U.S. News and a panel of health experts ranked 35 diets, the top 10 of which are listed below. Top-rated diets had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, and effective for weight loss and preventing diabetes and heart disease. Most of the diets incorporate some measure of exercise.
Although more obscure, the DASH diet beat out its well-known competitors to achieve the highest rating overall. DASH was designed to prevent and lower high blood pressure, but it’s not too bad for your waistline either. When combined with a calorie deficit each day, DASH has been effective not only for heart health but also for losing weight.
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, or TLC, was designed by the National Institutes of Health to cut high cholesterol. The key is cutting back sharply on fat and limiting daily cholesterol intake. This diet requires vigilant monitoring of your food intake, and as it was not designed for weight-loss, may not assist beyond the benefits gained from counting calories.
Tie-3. Mayo Clinic Diet
This is the Mayo Clinic’s guide to sustainable weight-loss, claiming that you’ll lose 6 to 10 pounds in two weeks followed by 1 to 2 pounds each week until you’ve hit your target weight. The plan is broken into two parts, the first more restrictive for quick weight loss, while the second allows you to eat almost anything as long as you follow the Mayo Clinic’s food pyramid and your set caloric intake.
Tie-3. Mediterranean Diet
The diet claims to help you lose and keep weight off while avoiding a host of chronic diseases. Based on the generally accepted notion that people residing near Mediterranean Sea live longer and suffer less from cancer and cardiovascular ailments than Americans, the Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish, and other healthy fare. As it is not particularly restrictive, this diet is easier to follow for long-term weight loss and health goals.
Tie-3. Weight Watchers
A familiar name in dieting, Weight Watchers claims you will lose up to 2 pounds weekly using their PointsPlus program. The program assigns points to food based on content, with choices that fill you up the longest “costing” fewer points than empty calories. Experts rated it highly in weight-loss and nutrition, and the allowance for occasional indulgences and access to support from others using Weight Watchers gained a high rating for being easy tofollow.
Tie-6. Flexitarian Diet
The Flexitarian diet is a less stringent variation of vegetarianism, whichemphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins as the path to weight loss and optimal health. Flexible vegetarianism still allows for the occasional impulse for a burger or steak while adhering more to “new meat” (tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds, and eggs). Proponents of this diet claim that flexitarians weigh 15 percent less than their more carnivorous counterparts; have a lower rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer; and live an average of 3.6 years longer.
Less a structured diet than an approach to eating, Volumetrics is based on the theory that people tend to eat the same amount or weight of food each day, regardless of the number of calories. As a result, the diet recommends eating the same volume but of foods that are less energy dense. Food is divided into four categories of energy density, and the end goal is that you can learn and apply the Volumetrics philosophy in any setting.
Although Jenny Craig was praised for nutritional benefits and emotional support which make it easy to follow, experts were not enthusiastic about its potential to improve heart health or help diabetics. The plan’s prepackaged meals help restrict calories and fat, and personal consultants guide members to a weight loss of up to 2 pounds per week. However, the cost of enrollment, monthly participation, and daily meals could be prohibitive for many dieters.
Tie-9. Biggest Loser Diet
The plan is founded on calorie restriction and exercise, so the main obstacle to promised weight loss and disease prevention is sticking to the plan. Given that the foundations of the diet are, simply put, diet and exercise, many panelists felt that the Biggest Loser diet is nothing special. One expert went as far as to say that the diet is merely “capitalizing on the name” of the hit TV show.
Tie-9. Ornish Diet
The Ornish diet can be tailored to losing weight, preventing or reversing diabetes, or a host of other aims depending on your needs and willingness to drastically change your eating patterns. The plan received criticism because more ambitious goals require severe fat restriction, but the general plan is based on consciously deciding to make health a priority. You decide how you want to fill up your shopping cart, how much you want to exercise, and then stick to those targets. The plan also includes stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation or just spending time with those you love and respect.