Read an Excerpt
Why I Wrote This Book
I enjoy reading my mail. I receive thousands of letters every year from people whose lives have improved, often dramatically, when they make the comprehensive dietary and lifestyle changes that my colleagues and I recommend. Since the publication of Eat More, Weigh Less, many have asked for simple, easy-to-prepare recipes with familiar, easy-to-find ingredients.
When I first began doing research demonstrating that the progression of even severe coronary artery disease could begin to reverse by making comprehensive changes in diet and lifestyle, there was a lot of misinformation about food. A common misconception was that you had to choose between gourmet high-fat foods that were delicious and beautifully presented and unhealthful, or low-fat foods that were boring and bland and might make you live longer--or just make it seem longer.
A few years ago, Molly O'Neill of the New York Times, one of the country's leading food writers, invited me to dinner at her home for an article she was planning, "The Nutritionist and the Gourmet." Dr. Marion Nestle, professor and director of nutrition at New York University, and I were the experts on nutrition. Jim Villas and Lydia Shire were the two well-known gourmet chefs. But you don't have to choose between good food and good health. Gourmet chefs can make low-fat foods that are delicious and nutritious.
In my first three books, I wanted to make the recipes as tasty and as beautifully presented as possible, at the same time meeting the nutritional guidelines of my program. Manypeople tend to associate high-fat foods as being tastier because the great chefs traditionally have worked in the high-fat arena. But it's not the amount of fat; it's how the food is prepared. High-fat foods can taste bad if they're prepared poorly, and low-fat foods can taste great if they're well prepared.
I realized that the best way to make low-fat food taste good was to work with great chefs, even if they weren't known for low-fat cooking. Great chefs know how to make great food.
So, I commissioned some of the country's most celebrated chefs--Hubert Keller, Wolfgang Puck, Joyce Goldstein, Deborah Madison, Michael Lomonaco, Jean-Marc Fullsack--and several others. I told them, "Work within these guidelines and see what you can create." (The only chef who ever turned me down was Julia Child, who said in her Julia Child voice, "This is not compatible with my philosophy of food!")
I didn't put any limitations on the chefs, in terms of making recipes practical or easy. As a result, the recipes were gourmet, but many were complex and time-consuming to prepare, using unfamiliar or expensive ingredients not available everywhere. One woman wrote me, "Where the hell am I going to get chanterelles? And what are chanterelles?"
Now, in Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish, I've presented 150 simple, yet extraordinary, recipes that use inexpensive, commonly found ingredients and follow easy, time-saving steps for making fresh, delicious, everyday meals. These recipes are organized into 45 seasonal menus to take advantage of the freshest ingredients. I hope that you find this to be an intensely pleasurable way of cooking and eating based on enhancing the joy of living, not out of fear of dying. These are very sensual foods, because I believe that life is to be enjoyed fully.
This book draws on what my colleagues and I have learned from training others to adapt this program to their own tastes, preferences, and cultures--from training health professionals and patients at hospitals throughout the country ranging from Harvard Medical School in Boston to Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina (where cardiologist Joe Hollins, M.D., once told me, "Here in South Carolina, gravy is a beverage . . . ") to our work training the chefs at the White House, Camp David, the Navy Mess, and on Air Force One who cook for President and Mrs. Clinton. We've learned what works.
The implications and the applications of what we are doing go far beyond just reversing heart disease. Clearly, if you can reverse the progression of heart disease, then you can help prevent it. Even though heart and blood vessel diseases still kill more Americans each year than just about every other illness combined, heart disease could be virtually eliminated if we simply put into practice what we already know. That is, if people followed this program.
The most motivating reason for changing your diet and lifestyle, however, is not just to live longer or to reduce the risk of something bad happening years later--it's to improve the quality of life right now. I began making these changes in my own life when I was nineteen. To me, there's no point in giving up something that I enjoy unless I get something back that's even better--and quickly. My cholesterol and blood pressure have always been very low, and I don't have any illnesses.
The reason I changed my diet and lifestyle is that I feel so much better than I did. I have more energy. I think more clearly. I have an overall improved feeling of well-being. I can eat whenever I'm hungry until I'm full, I can eat delicious food--and I don't have to worry about my weight.
Many men report that their sexual potency improves. (Your heart is not the only organ that gets more blood flow when you change your diet.) Others find that their bodies start to smell and taste better--even their breath improves. This makes sense when you remember that your body excretes toxic wastes not only in your bowel and bladder but also in your perspiration and breath. Many find that they have a greater sense of equanimity, their asthma gets better, their arthritis hurts less, their endurance and stamina improve, and so on.
By adopting and adapting this program, you will probably live longer than if you don't make any changes in your diet and lifestyle--but you never know, you might get hit by a truck (I hope not!). Most people tell me that even if they knew that they wouldn't live a moment longer, they would still adhere to this program--because the quality of life is so greatly enhanced. This program is not just about "risk factor modification," it's about living life to the fullest, with health, joy, and well-being.
Sometimes life gets so busy that I don't have time to make even simple recipes. The same may be true for you. For the past seven years, I've worked with ConAgra Frozen Foods to create a new line of meals called Life Choice, from the makers of Healthy Choice. It's part of my overall goal of making this program as simple and practical as possible. If you're interested, please call 1-800-328-3738 and they will send you meals on dry ice direct to your home via overnight delivery, as well as a variety of other resources and information. If you eat only these foods for a week or two, supplemented with recipes from this book, you may feel so much better that you become more inspired to continue eating this way.
In my research, I have found that most people want everyday food to be familiar and inviting. I remember what happened in my first study, back in 1977. Ten patients with severe heart disease spent a month on my program at the Plaza Hotel in Houston. The staff was just the cook, Marcia Acciardo, who loved to make Indian food, and me. After a few days of this cuisine, the patients rebelled and said, "No more curry!" And so she learned to do it differently.
In 1980, I directed a second study. This time, Martha Rose Shulman, a very gifted chef and author of many wonderful cookbooks, prepared all the meals for a month. Martha had lived in France for many years, and she loved to make French vegetable pƒt‚s and other foods that she ran through her Cuisinart. After about three days, the patients said, "We won't eat food that we can't recognize!" They began to prefer corn on the cob, baked potatoes, black-eyed peas, okra, salads, and other foods that they were used to eating. Now we're relearning the same lesson. As Yogi Berra once said, "It was d‚j… vu all over again."
Many people are intimidated by food and even by spending time in supermarkets. I used to be one of them. I could go into the Oval Office and be very comfortable talking with the President of the United States, but put me in a supermarket and I'd get a panic attack.
Because I'd have no idea what to do with all of this stuff, I felt overwhelmed by all the choices, especially when I was on the outer aisles where the healthful foods tend to be. I mean, if it was a prepackaged food I could just follow the directions--but what did I do with a bag of beans? How much did I buy? What did I do with it when I got home? It just all seemed so intimidating and daunting. It was easier just to go out to eat or to buy something prepackaged.
Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish is for people like me who can read this book and realize, "Hey, I can do this. It's not that hard. I don't have to worry about it. I don't need any fancy equipment. It's not complicated. It doesn't take any more time to prepare food that's low-fat as high-fat. It costs less. And the food tastes great." Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish: 150 Easy, Low-fat, High-flavor Recipes. Copyright © by Dean Ornish. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.