- On Wednesday, US News & World Report released its annual list of best diets, as ranked by a panel of experts.
- The Mediterranean diet claimed the top spot, while the DASH Diet – designed to fight high blood pressure – was second.
- The other top diets included The MIND Diet, Weight Watchers, the Mayo Clinic Diet, Volumetrics, the TLC Diet, the Nordic Diet, the Ornish Diet, the Fertility Diet, Jenny Craig, and vegetarianism.
On Wednesday, US News & World Report released its list of best and worst diets – an annual ranking compiled by health and nutrition experts.
This year, the panel of 23 experts ranked a total of 41 diets using several criteria, including safety, ease, likelihood of preventing or controlling diabetes and heart disease, and effectiveness for weight loss.
The highest-ranked diets included some established standbys you’re probably familiar with, like the Mediterranean diet and Weight Watchers. Here’s a closer look at the top 13 diets chosen by experts.
No. 11 (tie): Vegetarian diet
Eliminating meat from your diet could help with both weight loss and heart health, according to the US News & World Report experts.
Some observational studies have shown that vegetarians tend to weigh less than people who eat meat, and other studies have linked vegetarianism with lower risk for heart disease and cancer.
Unlike veganism, which tied for 20th on this year’s list, vegetarianism allows adherents to eat products like milk and eggs, which are good sources of protein and other nutrients.
Vegetarianism was ranked tenth on last year’s list of best diets.
No. 11 (tie): Jenny Craig
Jenny Craig‘s prepackaged meals and recipes focus on restricting calories, fat, and portion sizes as a way to promote weight loss. Dieters also get support from a personal consultant throughout the process. Jenny Craig offers a regular weight loss program and one specifically designed for people with type 2 diabetes.
The U.S. News & World Report experts rated it as safe, nutritionally sound, and easy to follow, but noted that its cost could be a deterrent for some.
No. 11 (tie): Fertility Diet
The Fertility Diet was developed by Drs. Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as a way to help women struggling to get pregnant.
It’s based on research from the Nurses’ Health Study, which included 238,000 female nurses and found that consuming “good” fats, whole grains, and plant proteins helped participants’ egg supply, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The diet has 10 science-backed steps, but women who go on it don’t have to tackle all 10 at once.
No. 9 (tie): Ornish Diet
The Ornish Diet, developed by Dr. Dean Ornish, emphasises whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and is low in fat, animal protein, and refined carbohydrates.
This diet got a “mixed reaction” from the expert panel, US News & World report said. While it was ranked as one of the very best diets for heart health, research shows that people have a hard time sticking to diets like Ornish that require a very low fat intake.
The Ornish Diet was also ranked ninth last year.
No. 9 (tie): Nordic diet
The Nordic Diet was created by nutritional scientists at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. It’s based a set of 10 key concepts, which include eating more produce, seafood, and whole grains; eating high-quality meat but less meat overall; using organic and seasonal produce whenever possible; eating more home-cooked food; and reducing food waste.
Ideal meals on the diet have a 2:1 ratio of carb grams to protein grams.
The diet was highly ranked for safety and nutrition, but finding and preparing local, seasonal foods can be time-consuming.
No. 8: TLC Diet
The TLC Diet stands for therapeutic lifestyle changes. It was created by experts at the US National Institutes of Health and focuses on lowering cholesterol. People on the diet consume less saturated fat, limiting foods like butter, and cheese, and red meat, while eating more fruits, vegetables, skinless chicken, fish, grains, and low-fat dairy.
The TLC Diet was tied for fifth in last year’s rankings.
No. 6 (tie): Volumetrics
Volumetrics is a diet developed by Penn State University nutrition professor Barbara Rolls. It splits foods into four categories based on calorie density.
Category one includes non-starchy fruits and veggies, soup, and nonfat milk. Category two has starchy fruits and veggies, cereal, low-fat meat, and legumes. Category three includes other meats, cheese, bread, salad dressing, ice cream, and cake. And category four has crackers, chips, chocolate candy, cookies, nuts, butter, and oil.
No foods are strictly off-limits, but dieters eat mainly foods in categories one and two, limit portion sizes of foods in category three, and minimise choices from category four.
This diet earned high scores for safety and nutrition and is one of the best diets for diabetes, according to the expert panel.
Volumetrics also made the top 10 diets last year, when it was tied for fifth place with the TLC Diet.
No. 6 (tie): Mayo Clinic diet
In 2018, the Mayo Clinic diet was ranked eighth by the expert panel. This year, it jumped to a tie for sixth.
The diet has two phases: “Lose It!” and “Live It!” The former is more restrictive and focuses on recalibrating eating habits. It bans eating while watching TV and snacking on anything besides fruits or veggies, for example.
The second phase, “Live It!” is all about adopting healthy eating habits for life. The Mayo Clinic Diet calls for fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and healthy fats. It even comes with its own food pyramid that puts fruits and vegetables at the bottom.
Like many other diets on this list, the US News & World report experts ranked it highly in safety and nutrition.
No. 4 (tie): WW (Weight Watchers)
The health and wellness company WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) tied for fourth in the 2019 rankings and was ranked as the best option for weight loss.
WW participants translate calories, sugar, proteins, and saturated fat into a points system that encourages them to eat more nutritious foods. WW emphasises flexibility more than restriction. Participants also meet regularly with coaches, who are not medical professionals.
The expert panel lauded the plan for bits group support, and for being heavy on fruits and vegetables while still allowing room for occasional indulgences.
In 2018, WW also ranked fourth on US News & World Report’s list.
No. 4 (tie): MIND Diet
This plan is a hybrid version of the Mediterranean and DASH diets (more on those below). It focuses on foods from each diet that affect the brain and may help lower the risk of mental decline, according to initial research. The MIND Diet also appeared in last year’s top 10, when it earned the fifth-place spot.
The diet’s staples include berries, olive oil, whole grains, nuts, salads, and beans, and fish.
It was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center.
No. 3: Flexitarian diet
For the second year in a row, the flexitarian diet was ranked third by the US News & World Report experts.
Flexitarian – a word blend combining”flexible” and “vegetarian” – is a diet that calls for eating less meat (but not totally eliminating it), then adding in protein-rich foods like tofu, eggs, nuts, and beans. The idea is that dieters can reap some of the benefits of vegetarianism but on a less restrictive eating plan that allows for the occasional steak or burger.
This flexibility makes the diet more sustainable, according to the expert panel, who also awarded it high marks for nutritional completeness, long-term weight loss, and heart health.
No. 2: DASH diet
DASH, or dietary approaches to stop hypertension, is an eating pattern promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. It was developed to combat high blood pressure, but experts also see it as a smart choice for overall health. For eight years in a row, the DASH diet was at the top of US News & World Report’s rankings. This year, it fell just one slot to number two.
It prioritises fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy (noticing a pattern here?), all of which are high in nutrients that help control blood pressure. It limits sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and foods high in saturated fat. DASH dieters also limit their consumption of sodium to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. (For reference, an eight-ounce bag of salted potato chips contains about 1,200 milligrams.)
The expert panel awarded DASH high scores for safety and nutrition. It also ranked among the best diets for heart health and for diabetes.
1. The Mediterranean diet
In 2018, the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean diet were tied for first place.
In 2019, the Mediterranean diet stands alone at the top of the list, thanks to research linking it to longer and healthier lives, Angela Haupt, assistant managing editor of health at US News & World Report, told USA Today.
“It’s really healthy, balanced, and considered nutritionally complete,” she said.
The Mediterranean diet is based on foods eaten in countries bordering the Mediterranean sea, where people generally live longer and have lower rates of cancer and cardiovascular illness than Americans, according to US News & World Report.
It’s typically high in fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, legumes, and olive oil, with dairy and poultry in moderation and red meat and sweets only on occasion. Studies have linked the diet health benefits like a lower risk of heart disease and breast cancer, and some research suggests it may even have memory-related benefits.
The members of the expert panel gave it “resoundingly positive” scores all around.
- Read more:
- What experts think about New Year’s resolution diets people want to try in 2019
- Sorry, but superfood is a ‘nutritionally meaningless term’
- What 7 dietitians order at Chipotle
- 4 simple reasons you should never do a cleanse
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