Spot these common booby traps in supposedly healthy dishes.
Best Diets Overall
U.S. News evaluated and ranked the 32 diets below with input from a panel of health experts. To be top-rated, a diet had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe and effective for weight loss and against diabetes and heart disease. The government-endorsed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) snagged the top spot.
Overall, the health experts were lukewarm on veganism despite giving it fairly high marks as a diabetes or heart disease diet. It is extremely restrictive, doesn’t offer built-in social support, and may not provide enough of some nutrients.
Experts were less than impressed with the glycemic-index diet, which distinguishes “good” carbs from “bad.” They scored it particularly low on long-term weight loss, heart benefits, and ease of adherence. Although the diet’s ratings in nutrition and safety were relatively strong, they couldn’t push the diet out of the lower third of the pack.
The Zone Diet lagged behind higher-ranked diets, if not always by much, in nearly all ratings categories, including weight loss, how easy it is to follow, and its effect on diabetes and heart health. It’s “unnecessary and tedious to structure every meal around specific macronutrient thresholds,” according to one expert; another stated there is “no magic with the diet.”
Experts gave little credence to the diet on several counts: Following the plan is a challenge. It’s an extreme change from the standard American diet. And it’s awfully strict. The macrobiotic approach, one expert summed up, is “a mix of sound dietary guidance, mysticism, folklore, and nonsense.”
Experts weren’t impressed with the Acid Alkaline Diet, which received mediocre marks in all categories. It performed particularly poorly in areas like overall weight loss and easiness to follow. And don’t expect it to have a positive effect on diabetes or heart disease management or prevention. The diet is “ridiculous and poorly researched,” one expert said. “It’s not based on science.”
The widespread concern among experts about the diet’s lack of nutritional guidance on non-fasting days contributed to its poor overall performance. The fast diet earned just 2.5 stars, putting it toward the end of the pack, outranking only the raw food, Atkins, Paleo and Dukan diets. “The red flags are no restrictions on non-fast days and no guidance on what constitutes a healthful eating pattern,” one expert said. “This could lead to poor food choices or lack of portion control on non-fast days.”
Many of our experts found the popular low-carb Atkins diet leaves much to be desired, at least as an all-purpose diet. Although our expert panel concluded that it could outperform nearly all of its competitors in short-term weight loss, unfavorable marks in other measures—including long-term weight loss, nutrition, safety, and heart health—yanked down Atkins in the standings.
The experts conferred solid marks on the diet for weight loss, both short- and long-term, but considered it all but impossible to follow and its nutritional completeness and safety were concerns. “Doing it well involves considerable commitment and effort, knowledge, and sacrifice,” one expert said. “And there are diets that require less of all these that are likely to be just as healthful.”