Healthy Habits: Diets for Life


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — As much as we often hate to admit it, diet has everything to do with our overall health and well being. Several relatively new food programs are impacting lives in an extraordinarily positive way.

Physician and researcher Dr. Dean Ornish developed a plant seed based, whole foods diet program credited with preventing, treating and even reversing the progression of the serious medical conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, early stage prostate cancer and most notably, cardiovascular disease.

Debbie Little is a graduate of the Sentara Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program and after experiencing Angina, she knew she needed to make a change. Debbie took the nine week course and her cholesterol dropped from 219 to 143 in that time frame. Now, she swears by the diet. 

It consists predominantly of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, some dairy and egg whites. 

Katie Abbot, a clinical registered dietitian, teaches the course and explains the program guidelines only allow 10 percent of calories to come from fat. She says that is why heart disease reversal is taking place. 

Animal fat is not part of the program. Plant protein takes the place of meat so some people are reluctant at the beginning. There is no chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, seafood, wild game or bison.

Heart disease has been the leading cause of death for the past 100 years. Cardiologists like Dr. Panigrahi highly recommend the program. He has seen first hand the positive difference the whole foods plant based diet is having, including the ability to prevent and reverse heart disease.

Even those who are genetically predisposed to heart disease benefit from this diet, according to Dr. Panigrahi. It is about more than the food, however. Exercise, stress management and support round out the four critical components of the Ornish Program.

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