HCA Midwest Health - January 09, 2018

Most Americans are gearing up to take better care of themselves in the new year – focusing on wellness may be on your list of resolutions, too. And for many – an estimated 45 million – that means adopting some sort of diet. To kick off the new year, U.S. News & World Report has released the 2018 Best Diets rankings, its eighth annual assessment of popular diet plans.  

To compile this year’s list, the publication put together a panel of nutritionists, researchers and physicians specializing in diabetes, diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, heart health and weight loss. Each expert scored 40 diets in seven categories, including:

  • How easy it was to follow
  • Its short or long-term weight loss results
  • Its nutritional completeness
  • Its safety
  • Its potential for preventing or controlling diabetes and heart disease

The panel found the top diets overall to be the heart-healthy DASH and Mediterranean diets, followed by the plant-based Flexitarian diet. The Whole30, Dukan and Keto diets came in at the bottom of the rankings, with Keto placing last. The reasons? First, a diet that emphasizes slashing carbs while filling up on fats is very restrictive. Second, Keto may not be a good option for those with diabetes, kidney, heart or liver conditions, or those who are pregnant or want to become pregnant.

Whether you’re looking to lose weight, consume less meat or eat clean, here’s a breakdown of this year’s diets and how they stack up against one another.

A closer look at the top three
For the second year in a row, the DASH diet is the number one overall diet. The heart-friendly eating plan aims to lower blood pressure, raise your “good” cholesterol levels (HDL), lower your “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL) and help you control your blood sugar. Foods high in potassium, magnesium and fiber like whole grains and lean proteins are encouraged. The diet also suggests limiting foods that can hurt your heart, like salt, sweets and red meat.

Tied for number one is the Mediterranean diet, another heart-healthy diet that can help you lose weight, improve brain health and help prevent cancer and diabetes. A Mediterranean diet menu is made up of foods like whole grains, legumes, seafood, olive oil and the occasional glass of red wine, but sweets and red meat (unless it’s a special occasion) are not included.

Coming in third is the mostly plant-based Flexitarian diet. Rather than eliminating meat altogether, the goal of being “flexitarian” is to pack your plate with whole grains, legumes, fruits, veggies and nuts; it's a diet that’s been proven to help you lose weight, and lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. While the occasional serving of meat is just fine, sticking to mostly plant-based foods is ideal.

Other best diets by category 
In addition to the best diets overall, U.S. News & World Report also ranked the best diets for several different categories. These included certain health conditions, like diabetes, as well as particular goals, like weight loss. Here’s a breakdown of the top three for some of the most popular categories.

Best commercial diets 
Well-known diets like Weight Watchers are popular because they are convenient and often offer prepared foods or supplements. Experts ranked 14 structured programs that involve a participation fee or promotion of the company’s product. See the full list of best commercial diets.

  1. Weight Watchers
  2. Jenny Craig 
  3. Flat Belly diet (tie)
  4. Nutritarian diet (tie)

Best weight-loss diets
Some diets aim to help you drop pounds fast, while others help shed weight slowly and steadily. Experts took both short and long-term weight loss ratings into consideration when they created the final list of best weight-loss diets.  

  1. Weight Watchers
  2. Volumetrics
  3. Jenny Craig (tie)
  4. Vegan diet (tie)

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Easiest diets to follow
You’re probably more likely to stick to a diet if it’s fairly easy to follow. Experts rated these diets on taste, restrictiveness and overall satisfaction. See the full rankings for easiest diets to follow.

  1. Mediterranean diet
  2. Flexitarian diet (tie)
  3. Weight Watchers (tie)

Best diets for diabetes 
A healthy diet is one of the best ways to help control diabetes; these diets were rated based on their ability to prevent and manage the condition. See all of the best diets for diabetes.

  1. Mediterranean diet
  2. DASH diet 
  3. Flexitarian diet (tie)
  4. Mayo Clinic diet (tie)
  5. Vegan diet (tie)
  6. Volumetrics (tie)
  7. Weight Watchers (tie)

Best heart-healthy diets
Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. These diets aim to help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure. See the full best heart-healthy diets list.

  1. DASH diet
  2. Mediterranean diet (tie)
  3. Ornish diet (tie)

Best plant-based diets
Plant-based diets are gaining popularity—and for good reason. Following these diets helps the environment, your heart and your weight loss efforts. See the full list of the best plant-based diets.

  1. Mediterranean diet
  2. Flexitarian diet
  3. Ornish diet

Before you start a new diet, it’s best to talk with your doctor. Your current weight, prior medical conditions and lifestyle habits all play a role in determining what’s best for you. Visit U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of all 40 diets to find out more. 

A dietitian can help you develop a healthy eating plan that works with your lifestyle. And may even help manage associated health issues. Make an appointment with a registered dietitian today!