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The Promise

This plan could help save your life, according to author and former Texas firefighter Rip Esselstyn.

"Go Plant Strong!" is the slogan for this plant-based diet. Esselstyn was inspired by his father’s medical research on treating heart disease through nutrition.

There are two 28-day diet plans -- The Fire Cadet and the Firefighter. The former is a more gradual approach; the latter is the more extreme version.

The Fire Cadet plan gradually cuts out foods deemed unhealthy, while adding whole, nutritious foods to your diet.

  • Week 1: No dairy, processed, or refined foods (white bread, pasta, chips, soda, etc.)
  • Week 2: Build on Week 1 by cutting out meat, chicken, eggs, and fish.
  • Week 3: Build on Weeks 1 and 2 by cutting all added or extracted oils, such as olive, coconut, and canola.
  • Week 4: Keep building on Weeks 1-3 by eating even more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

The Firefighter plan jumps right in by eating only whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes for all 4 weeks. You’ll cut out all animal products and refined foods right from the start.

What You Can Eat and What You Can't

You can have plant-based foods, such as:

  • Vegetables, greens, and fruits
  • Meat substitutes: tofu, seitan, and tempeh
  • Milk substitutes: soy, rice, almond, hemp, oat milks
  • Soy yogurt with low sugar
  • Salsa
  • Cooked brown rice
  • Hummus
  • Nut butters
  • Ground flaxseed meal
  • Fresh herbs
  • Undressed salads
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • 100% whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta
  • Dried and canned beans and other legumes with no added fat or salt
  • Low-sodium, low-fat soups
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Pasta sauce with no added oil
  • Baked chips
  • Dried fruit with no added sugar or sulfites
  • Fruit spread with no added sugar
  • Sweeteners such as agave, black strap molasses, and pure maple syrup
  • Low-sodium, low-sugar condiments


  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Cheese substitutes
  • Oil
  • Refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup (mixes, sauces, soda, candy, cookies)
  • Processed grains (white flour, white bread, white rice, white pasta)
  • Any canned or packaged food containing more than 2.5 grams of fat per 100-calorie serving.

Esselstyn encourages you to give up alcohol, at least for the 4 weeks of the diet. Limit yourself to one glass of wine per day if necessary.

Because this is a vegan diet (no animal products), you will need certain supplements or fortified foods to meet nutritional needs including vitamin D and vitamin B12. You may also need fish oil for omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.

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