Eating Healthy – An Examination of Popular Diets

Ornish Diet

In a randomized trial conducted, the participants assigned to the Ornish diet for one year ( and who showed adherence), had marked decreases in weight, HDL cholesterol levels and C-reactive protein (Danson et al, 2005).

Pros: Addresses both physical and emotional/mental health. While the Ornish diet encourages cardio and categorization of foods, it also encourages meditation to reduce stress and improve overall mental health. Proven to help reduce risk of heart disease and has been successful in helping individuals achieve weight loss.

Cons: An Omega-3 supplement is required to maintain cardiovascular health. Adults who adhered to the Ornish diet for the year were found to have lowered levels of Vitamin D, increasing their risk of bone fractures.

Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic diet encourages heart healthy practices such as active living and healthy eating. They encourage portion size control (, vegetables and fruits over carbohydrates and simple sugars, whole grains over white bread, and lean meats and good fats.

Pros: Helps individuals achieve and maintain weight loss, lowers cholesterol levels, decreases abdominal fat (which can be a risk factor for heart disease). Allows flexibility so that it can adapt to anyone’s lifestyle.

Cons: According to the mayo clinic website, switching to this diet is an overall lifestyle change rather than a diet that you can “go on” for a few months. This may be difficult for some individuals and does not have a high adherence rate, with many people relapsing to their old eating habits.


A study conducted followed 412 randomly assigned participants and their eating habits. The results showed that adherence to the DASH diet significantly reduced sodium levels of participants (DASH Collaborative Research Group, 2001).

Pros: Specifically for those already diagnosed with hypertension to reduce their sodium levels and cholesterol levels. Encourages exercise as part of the diet.

Cons: Long-term lifestyle change as opposed to a crash diet. The lack of support for this diet can make it difficult for individuals to maintain adherence.

Mediterranean Diet

A study compared short term and long term effects of the Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular health in 772 individuals with high cardiovascular risk (predimed investigators, 2006). The results showed that, compared with low fat diets, the Mediterranean diet with olive oil and nuts had beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk factors (predimed investigators, 2006).

Pros: Promotes heart health. Many of the foods included in this diet also contain antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of cancers.

Cons: It is not a structured plan, so individuals who do not lead an already healthy lifestyle may have difficulty with portion control. This diet also encourages moderate consumption of wine, which may interfere with medications, inhibitions, and religious beliefs.

Vegan Diet

Pros: The intake of a plant-based diet has been linked to the prevention of chronic disease, including hypertension (Chi et al., 2007). Decrease in cholesterol has also been shown in individuals who adhere to a low-fat vegan diet.

Cons: If not done properly, individuals can have a severe deficiency in iron, protein, and calcium. Not adhering to the low-fat vegan diet and just the vegan diet can still allow individuals to choose foods which are high in saturated fats and still allows for junk foods.

While these diets have merits and have shown that adherence to them can decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, the overall goal of all of them is lifestyle change. Choosing everyday to make healthier choices and to stay active is the best way to ensure an increase in overall quality of life and better heart health.


Chi, C.S., Dewell, A., Ornish, D., Sumner, M.D., Weidner, G. (2007). A Very-Low-Fat Vegan Diet Intake of Protective Dietary Factors and Decreases Intake of Pathogenic Dietary Factors. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 108(2). 347-356. Doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2007.10.044

Danson, M.L., Gleason, J.A., Griffith, J.L., Selker, H.P., Schaefer, E.J. (2005). Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction: A Randomized Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association. 293 (1) 45-53. Doi: 10.1001/jama.293.1.43.

Dash Sodium Collaborative Research Group. (2001). Effects on Blood Pressure of Reduced Dietary Sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet. The New England Journal of Medicine. 344:3-10. Doi: 10.1056/NEJM200101043440101

Predimed study investigators. (206). Effects of a Mediterranean-Style Diet on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A Randomized Trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 145(1). 1-11. Doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-145-1-200607040-00004