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Dr. Esselstyn’s Diet

For those who don’t know, Dr. Esselstyn is a cardiologist who followed in the footsteps of people like Nathan Pritkin, Dr. McDougall and Dr. Dean Ornish and heals his patients with a heart-healthy diet.

I believe that his message is very important for several reasons. Let’s review them below, along with his diet advice.

1) Everyone who has eaten a Western Diet in their lives has some degree of atherosclerosis. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Dr. Esselstyn said: “In autopsy studies of our GI’s who died in the Vietnam and Korean wars almost 80% at an average age of 20 years, had disease that could be seen without a microscope. Forty years later in 1999, a study of young persons between the ages of 16-34 years who have died of accidents, homicides and suicides, finds the disease is now ubiquitous.”

So as long as we’ve eaten oil, meat, dairy products and other such foods, we have created some degree of heart disease in our bodies.

2) Dr. Esselstyn doesn’t focus on lowering cholesterol levels, but on safeguarding the “fortress” of our blood vessels: the endothelial cellos. This lining of our blood vessels produce nitric oxide, which dilates the vessels and prevents the formation of plaque.

3) If you never ingest foods that can injure the endothelial cells, you don’t have to worry too much about achieving perfect cholesterol levels, which would ideally be 150 mg./dl.

4) Dr. Esselstyn’s diet requires 100% compliance. This is not a diet that you follow “more or less.” Either you’re damaging your endothelial cells and promoting the progression of heart disease, or you’re safeguarding them. At the same time, his diet is straightforward because the rules are simple and his program doesn’t require other lifestyle changes, like practicing meditation or going on special exercise programs.

5) The foods to eat are vegetables, whole grains, beans and fruit.

6) The foods to avoid are ALL oils (not a drop), dairy products (even low-fat), meat (including chicken and fish) as well as nuts, seeds, avocados, tofu, olives, and other high-fat plant foods.

7) People without diagnosed heart disease can have a small portion of walnuts or ground flax seeds.

8) People with heart disease should eat a fistful of cooked greens FIVE (yes) times a day, with a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

9) People with heart disease should also avoid caffeinated coffee, although that rule wasn’t in the first edition of his book.

10) Alcohol in moderation is ok (a glass of red wine on Saturday, for example).

11) It takes about 90 days for taste buds to adjust to a no-added-fat diet. After that, you prefer this type of food.

12) No salt is used in cooking but a small amount is ok in condiments.

The diet may appear very strict but it has worked for thousands of people when nothing else has.

You will also find that this program gives incredible results with other health problems.

I personally follow those guidelines, although I have fallen off the wagon many times. But as I get older, I see more and more the importance of avoiding ALL OIL and even eliminating high-fat foods completely.

Omega-3 fats can be found in greens, and this diet includes more greens than any other eating plan I know. Blood tests I have done should that this eating approach is superior to Omega-3 ratios than the typical fish-oil, salmon eating plan.

I suggest checking out the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, one of the most concise and useful books on nutrition that I know.


Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.