Ornish vs Mediterranean Diet, Which is Better

What is the healthiest diet?


How can I achieve sustainable weight loss?


Is it possible to prevent, reverse or control type 2 diabetes with diet?


Those who have been following my blog know that I believe in the following key strategies to live a happy, healthy, healing lifestyle:


  • Eat whole foods
  • Exercise
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night
  • Control stress and anxiety
  • Spend as much time as possible with your happiness elements


This post will focus on the best diet to achieve weight loss and keep your body as healthy as possible.  Our family tried the Whole30 diet in October.  It was challenging for us all, but some major lessons were learned from the experience.  First, it is amazing how good you feel when crappy foods are eliminated from your diet.  Your thoughts are clear, your energy level improves, and you feel better in general.  Secondly, your skin improves, you look healthier, and sugar cravings disappear.  Although this diet is hard to continue indefinitely based on its restrictions, I do recommend trying it to get an idea of how the food you eat effects your life.


Let’s look at two different diets that may help you.

Dean Ornish’s Spectrum Diet

Dr. Dean Ornish has created a program which is similar to what I believe will lead to a healthier you.  His program claims to be able to reverse heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, and lead to weight loss.  Dr. Ornish believes that foods are neither good nor bad, but some are healthier than others.  He believes eating more of the healthy foods such as


  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nonfat dairy
  • Fats that contain omega 3 fatty acids
  • Legumes
  • Soy products
  • Egg whites


can have anti-aging, anti-cancer, and anti-heart disease effects.  Like me, Dr. Ornish emphasizes whole foods.  Processed foods should be limited.  He believes eating mostly plants in their natural form will lead to better health.


Ornish’s diet does not restrict calories unless weight loss is a goal.  He believes in small frequent meals throughout the day which maintain energy levels and controls hunger.


This diet limits the following “bad” carbs


  • Sugar
  • Concentrated sweeteners
  • White flour
  • White rice
  • Refined carbohydrates


Added sugars such as agave, honey, white or brown sugar, maple syrup and refined carbohydrates are limited to 2 servings per day. 


Alcohol can be consumed in limited quantities, but is not encouraged and is limited to one serving per day or


  • 5 ounces liquor
  • 4 ounces wine
  • 12 ounces beer


The Ornish diet recommends 4 grams of good fats daily.  These include


  • Fish oil
  • Flax seed oil
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Plankton based omega-3 fatty acids


Limit calories from fats to 10% or less.  This diet achieves this by not adding fats, oils, avocados, coconut, or olives to the mostly plant-based diet.  The fat will come naturally from grains, vegetables, soy, fruit, legumes, and beans.


Cholesterol is limited to 10 mg or less per day.  Non-fat dairy products are optional but should be limited to 2 servings per day.  Alternatives such as soy milk are preferred as they are rich in healthy nutrients and are cholesterol-free.


Since nuts contain large amounts of fat, serving sizes are limited.  Three servings of the following types of nuts are recommended.  These specific types contain antioxidants, phytochemicals, and polyphenols which convey cardiovascular benefits.


  • 5 tsp pumpkin seeds
  • 6 peanuts
  • 3 pecan halves
  • 1 whole walnut
  • 5 almonds
  • 9 pistachios
  • 2 cashews
  • 5 tsp flax seeds, ground
  • 2 tsp chia seeds or sunflower seeds


Low fat packaged foods are not encouraged, but optional.  Remember, whole foods are preferred.




Protein, obtained mostly from plants, is encouraged by the Ornish diet.  Examples include.

  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Egg Whites
  • Non-fat yogurt
  • Non-fat cheese

Other Recommendations

Flavoring foods with herbs, spices, vinegar, and citrus fruits is preferred over salt.  If you are a coffee drinker, limit coffee to one cup per day, or two cups decaf or black or green tea.  Supplements may be taken as well.  Dr. Ornish recommends a low-dose multivitamin and mineral supplement with vitamin B-12, fish oil, and calcium supplements if directed by a physician.

All information regarding the Ornish diet was obtained directly from his website at:



The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating in countries that surround the Mediterranean.  The basic guidelines are as follows.

Foods to eat daily:

  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Spices
  • Healthy fats
  • Herbs
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts

To be consumed twice a week:

  • Fish
  • Seafood

Moderate portions of:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Poultry (occasional)

Foods to consume infrequently:

  • Red meats
  • Sweets

There are many websites devoted to a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.  One of my favorites is http://www.oldwayspt.org

This pyramid is found on that site.  This gives a visual explanation of what I have written above.

Why the Mediterranean Diet?

Studies have shown that this diet achieves better results than other diets in many areas:

  1. A 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to low fat diets.1


  1. Lower blood sugars in type 3 diabetics compared to other diets.2


  1. More effective for sustainable weight loss.4


  1. Lower rates of cancer, dementia, heart disease, stroke, and overall dementia.6

  1. More favorable cholesterol, blood sugar and inflammation levels compared to low fat diets.


It is important to realize that what you actually eat depends on your situation and what you are trying to achieve.  The above Mediterranean diet pyramid shows what to eat in general. 

Since most are likely reading this because they want to lose weight, here are some pointers.  Remember, if you are at your goal weight, just eat according to the pyramid above.

Try to stop eating and drinking sweet foods and beverages

This includes those with artificial sweeteners.  Even fruit juices should be avoided.  These items are high in empty calories and can spike insulin levels.  If you refrain from eating sweets, your cravings for them will decrease.  I noticed when on the Whole30 diet that fruits will also start to taste much sweeter and become more enjoyable to consume.

Avoid grains, even whole grains. 

If you want to lose weight, or are having trouble controlling blood sugar, avoiding all grains is important.  Grains contain high levels of carbohydrates.  Grains fit into three broad categories.

     Highly-refined grains

Any foods made with white, wheat or enriched flour.  Some examples include bagels, focaccia bread, pizza, pancakes, pastries, donuts, cookies, chips, pretzels etc.  White rice, tortillas, most granola bars, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals also fit into this category.  Highly refined grains should ALWAYS be avoided.

     Moderately-processed whole grains

These foods are not as processed as the highly refined carbs but contain rapidly-metabolized starches which spike blood sugar levels much like their highly-refined counterparts. Examples in this category include whole grain versions of pastas, crackers, breads, couscous, brown rice cakes, puffed grain cereals, muesli, and granola.  People at goal weight without diabetes, high triglycerides, or insulin resistance can eat moderately-processed whole grains in limited quantities.

     Intact whole grains

These are grain products that have not been processed.  Examples include whole unpearled barley, wheat and rye berries, oat groats, brown rice and millet.  These are the healthiest grains available but, again, should only be eaten by those who are at goal weight, don’t suffer from diabetes, insulin resistance, or high triglyceridemia.

Eat nine servings of whole fruits and vegetables daily but eat the vegetables first

Most frozen vegetables are almost as good as the fresh variety.  Be sure to eat more vegetables than fruit and eat vegetables with every meal, even breakfast.  Eat the vegetables whole instead of juicing them.  Steer away from starchy vegetables such as potatoes.  Keep serving sizes of yams, carrots and sweet potatoes small.

All fruit is not created equal.

The best fruits to eat are apples, pears, berries and citrus fruits.  Dried fruits should be avoided as they contain concentrated sugars.  The only exception is dried prunes which have a lower glycemic load.  Higher sugar fruits such as bananas, pineapple, grapes and mangoes should be consumed in moderation.

Eat beans and legumes regularly

These are best prepared from the dry versions.  Be careful when using canned beans.  Many contain added sugars and fat.  Beans and legumes add vegetable protein to the diet and have less of an impact on weight gain and blood sugar than whole grains.

Try to eat good fat, protein and fiber with each meal and snack

This has a couple of benefits.  First, blood sugar will rise more slowly and increase satisfaction.  Secondly, combining these leads to a longer digestion time which curbs hunger. 

Don’t skip meals. 

I know intermittent fasting is currently popular and I like to practice it myself.  Eating a good breakfast and small, frequent meals has been shown to help with weight loss.

Eat unsweetened cultured dairy products. 

Some studies have shown that eating dairy reduces diabetes and obesity risk.  It is also better to choose whole or 2% milk products instead of the low-fat or non-fat variety.  Eating aged cheeses is preferable to drinking milk.  Kefir and yogurt can be a great source of microorganisms (probiotics), calcium and protein.  It is always best to consume plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself.  I like to use blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for this purpose.

Always read food labels. 

Don’t fall for marketing slogans such as “healthy” or “low-fat.”  Avoid packaged foods that contain added sugar, refined grains and bad fats.  Remember, it is always best to eat whole foods whenever possible.  If it doesn’t come with a label, it is probably much healthier for your body.

Plan ahead. 

Often we make poor choices when in a hurry or when we haven’t purchased the correct ingredients for healthy meals.  Stay away from fast food and limit trips to restaurants. 


My readers are probably tired of hearing this but it is probably the most important key to health, happiness and weight loss.  Be active, take the stairs, park further from your destination and walk.  There are many ways to get exercise, you don’t necessarily have to live at the gym to accomplish this.

Get enough sleep. 

This is another thing that comes up over and over in my posts.  Lack of sleep puts you at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

Let's Compare the Two Diets

Now that we have explored these two diets, we can compare them.  They are actually not that much different.  They both rely on fruits and vegetables as the primary food source and both prefer you eat the “whole” versions of these.  They both restrict refined sugars, processed foods, and unhealthy carbohydrates.

  The Ornish diet allows 2 servings of “bad carbs” daily whereas the Mediterranean diet advocates consuming them as a treat or on special occasions. 

Fat consumption in the Ornish diet is only 10% of the daily caloric intake whereas the Mediteranean diet allows for approximately 29% fat on a daily basis. 

Every physician I have consulted regarding diets has recommended the Mediterranean diet over all others.  The primary reason for this is the large quantity of clinical data available to support it for heart disease, diabetes treatment and prevention as well as the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Dementia.  The prevention of dementia is of upmost importance to me as I work on a hospital unit that cares for these patients.  This disease is devastating for both the patient as well as the family and care-givers.  Anything I can do to prevent this disease is worth the effort.

U.S. News and World Report ranked 35 diets and ranked the Mediteranean diet #1 and the Ornish diet #9. 


This isn’t surprising considering the evidence available.  The main complaint surrounding the Ornish diet was the finding that the fat limitation made the diet hard to adhere to.  Nevertheless, this diet is very good for your heart and is also supported by quality evidence.  I see no problem following this diet if you are able to stick to it.  You will likely lose weight and feel great.  It follows all of my “rules” which are explained at the beginning of this post. 

I plan to stick with the Mediterranean diet for now.  My main reason for this is the evidence supporting its effect on the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.  I have no problem recommending the Ornish diet as well.  I have researched it and find it to be a great alternative for weight loss.  I recommend you take a look at both and make your decision based on what you can maintain.  A diet only works if you are able to stay on it.

As always, if you have any questions or comments positive or negative, please let me know.  I would also love to hear topics you are interested in reading about.  The goal is to keep you informed about anything that supports a happy, healthy, healing lifestyle! 

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Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

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Panang Curry With Chicken Recipe For Whole30

Panang Curry With Chicken Recipe For Whole30YUMMY!

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

I have had a wonderful experience with the Whole30 diet so far. I am now on day number twelve and feel better than I have in years. I wore a pair of pants to work today that haven’t fit in many months. I am very happy with the program so far.

This is a happy, healthy, healing website so this last week I have decided to start adding healthy recipes to the website. I love to cook, and have many recipes my father left me after he passed away that I would like to share with my readers.

Cooking is something I use to relax and unlike most people, I enjoy grocery shopping as well. It is just a break from my pharmacy life at the hospital. This recipe is one I created a couple of weeks ago for the Whole30 program. This is not a difficult recipe and please feel free to substitute any vegetable that can be stir-fried. I would have added mushrooms but my family doesn’t enjoy them so I left them out.

I have recently begun to use imperfect produce for some of my vegetables. This is a fantastic program that benefits farmers as well as consumers. You simply go on-line and tell them what you want, and they deliver organic produce to your doorstep weekly. The produce may have small blemishes but you save money and support local farmers so I am all for it. This recipe is perfect to utilize seasonal vegetables.

Purchase Anxiety Formula in the Sunshine Store


Ingredients- The bell pepper and spices are not shown.

Here are most of the ingredients you will need for this recipe. The bell pepper and spices aren’t shown but you will see them later.

Yellow squash, zucchini, and green beans

I always like to cut everything up before I start cooking. I also often measure everything out. I do this for two reasons. First, missing ingredients will be discovered BEFORE you start cooking. It will also prevent over-cooking because this step often takes longer than anticipated. The yellow squash, green beans, and zucchini are pictured above.

The pesky elusive green pepper is pictured above before and after chopping.

The tomatoes and chicken breast are the last two ingredients that need to be cut up. If you prefer vegan or vegetarian meals, omit the chicken.

Spices Needed

Here are the spices you will need. Cumin, black pepper, turmeric, and salt

Time to Cook

Browning the Chicken

The first cooking step is to heat a large, deep frying pan or wok over medium heat and add the coconut oil. You may use any fat source allowed by Whole30. Brown the chicken until no pink color remains. This usually takes five minutes or so.

While the chicken is browning, prepare your curry by adding it to a small amount of coconut milk and stirring. Do not start with as much paste as shown above unless you like your food super spicy. This was way too hot for the kids and my wife, but mom and I ate it and it was wonderful. I suggest starting with a tablespoon of paste. You can always add more paste later.

Mix the curry and coconut milk mixture well heating over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute.

All vegetables added to the chicken, curry mixture and tomatoes
Add the Vegetables

The final step is to add the vegetables. I usually add the sweet potatoes first and let them cook for about three to four minutes (covered), and then add the rest of the vegetables. The sweet potatoes take a little bit longer to cook. If you prefer your potatoes a little firmer, add all the vegetables at the same time. Stir the mixture well. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover, and cook for about eight minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring every two to three minutes.


Panang Curry With Chicken for Whole30

Link To Sunshine Store

Panang Curry With Chicken Recipe For Whole30

Michael Brown

This is a quick and easy super healthy panang curry recipe I came up with while on the Whole30 plan. Even the kids loved it. Give it a try.

Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes

Course Main Course
Cuisine Mediterranean

Servings 5 people


  • Large Wok or Deep Large Frying Pan with lid
  • Measuring Cups
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Bowls
  • Large knife for chopping



  • 1 tbsp Coconut Oil or other Whole30 compliant Fat
  • 1 lb Chicken Breast (Boneless, Skinless), chopped may use thighs if desired or Omit for Vegan
  • 1 tbsp Panang Curry Paste Be Careful! Start with a little and add more to taste. This can be very spicy!
  • 1 cup Coconut Milk You can add more if desired. I use 365 Organic Milk.
  • 2 cups Yellow Squash, chopped Butternut Squash can be substituted
  • 2 cups Zucchini Squash, chopped
  • 2 cups Sweet Potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup Carrots, chopped
  • 1 each Bell Pepper, chopped, any color
  • 1 each Medium Red Onion, Chopped could use any type of onion here.
  • 1 cup Green Beans, cut into 2 inch segments
  • 1 each Large Tomato, seeded and cubed
  • 1 tbsp Cumin Adjust amount to taste
  • 2 tsp Tumeric Adjust amount to taste
  • 1 tsp Salt Adjust amount to taste
  • 2 tsp Freshly Ground Black pepper Adjust amount to taste, can substitute plain black pepper



  • Melt the coconut oil over medium heat, add chicken and cook until brown.
  • While chicken is cooking, mix the Panang curry paste into the coconut milk and set aside.
  • After chicken is browned, add the curry, coconut milk mixture to the chicken and stir.
  • Add the tomato and mix well. Add the cumin, turmeric, salt, and pepper, and stir.
  • Add the Sweet Potato first and cook mixture covered for two to three minutes. Add the remaining vegetables, stir well, cover and cook for eight minutes or until vegetables are tender stirring mixture every two to three minutes.
  • Serve in bowls

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP
Clinical Pharmacist