Review: Dean Ornish's 'The Spectrum'
What You Can Eat
On The Spectrum plan, you can eat anything you want -- to a degree.
If you want to lose weight, lower blood sugar, or prevent chronic diseases,
you'll need to choose more healthy foods and fewer less healthy ones.
Foods are ranked from the healthiest (group 1), to the least healthy (group
5). Here are some examples:
- Group 1: Fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nonfat dairy, egg
whites, soy products.
- Group 2: Avocados, seeds, nuts, oils, canned vegetables, low-fat dairy,
- Group 3: Seafood, refined carbs, concentrated sweets, oils higher in
saturated fats, margarine.
- Group 4: High-fat animal products, whole-fat dairy, mayonnaise, pastries,
- Group 5: Red meat, egg yolks, fried foods, hot dogs, organ meats, butter,
cream, tropical oils.
The closer you move toward group 1, the more likely you are to gain health
benefits. If you're already healthy, you may want to make only a few small
changes. But if you're eating mostly foods from group 5, you may want to go for
Natural and unprocessed foods are preferred, echoing the recommendations of
nutrition experts and the government. Followers of The Spectrum plan
are allowed small indulgences, but urged to practice portion control -- to
allow you to satisfy cravings without going overboard on fat, calories, or
The book features 100 easy-to-prepare recipes from award-winning chef Art
Smith that can be modified according to your place along the spectrum.
How It Works
The Spectrum is an outline for an overall healthy lifestyle pattern
that you customize to fit your needs. You start out by finding where you
currently fit on the spectrum. Then, depending on your goals -- whether you
want to lose weight,
lower cholesterol, or reverse heart disease -- you decide how quickly and
how far you want to move along the healthy continuum.
Ornish provides guidance on identifying your risks, and on how to tailor the
diet, fitness, and stress-reduction components to your needs. He offers
exercise and stress management plans that are designed to fit into even the
One of the principles discussed in The Spectrum is nutrigenomics --
the emerging science of how food interacts with your genes and affects your
health. Each of us has a unique set of genes that reacts differently to the
environment and substances in food. For example, some people can eat whatever
they want and never gain a pound -- and, of course, others need to be much more
careful. A low-fat diet might not work for you, while a low-carb one
Ornish explains in The Spectrum how healthy food is one of the most
important things you can do to map your genes to better health. Even if you
have a predisposition to being
overweight or having
type 2 diabetes, that doesn't mean you have to end up with these
"Everything you do, including what you eat, your physical activity, and
emotions, interacts with your genes and impacts how the genes are
expressed," explains Ornish. "Disease is the result of poorly expressed