Star ratings reflect scores of 1 to 5 assigned to the vegan diet in seven categories by nutritionists, specialists in diabetes and heart disease, and other diet experts on a ratings panel assembled by U.S. News. (See our Best Diets methodology.) Overall, the vegan diet landed in the middle of the pack, largely because of the difficulty dieters have sticking to it and concerns about its nutritional completeness. “Completeness and safety depend on how the diet is done—there are wonderful vegan diets, and poor ones,” according to one expert. On the other hand, the vegan diet scored quite well on several measures important to many dieters, including its ability to produce weight loss and to address diabetes and heart disease. Below, ratings in all categories and how the experts’ opinions broke down.
Short-Term Weight Loss
The vegan diet gets fairly good marks for delivering short-term weight loss, edging out the majority of other diets. Research shows that vegans tend to eat fewer calories, weigh less, and have a lower body mass index than meat-eaters. “Weight loss on this diet is not difficult,” one expert said.
Long-Term Weight Loss
The vegan approach earned more than 3 stars out of 5, a respectable score suggesting dieters have a good shot at dropping pounds and keeping them off for at least two years. However, the diet is “extremely restrictive,” said one expert, and by eliminating so many types of food, it could sabotage long-term weight loss for some dieters.
Easy to Follow
Experts rated the vegan diet among the most difficult to follow of all those we ranked. The vegan approach, which eliminates all animal products—including dairy and eggs—is “hard to sustain” because of a “lack of variety,” extreme restriction, and the challenges that come with eating away from home.
Veganism can conform to the federal government’s dietary recommendations—but it takes work to make sure it does. There is “little scientific evidence of an upside,” one expert said, and panelists worried that it doesn’t provide enough calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, zinc, and iron. The diet requires ample planning in order to be nutritionally sound.
Veganism received lackluster scores on safety, and experts had concerns about a lack of important nutrients, which could affect bone health. Some said the approach is not appropriate for adolescents, who are still growing and need sufficient calories. If you create a sensible plan, though, you should be safe.
The vegan approach received one of its top scores in the diabetes category. It could help prevent or control the chronic disease, experts said. Some research suggests that veganism improves blood-sugar levels and helps diabetics reduce the number of medications they’re taking.
For Heart Health
Veganism could have a positive effect on cardiovascular health; the approach received almost 4 out of 5 possible stars, a strong showing. Research suggests it helps keep cholesterol and blood pressure in check and heart disease at bay, in part by assisting weight loss.
Last updated by Angela Haupt | January 02, 2013
The Biggest Loser Diet stresses nutrition and exercise. In 6 weeks, dieters can lose weight, make progress against diabetes, and improve heart health.
Nutrisystem determines portions, prepares and delivers your meals, and tells you what to eat and when.
The Dean Ornish Diet can be tailored to your specific health issues. The strictest version is challenging because it severely reduces fat intake.