The Spectrum

The Spectrum

A Scientifically Proven Program to Feel Better, Live Longer, Lose Weight, and Gain Health

Book - 2007
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Random House, Inc.
In THE SPECTRUM, Dr. Ornish shows us how to personalize a way of eating and a way of living based on your own health goals, needs, and preferences. Here’s how it works:

Since THE SPECTRUM is about freedom of choice, there is no diet to get on and no diet to get off. Nothing is forbidden. No guilt, no shame, no pressure. THE SPECTRUM is based on love– joy of living, not fear of dying. Feeling better, not denying yourself pleasure.

First, determine your health and wellness goals. Do you want to lose weight? Do you have high cholesterol? Is diabetes a problem in your family? Based on your individual needs and goals, THE SPECTRUM has examples of six individually-tailored lifestyle programs ideally suited for you: lowering cholesterol, losing weight, lowering blood pressure, preventing/reversing diabetes, preventing/reversing certain types of prostate and breast cancer, preventing/reversing heart disease.

Each personalized plan in THE SPECTRUM has 3 components: Nutrition, Stress Management, and Exercise.

The Nutrition Spectrum
The Nutrition Spectrum consists of five groups. Group 1 is the healthiest end of the spectrum and Group 5 is the least healthful end. To determine your current place on the Nutrition Spectrum, find the group that contains the foods you tend to eat most of the time. Then, according to your needs, preferences, and goals, decide how far and how quickly you want to move in a more healthful direction. For example, if you typically eat predominantly foods in Group 4 and you want to lower your cholesterol 50 points, begin by incorporating more foods from Groups 2 and 3. If that’s sufficient to achieve your goal, great; if not, you can move more towards the healthier end of THE SPECTRUM by consuming more foods from Groups 1 and 2.

In general, the closer you move towards Group 1, the more benefits you’re likely to gain and the more quickly you’ll experience them. If you’re healthy, you many not need or want to make very many changes at all–the “ounce of prevention.” On the other hand, if you are trying to reverse heart disease or diabetes, you’ll probably need to make bigger changes–the “pound of cure.”

The recipes by Art Smith for THE SPECTRUM are designed so that each base recipe is in Group 1. Depending on your health and wellness goals, each recipe offers healthy variations. For example, the Vegetable Chili recipe is a delicious version of a classic recipe that begins in Group 1 with predominantly plant-based whole foods that are very low in fat, sugar, salt, and calories. Variations listed at the end of the recipe include adding a cup of pitted higher-fat black olives (which moves this recipe to a Group 2 dish) and/or adding one pound of turkey breast sausage to the recipe (which moves this recipe to a Group 4 dish).

The Stress Management Spectrum
Stress can have a negative impact on just about every part of your body. It can suppress your immune function, cause a heart attack or stroke, increase your risk of cancer, delay wound healing, promote inflammation, cause you to gain weight, impair your memory, cause depression, exacerbate diabetes, and worsen sexual function. Just for starters. Stress also makes you age faster even at a genetic and cellular level.

Some people thrive on stress, and it doesn’t cause them to get sick. Studies have found that they can turn it on when needed, but they can also turn it off.

They have appropriately elevated levels of stress hormones at work during the day, but their stress hormones drop sharply at night. In other words, they can turn it off. In contrast, people who feel chronically stressed and anxious have stress hormones that remain elevated, and this predisposes them to a wide variety of illnesses.

Stress-management techniques can help you turn it off. They are not about withdrawing from the world; rather, they enable you to embrace it more fully and effectively.  When you're feeling less stressed, you can think more clearly and creatively, making it easier to find constructive solutions.  When you’re less stressed, you’re more empowered.

THE SPECTRUM provides you with the fundamental tools for stress management. These include:

• Breathing• Enhancement of social support
• Yoga & Meditation• Reduction of stimulants (both physical and mental)
• Exercise• Practicing forgiveness, altruism, compassion, service

A DVD of inspiring, beautiful, and peaceful guided meditations by Anne Ornish is included with every copy of THE SPECTRUM. Anne is Vice President of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute where she directs all activities related to stress management training and psychosocial support. She has advanced training in yoga and meditation and was featured on the cover of the August 2006 issue of Yoga Journal magazine.

This DVD has guided meditations of different lengths depending on where you are on the Stress Management Spectrum. Even one minute a day has value; those who would benefit from doing more are given the tools and resources enabling them to do so.

The Exercise Spectrum
You already know that exercise is good for you and that regular, moderate exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health and well-being. What you may not know is that new research is showing that exercise beneficially affects your genes, helps reverse the aging process at a cellular level, gives you more energy, makes you smarter, and may even help you grow so many new brain cells (a process called neurogenesis) that your brain actually gets bigger. Really.

Here again is another demonstration of the theme of THE SPECTRUM: your genes are not your fate. The choices you make each day in your diet and lifestyle have a direct influence on how your genetic predisposition is expressed–for better and for worse. You’re only as old as your genes, but how your genes are expressed may be modified by exercise, diet and lifestyle choices much more than had previously been believed–and more quickly.

To gain all the health benefits of regular exercise, you don’t have to join a gym, hire a personal trainer, or organize your life around 10K’s. For example, in the Women’s Health Study, a major ongoing research project involving tens of thousands of women, those who walked briskly for just 60 to 90 minutes a week–just 15 minutes a day–cut their risk of death from heart attack and stroke in half.

Do what you enjoy, make it fun, and do it regularly. That’s it. THE SPECTRUM shows you how.


Here is a basic breakdown of the foods in each group of the Nutrition Spectrum:

Group 1
These are the most healthful foods, predominantly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nonfat dairy, and egg whites in their natural forms, as well as some good fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids. These are foods that are rich in good carbs, good fats, good proteins and other protective substances. There are at least 100,000 substances in these foods that have powerful anti-cancer, anti-heart-disease and anti-aging properties.

Group 2
These are also predominantly plant-based but somewhat higher in fat (predominantly monosaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat) such as avocadoes, seeds, nuts. Oils are included but in small amounts, since they are so dense in calories. Group 2 also includes foods canned in water (rather than sugary syrup or oil), canned vegetables (if sodium is not too high), low-fat dairy products (1%), decaffeinated beverages, low-sodium soy sauce, and so on.

Group 3:
These foods include some seafood, some refined carbohydrates and concentrated sweeteners (in moderation), some oils that are higher in saturated fat, some reduced fat (2%) dairy products, margarines free of trans fatty acids, sweeteners containing high fructose corn syrup, and higher sodium.

Group 4
In this group foods contain additional fat, higher animal protein and fewer protective nutrients. These include poultry, fish that are higher in mercury, whole milk/dairy products, margarine, mayonnaise, pastries, cakes, cookies, and pies.

Group 5
In general, these foods are considered the least healthful. They are the lowest in protective substances and are highest in “bad fats.” Some food included in this group are red meat, egg yolks, fried poultry, fried fish, hot dogs, organ meats, butter, cream, and tropical oils.

We all need to find our place on the Nutrition Spectrum that’s comfortable and congruent with our own personal values as well as with our health needs. And it may evolve over time. The point of THE SPECTRUM is to provide you information that you can use to make informed and intelligent choices. Only you can decide what’s right for you, for only then is it sustainable.


1)You have a full spectrum of nutrition and lifestyle choices.
2)Even more than feeling healthy, most people want to feel free and in control.
3)Eating bad food does not make you a bad person.
4)How you eat is as important as what you eat.
5)Joy of living is a much better motivator than fear of dying.
6)It's important to address the deeper issues that underlie our behaviors.
7)There’s no point in giving up something you enjoy unless you get something back that’s even better–and quickly.
8)Make small gradual changes or big rapid changes to create sustainable transformations in your diet and lifestyle.
9)How we approach food is how we approach life.
10)The most powerful motivating force in the universe is love.


There are at least 100,000 substances in these foods that have powerful anti-cancer, anti-heart-disease and anti-aging properties. These include:

•The National Cancer Institute has identified sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, fennel, turmeric, caraway, anise, coriander, cumin, and tarragon as having some cancer-preventing activity. Cumin, fennel, tarragon, and caraway contain substances called terpenoids that may help slow or even prevent tumor growth, as well as help reduce blood cholesterol levels.

•Watermelon has even more lycopene than tomatoes. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, which may help reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, breast cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer.

•Canola oil is often a better choice than olive oil, since canola oil contains more of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and a better ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids than olive oil.

•Tea contains polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants, which are found even more in green tea than black tea. The catechins in tea may help prevent cancer throughout your GI tract by helping to prevent DNA damage from carcinogens and by inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels that would feed tumors. Drinking tea has been shown to reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease, many gastrointestinal cancers, and to enhance immune function.

•An apple a day really may keep the doctor away. Pectin in apples may lower your cholesterol levels and help stabilize your blood sugar. They help prevent lung disease, especially in smokers.

•Mangoes are among the best sources of cancer-fighting carotenoids. They are also rich in antioxidant vitamins C and E. One mango contains 7 g of digestion-helping fiber, and much of this is soluble fiber, which helps lower your cholesterol level.

•Chili peppers are rich in capsaicin, which is what makes them taste hot. They may help you lose weight by suppressing appetite so you eat less and also by increasing your metabolism, so you burn more calories. They contain antioxidants such as vitamins A and C.

•Ginger contains a compound called gingerol that may lower blood pressure and increase circulation. Ginger also may help relieve motion sickness, morning sickness, and the nausea caused by anesthesia. Other compounds in ginger may help ward off migraines and arthritis pain by blocking inflammation-causing prostaglandins.

•Oatmeal contains soluble fiber that may help lower your cholesterol level as well as your blood pressure. It fills you up before you get too many calories, helping you lose weight. Find old-fashioned steel-cut oatmeal rather than instant, if possible.

•Whole grain cereals are “good carbs,” because the fiber slows the absorption and keeps your blood sugar levels more even. Also, the fiber fills you up before you get too many calories. The soluble fiber in cereal may reduce your cholesterol level and the insoluble fiber keeps your regular and may decrease your risk of colon cancer.

Baker & Taylor
Introduces a practical nutritional, lifestyle, and health program that can be customized to suit the individual requirements of any family situation.

& Taylor

The best-selling author of Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease introduces a practical nutritional, lifestyle, and health program that readers can customize to suit the individual requirements of their own family situation. 300,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, c2007
ISBN: 9780345496300
Branch Call Number: 613.2 Orn
Characteristics: x, 386 p. : col. ill
Additional Contributors: Smith, Art 1960-


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madamereadsalot Jan 28, 2012

This was an interesting book to read. Makes sense but most of the things he talks about are common sense for healthy living. This would probably be a great book for someone with a lot of time to read who is not familar with a healthy lifestyle.

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