce, legumes and whole grains. These foods help you feel fuller for longer periods of time.

Ornish recommends eating fruits and veggies in their most natural state, so avoid canned fruit in syrup or veggies prepackaged in sauce. You can still eat good-for-you fats from sources like nuts, avocado and oils, but it's limited to no more than 10 percent of daily calories.

Extra Flavor

4 / 4 Extra Flavor

Even though Ornish Lifestyle Medicine is plant-based and healthy, there’s always wiggle room for your favorite indulgences like caffeine, alcohol and a dash (or two) of salt.

Moderate salt is encouraged, unless your healthcare provider advises that you should be on a low-sodium diet. The use of spices and seasonings is also a great way to flavor your food. And while one daily serving of your favorite beverage is allowed, it is not encouraged.

Need a daily caffeine fix? The eating plan allows for one cup of coffee or two cups of black or green tea a day, but no more than that. 

This content was published on January 5, 2017 and updated on January 2, 2020.

Continue Learning about Heart Health

The Best BP If You’re Over 75
The Best BP If You’re Over 75
When Chubby Checkers crooned Limbo Rock in 1966 he asked agile folks “How low can you go?…unda the limbo stick.” For limbo queen Shemika Charles the a...
Read More
What happens with an angioplasty procedure?
Sam J. Kalioundji, MDSam J. Kalioundji, MD
In an angioplasty, the heart is accessed via the groin or the wrist, and doctors take pictures of th...
More Answers
8 Things Sabotaging Your Heart Health
8 Things Sabotaging Your Heart Health8 Things Sabotaging Your Heart Health8 Things Sabotaging Your Heart Health8 Things Sabotaging Your Heart Health
From long commutes to ibuprofen, learn more about these lesser-known cardiovascular dangers.
Start Slideshow
What Is the Role of Copper in my Body?
What Is the Role of Copper in my Body?