Best Diets Overall
U.S. News evaluated and ranked the 29 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.
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 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.
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.”
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.”
Experts took issue with the diet on every measure. Regardless of the goal—weight loss, heart health, or finding a diet that’s easy to follow—most experts concluded that it would be better for dieters to look elsewhere. “A true Paleo diet might be a great option: very lean, pure meats, lots of wild plants,” said one expert—quickly adding, however, that duplicating such a regimen in modern times would be difficult.
Experts sent the Dukan diet to the bottom, handing out dismal ratings in nearly every category. Its overall score was more than a full star below average. It’s too restrictive, with lots of rules, and there’s no evidence it works. One expert described the diet as “idiotic.”