For The Love of Your Heart

Easy Esselstyn Diet Recipes with Pictures: Stories




Lunch, Soups & Quick Meals


Desserts, Snacks & Others

Social Survival Guide

Finding Products

Regional Restaurants




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Stories of Members


The Books


Daily Meal Pictures for over three Months


Challenge Study Meals for two Months


Getting Started with Cooking









Why to change your American Red-Meat/Processed-Food Diet having 30%-Fat?

Klaus’ Story:

I thought that I was living a healthy life style including modest eating habit, no smoking, little social alcohol consumption and infrequent physically challenging activities (bike riding and summer hiking). At work I had little stress and at home I consumed the typical American Diet (30% fat) of almost daily red meat and processed foods (like high sodium orange juice, chips, cheese, sour cream etc.) and never really cared about my blood work done for my yearly physicals. I felt great and healthy. Then I realized that I was slowly gaining weight and changed my diet to what is called a Mediterranean Diet (20% fat) of vegetables, salads, fruits and white meat (chicken and fish) using olive oil for cooking. Reducing my cholesterol levels, as can be seen in the chart of the table below, it did not affect the silently progressing disease of my coronary heart vessel blockage leading towards inevitable heart failure because my cholesterol never fell below the critical thresholds essential for preventing heart failure (dashed lines in the chart below).


Then, one day while mowing the lawn I felt a strong diffuse chest pain and consulted my Family Doctor. The Resting ECG (Electro Cardiogram) looked great and normal. For evaluation of my complaints he sent me to a Cardiologist for a stress test. I did not pass the test and on the spot was rushed with an ambulance to the Emergency Room for Quadruple Bypass Heart Surgery:


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I was with no minutes to spare very, very close to heart failure and permanent heart damage. Under exceptionally professional and loving care by nurses and doctors I left the hospital five days later. During my rehabilitation I learned too late all about the risk factors for heart disease but no concrete specific advice was given on healing my diseased heart except for some general guidelines on to moderate my (American Diet) eating habit, quite smoking (I do not smoke), exercise often (OK) and reduce stress (OK) and blood pressure (was and is OK). So I continued with my Mediterranean diet but added more gym time (2-3 times a week). Hearing from a friend and Googling Heart Disease I learned about and started to read doctors Ornish’s and Esselstyn’s books on how to “heal” my diseased heart. If I would not change my life style my newly implanted artery and veins that now supply my heart would clog with new cholesterol plaques and I would need another bypass operation in ~ 5-10 years. But this message really did not sink into my consciousness until by chance I saw a CNN-interview of former President Bill Clinton regarding the failure in 2010 of his 2004 quadruple bypass and his lifestyle change to Esselstyn’s diet. Esselstyn’s advice on healing a diseased heart is simple but dogmatic in that I would have to radically change my lifestyle and eating habits! The interview was encouraging me to do it and take the first steps.

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Table: 14 years of charted blood component concentrations and body weight. The data points reflect the blood values at the end of the measuring interval and may represent the influences of all variations in-between depending on their persistence which is at this time widely unknown. (Chart detail for diet years below).



The diet experience. Starting the dieting journey seemed daunting and surreal at first but I figured it out and adapted to it. Now I am working out every day for 60 min at the local gym and following strictly Esselstyn’s advice. It was a steep learning curve, cooking for myself, finding and selecting the appropriate foods and grocery items and managing my new lifestyle. Already after only four weeks being on the Esselstyn-based diet my LDL (red: bad cholesterol) had dropped significantly below the high-risk ceiling of 70 mg/dL and my total cholesterol (blue) stayed almost always below the safe level of 150 mg/dL. At these conditions coronary heart disease is not diagnosed. I am now feeling great knowing that my heart is healing (probably reversing plaque growth and opening up clogged vessels) and my newly implanted blood vessels will be staying healthy without getting further diseased. However, this diet system includes many diverse components and their relationships and effects on measured blood values is not easily understandable and more or less hidden to both the patient and the physician, because for most patients it is hard if not impossible to reliably follow a physician’s even mostly general advice. Additionally, the individual diet response may vary from patient to patient. As I found out in the second diet year, short-term deviations from the diet would have dramatic longer-term effect on the cholesterol levels. I am a scientist and set out from the start of my dieting to take control of my own health destiny by critically observing the effects of Esselstyn’s prescriptions on a daily basis. These are my results and my generalized conclusions.


The chart covers in detail the first years after my heart operation and shows my blood and weight values related to my diet and some special living events that occurred since then. It is easily recognizable that there are two groups of values each changing in their own but very different ways. The triglycerides (yellow line), weight (purple line) and HDL (good cholesterol: green line) indicate longer-term adaptation and specific interactions with each other while the total cholesterol (blue line) as well as the LDL (bad cholesterol: red line; calculated from the total cholesterol and the HDL) indicate short-term adaptations to life style changes and parallel interactions with each other.


In the first diet year I lost 30 pounds regaining my adolescent school-sport-supported weight which I could maintain in the following years. However, in the first half year, when my initial weight reduced rapidly, my triglycerides (yellow) increased steeply, a relationship reported in the medical literature to be closely related. The triglycerides fell back as steeply and then stabilized to a plateau for nearly one year before dropping off again as rapidly to their lowest value yet of 35 mg/dL and then increased again while the weight reduced only minimally. In contrast, my HDL (good/green) showed only small variations between 50-70 mg/DL. It was initially steady over two years but thereafter started to increase at a similar time the triglycerides where again dropping. Both desirable changes cannot yet be correlated with other events but it may be that changes are responding to those of eating habits when I was falling back to conventionally sized portions (see below) and increasing physical activity (thicker line indicating activity increase to sweating).


The total cholesterol (blue) and LDL (bad/red) cholesterol appear to react rapidly and in tandem. Two increases in the second year after the operation followed a vacation and a holiday season. On these two occasions I was breaking the diet rules for only a few days. After the vacation incident (consuming “irresistible” fatty and sugary pastries) elevated LDL (bad/red) values reach 65mg/dL and after the holidays (consuming sugary foods and a lot of wine) an even higher value of 85 mg/dL is observed. The rapid increase of the cholesterol values and the slow recovery over months reveal a high sensitivity of these two blood components to “breaking the diet rules” for only a few days despite close adherence to the rules before and immediately afterwards. In the third year I paid special attention not to break the rules and both values although fluctuation stayed below the desirable maximum (dashed lines).


Unfortunately, due to a severe sciatic nerve irritation during the summer preceding the Xmas holidays I had to stop my gym exercises for 7 month but could pick them up again after the holidays. This lack of exercise might have been the reason that excess calories were not burned away fast enough causing an accentuated increase of LDL (bad/red). Cholesterol increase from excessive calories is well documented. It underscores that low calorie consumption as well as exercise are an import part of this diet. As a precaution against further unintended minor missteps I changed to a very low fat diet, reducing fat intake wherever possible, especially for breakfast (lowest-fat granola and non-fat soy milk), lunch (low-fat pita flat breads with no-fat hummus) and dinner (using if called for only low-fat tofu products).


My new lifestyle.  It took me three years to get a grip of my new way of living. In the first year my body was physiologically adjusting. During the second year I was learning psychologically to live with it. And only in the third year I was gaining a deeper understanding of the mechanisms and their control. Meanwhile, my basic metabolism remained quite healthy when comparing the pre-operative and post-operative values. The recent values (see table below) were measured in the same blood sample as used at the end of the third year (analyzed to monitor my kidney function under treatment with the diuretic Furosemide).

The undesirable sodium and chloride are at the minimum, and desirable potassium and calcium are in the mid-range. The glucose is close to the maximum but Furosemide might have affected this value. However, I should watch my sugar/calorie intake. It may also help to lose some few extra pounds since I am definitely not skinny.


My lifestyle now includes besides of a very-low fat diet, low sodium as well as daily exercises (burning around 400 calories) also low-sugar intake in support of controlling my calorie balance. These changes will help maintaining my “exceptional good” blood values as my cardiologist just told me after seeing my latest now stabilized blood analysis results after the third year post operation. Living on a controlled diet needs attention to EVERY detail WITHOUT exceptions, as Esselstyn repeatedly stresses in his book and I am starting to realize now.


In addition to everything known for maintaining good heart health (Gillinow and Nissen: Heart 411) Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s advice for healing a diseased heart is a “10% Fat and Plant-based Diet” without any cholesterol intake from animal products, low-salt content, no plant oils and includes the reduction of the natural liver production of cholesterol by daily exercise and low dosage (10mg) of a statin (Crestor). Optimal blood values are for Total Cholesterol below 150 mg/dL and LDL (bad cholesterol) below 85 mg/dL. At risk patients with heart disease should have a LDL (bad cholesterol) level below 70 mg/dL (see chart dashed lines). These are now widely accepted threshold values.



Diet Conformance


In general, a 10% fat diet requires detailed consideration of the nutritional intake in regards to low-fat, low-salt and low sugar content. In the ‘Finding Products’ charts I label those items with a special conformance icon for easier recognition. Please contemplate that plants used for dinner preparation already provide approximately one half of the daily allowance for fat (5%) meaning that only 5% fat is available for the remaining ingredients used for the preparation of dinner, breakfast, lunch and snacks. This is only possible by using ingredients that are for practical reasons fat-free and have per serving a fat content of only 1% or less of the Daily Value as prescribed in the dietary guidance of the Food a Drug Administration (FDA). Such a practice is very cumbersome to follow since it requires constant consultation of food labels. Gone are for breakfast stone rolled oatmeal (1/2 cup has a 5% daily value of fat) and light almond milk (1/2 cup has an additional 2% fat). Inclusion of flax seed flour for supplementing the Omega 3 intake will already introduce 4.6 % fat. And having some bread with hummus for lunch is challenging as well. One slice of salt-free whole grain bread may have 1-1.5% of fat and the choice for fat-free hummus without tahini is limited. There are low-fat or fat-free products available in health food stores and increasingly in supermarkets but it is tedious to find them and remember where they are sold and in which isles they are placed. Well, this is the flip side of staying healthy when having highest risk factors for heart disease. Lucky are those who do not (yet) fall into this category.


Weight and Calories. I found daily weight control very helpful if performed at similar physiological patterns, i.e., in the morning after bowl movement (being like clockwork in plant dieting), exercise and shower. If the weight is found to be too high over several days than it is easy to reduce the calorie effects by exercising more or eating less (my favorite meal for that purpose is the Yellow Turnip Vegetable Soup – 005 or some of the Quick Meals. Also drinking plain iced water instead of juice or wine helps.) In the first two year of 10%-fat-plant dieting I had a nearly unsatisfyable appetite eating more or less two portions for one meal and was feeling afterwards heavy and tired while retaining approximately 4-5 pounds in weight. Now, I am down to more regular portion sizes and feel much better having also lost the initially remaining extra weight although I am still have some pounds to go. This energy balance is essential for maintaining a normal physiology because depleting calorie intake too much changes the physiology from healthy calorie burning activity mode to unhealthy starving mode where non-essential calories are converted to liver fat increasing triglyceride and cholesterol levels.


The Daily Practice. Esselstyn-based dieting necessitates framing your personal life with a regular schedule of exercise, cooking and shopping but also provides inner instinctive satisfaction from the enjoyment of preparing the meals, working with natural ingredients and tasting natural flavors. This site will start you in the right direction for the latter two activities cooking and shopping. The rest is up to you.


The Challenge of Gillinow and Nissen:



Draft - Klaus Peters*)


We need more detail studies on the relationship between lifestyles and hear health. Two widely publicized very-low-fat diets for maintaining heart-health (Ornish, 2007; Esselstyn, 2007), were recently challenged by a third high-fat approach based on olive oil (Gillinow and Nissen, 2012). It took me over three years post operation to grasp the impact of my diet choices on my cholesterol levels and I felt ready to test the proposed high-fat approach in a challenge study. After staying for more than one year (see data in chart: 3rd Year Post) on Esselstyn’s diet below high-risk levels for cholesterols, I did not change anything in my lifestyle except including the recommendations of Gillinow and Nissen. Both diets embrace low-dose statin application, in contrast to the Ornish diet that rejects it. For this comparative study I documented with pictures my daily meals and lifestyle for two months before (see Daily Meal Pictures for over three Months)  the diet change and four month afterwards (Challenge Study Meals for four Months).

The results of the very-low fat diet showed that I could control my dietary intake exactly as prescribed by Esselstyn with the result of my total cholesterol staying below the recommended level of 150 mg/dL, and of LDL below the high-risk threshold of 75 mg/dL. With this baseline being established for over one year moved to and stayed on the Gillinow-Nissen olive-oil-based Mediterranean Diet (2.5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day) maintaining everything else in my lifestyle. So in fact, only my meal composition changed from 10% to ~30% of Recommended-Daily-Allowance Calories coming from “good” fats, which derive from plants and now as well as from olive oil, nuts, chocolate, chicken and fatty fish. The abrupt diet change did not caused any digestive problems.

The recommended olive oil and nuts added some 500 calories per day, which required me to double my daily exercise in the gym to two hours per day combined with heavy sweating in order to maintain my weight at 148-150 lb. However, after four month I had to scale back the workout by 40% and accept a 6 pound weight increase. But what did the olive oil and the fish fat do? It is clear that the HDL increased sharply. Surprisingly, the LDL did not change and stayed below the at risk levels contrary to the total cholesterol that increased in tandem with the HDL. In addition, the Triglycerides deceased to lowest levels. So, effectively the olive oil (in combination with increased of physical activity) decoupled the LDL and the total cholesterol, which were under very-low fat-diet changing in tandem. This puts a new light on the LDL values since they were little affected by the HDL. The increase of the total cholesterol above the “at risk” level is due to the HDL. Changes in weight and small fluctuations in triglycerides levels may mirror the problem of weight control in this high-caloric diet.



Figure 1: Blood values and weight of a single patient who is a male Caucasian of 73 years in age (at data end points); Blood pressure 60/120  , weight 156 lb, height 6’ 1’’; Non-smoker; Only low social alcohol consumption; No other major health problems. Chart Detail: After 10 years of steadily concomitant increase of all values (not shown in figure) the cholesterol values could be decreased by diet modification to a conventional Mediterranean Diet (20% fat) combined with occasional physical activities. However, this could not stop the progressing cardiac disease leading to an emergency quadruple bypass operation. During the following 3 years while a very-low fat diet was followed, the first year showed a dramatic weight reduction and concomitant triglyceride peak, the second year reflected short-term diet deviations, and the third year demonstrates expected outcomes below risk-thresholds at full diet compliance. The last six months reflect the outcome and maintenance of blood component values while following an olive-oil & nuts Mediterranean diet.


Both diets (Esselstyn’s very-low fat vegan diet and Gillinow-Nissen’s high-fat Mediterranean diet) are based on scientific hall-mark large-scale studies (Chinese Study, Mediterranean Study) and can be fully verified when compared side-by-side under self-guided physiological conditions in a controlled single person study under low-dose statin conditions. Both diets can maintain LDL levels below 70 mg/dL. The Mediterranean olive oil-based diet provided the additional benefit of almost doubling HDL levels but at the cost of unrealistically demanding exercise levels (2 hrs sweating per day) for weight preservation. On the other side, the very-low fat diet (Esselstyn 10% fat diet) is also demanding because it does not allow any even minor deviation (from consumption of “bad” fats and excessive calories from alcohol and sugars) without severe long-lasting consequences of elevated LDL levels (see second year post OP). 

Conclusions:  On the background of the recently recommended increase of the statin usage for cholesterol maintenance (CDC, 2013), the Esselstyn diet and the Gillinow -Nissen diet strategies should be fused so as to ease weight control. A reduction of olive oil and fish oil consumption and an increased inclusion of very-low fat plant meals provide a promising flexible diet avenue while maintaining all the other established essential lifestyle practices common to both approaches, like whole-grain flour products, “good” carbohydrates, fruits, nuts, dark chocolate, red wine as well as daily extensive exercise combined with no smoking, normal heart rate, low blood sugar levels and normal body weight. In practice, this is what the Ornish diet prescribes, but including olive oil and replacing the requirement of meditation, group therapy and yoga (for stress reduction) with a low-dosage statin application. So, in the end, all three diet approaches, heavily publicized through books, media appearances and some polemic commenting, should be fused for providing a realistic practical approach to good cardio-healthy lifestyle: It’s not exclusively either very-low fat dieting, statin barring at all cost, or unlimited olive-oil consumption, but a measured approach using all three aspects tailored to the physiological and pathological situation of the individual patient. There is and will be always more that we should know about heart health and it is the scientific comparative approach that will make us understand better the complex human system and guide us in improving health, happiness and longevity.



Esselstyn CB, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Avery, NY, 2007.

Ornish D. Dr. The Spectrum: A Scientifically Proven Program to Feel Better, Live Longer, Lose Weight, and Gain Health.  Ballantine Books, New York NY, 2007.

 Gillinov M and Nissen S. Heart 411: the only guide to heart health you’ll ever need. Three Rivers Press, New York NY, 2012.

Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, Covas MI, D Pharm, Corella D, Arós F, Gómez-Gracia E, Ruiz-Gutiérrez V, Fiol M, Lapetra J,Lamuela-Raventos RM, Serra-Majem L, Pintó X, Basora J, Muñoz MA, Sorlí JV, Martínez JA, Martínez-González MA; the PREDIMED Study Investigators. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. N Engl J Med. 2013 Feb 25.

[Chinese Study]

[Mediterranean Study]

[CDC Recommendations, 2013]


*) Dr. Klaus Peters is a biologist and computer scientist at the Southern Connecticut State University, Computer Science.




Bill Clinton’s Story at (excerpts below from that website)


Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. MD & Dean Ornish MD Explain Bill Clinton's Diet To CNN

CNN.COM | 09/24/10

On Friday, September 24, 2012 CNN's Wolf Blitzer interviewed Caldwell Esselstyn Jr MD and Dean Ornish MD, the doctors whose diet former President Bill Clinton has used to successfully return to his high school weight -- and to reverse his serious heart disease.

Background: In 2004 Clinton underwent quadruple bypass surgery, taking four veins from elsewhere in his body and using them to circumvent the four blocked arteries to his heart.  In 2005, Clinton underwent more surgery, for scar tissue damage and fluid which had accumulated as a result of the 2004 surgery.

In February of 2010, Clinton's bypass failed, with one of the four veins installed in the bypass having become 100% blocked. Surgeons installed two stents inside the clogged vein, in order to prop open the cholesterol-filled passage. 

In May of this year, Clinton began Dr. Esselstyn's plant-based diet program, which has been shown in published research to arrest and reverse heart disease in 100% of people who are compliant with the diet.  Over the next few months, Clinton lost 24 pounds, returning to his high school weight, feels great, and his heart disease is in reversal.

Video: The CNN video below starts with about a minute of Clinton's interview, then cuts to several minutes of riveting commentary from the two esteemed plant-based doctors responsible for this health-turnaround.


Click picture to watch YouTube video.




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