Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., M.D.

Dr. EsselstynTwenty-eight years ago, while chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Breast Cancer Task Force, general surgeon Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., grew disappointed in the way he and his colleagues were treating cancer and heart disease. Relying on pills and surgical procedures despite their side effects and risks, Dr. Esselstyn says he and his peers were doing “nothing to prevent disease in the next unsuspecting victim.” This was particularly frustrating given that research studies had already suggested an obvious culprit. The fatty American diet was, in all likelihood, responsible for heart disease and many Western cancers, which are infrequently seen in parts of the world where much less fat is consumed.

Learn more about Dr. Esselstyn below.



Dr. Esselstyn's Recipes
Mango-Lime Bean Salad
Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms
Lime Mousse

Prevent and Reverse
Heart Disease

by Caldwell
Esselstyn Jr., M.D
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., M.D.


  1. The dietary changes that helped my patients over the past 20 years can help you, too. They can make you immune to heart attacks. Don’t eat meat, poultry, fish, or dairy products. Eat a wonderful variety of veggies, legumes, whole grains, and fruits.
  2. Coronary artery disease is preventable. Even after it is underway, its progress can be stopped, its insidious effects reversed. The key lies in nutrition—specifically, in abandoning the toxic American diet and maintaining cholesterol levels well below those historically recommended.
  3. Here’s a benefit of a plant-based diet that you might not have expected: For the rest of your life, you will never again have to count calories or worry about your weight.
  4. There is nothing radical about a plant-based diet. It’s about as mainstream as you can get. For billions of people, it is standard fare, and heart disease and many other chronic ailments are almost unknown.
  5. All the cardiovascular interventional procedures carry considerable risk of morbidity, including new heart attacks, strokes, infections, and, for some, an inevitable loss of cognition. By contrast, the benefits of a plant-based diet actually grow with time. The longer you follow it, the healthier you will be.


Mango-Lime Bean Salad

Makes 2 servings

1 mango, peeled and diced
1 small red onion, diced to taste (start with 1/2)
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
zest of 1 lime
1 juicy lime, squeezed
cilantro, a lot, 1/2 cup or more

Combine all ingredients. Serve on a bed of baby lettuce.

Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms

Makes 4-6 servings

1 leek, thinly sliced, white only
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh (about 3.5 ounces) or dried shiitake mushrooms, sliced (soak dried shiitakes for 1/2 hour in warm water before slicing)
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups red lentils
1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and diced, skin OK to use
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup basil or more
pepper to taste
fresh spinach

In a large pan, stir-fry leek, mushrooms, and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes until leeks are soft. Stir in broth, water, lentils, sweet potato, and bay leaf. Bring to boil, then simmer uncovered until lentils and sweet potatoes are soft, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove bay leaf and puree 2 cups of soup until smooth or use an immersion blender; return to pot, stir in basil and pepper to taste. Just before serving, stir in as much fresh spinach as you dare. It will melt in the pot. If you prefer, fill individual soup bowls with spinach and spoon hot soup over the spinach. Top with a sprinkle of more fresh basil.

Lime Mousse

Makes 2-4 servings

1 package tofu (12.3 ounces lite firm or extra firm silken)
1/3 cup maple syrup or sweetener of choice
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
zest of 1 lime

Blend tofu, maple syrup, lime juice, and zest in a food processor until very smooth. Keep scraping down the sides of the processor to blend completely. Refrigerate until chilled.


Targeting heart disease, Dr. Esselstyn's experiment started at home. He and his wife adopted a plant-based diet, cutting out oil, meat, fish, fowl, and dairy. “It means a lot to patients to know their doctor is making the same changes they are,” he says. Since studies show a craving for fat diminishes the less fat one eats, and since patients have hundreds of recipes from which to choose, the physician and his heart patients have grown comfortable with their routine over time.

Dr. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, which provides over 150 recipes, offers readers the same simple, nutrition-based plan that dramatically changed the lives of his patients forever.

Dr. Esselstyn’s scientific publications number over 150. The Best Doctors in America 1994-1995 cites his surgical expertise in the categories of endocrine and breast disease. In 1995, he published his benchmark long-term nutritional research on arresting and reversing coronary artery disease in severely ill patients. That same study was updated at 12 years, making it one of the longest longitudinal studies of its type. No compliant patients have sustained disease progression.  Today, 20 years later, patients who have maintained a healthful vegan diet continue to thrive.

Dr. Esselstyn has been associated with the Cleveland Clinic since 1968. During that time, he has served as president of the staff and as a member of the Board of Governors. He chaired the clinic’s Breast Cancer Task Force and headed its Section of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery.

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