U.S. News Releases "Best Diets" Rankings
U.S. News today released its first-ever Best Diets rankings—an evaluation of 20 eating plans that have been expert-rated in seven categories, including short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, easiness to follow, safety, and nutritional completeness. Overall, the government-endorsed DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) snagged the top spot. A panel of 22 experts in diet and nutrition, as well as specialists in diabetes and heart disease, said it was heart-healthy and nutritionally sound. DASH "looked like an All-Star," according to the rankings, and "though obscure, beat out a field full of better-known diets." In addition to helping deflate high blood pressure, the plan will likely help dieters shed pounds, too. Three diets tied at No. 2: the Mediterranean Diet, the TLC Diet, and Weight Watchers. "The goal of the Best Diets rankings is to help consumers find authoritative guidance on healthful diets that will work for them over the long haul," said Lindsay Lyon, U.S. News's Health News Editor.
Best Diets Methodology: How U.S. News Rated Them
Diets come and go, teasing and tempting with visions of that new, hot, slimmed-down body sculpted in a flash from the old, formerly pudgy and mirror-averse You. Eat what you want! Pounds melt away! The reality, as legions of frustrated dieters can affirm, is that dieting is hard and that most diets don't work. Some, in fact, could put your health at risk. Getting at the facts about diets and dieting has long been grueling enough to burn off a pound or two by itself.
Now, though, Best Diets cuts through the clutter of claims and half-truths to deliver the facts about 20 diets, including many, such as Weight Watchers, that are household names and others, such as the DASH diet, that should be.
A U.S. News team spent six months researching the diets, mining medical journals, government reports, and other sources. An in-depth profile was then drawn up for every diet that explains how it works, whether its claims add up or fall short, and what risks it might pose, along with insights into living on the diet, not just reading about it.
A carefully selected panel of 22 recognized experts in diet and nutrition and specialists in diabetes and heart disease reviewed the U.S. News profiles. Then the experts rated each diet from 1 to 5 in seven categories: short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, how easy it is to follow, its nutritional completeness, its safety, its ability to prevent or manage diabetes, and its ability to prevent or manage heart disease. U.S. News also asked the panelists to comment on which aspects of each diet that they particularly liked or disliked and to weigh in on what they think people considering the diet should know. [Read more: Best Diets Methodology: How We Rated Them.]
Don't Just Diet—Exercise to Lose Weight, Too
What you eat is only one part of the weight-loss equation. Diet alone may help you drop pounds, but you'll have trouble keeping them off if you don't exercise. And that's not to mention the added benefits you'll miss out on, from improved mood, to better sleep, to disease prevention. "The exercise has to be there," says Jim White, a registered dietitian and personal trainer certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Most experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, most or all days of the week. Typically, 30 minutes a day offers disease-prevention benefits, while 60 minutes helps with weight maintenance. Working out for 90 minutes a day helps on both fronts—and melts additional pounds. Regular exercise also cuts the risk of heart disease and diabetes, improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels, promotes better sleep, and builds healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
Some diets offer specific exercise routines—Jenny Craig members get programs tailored to their individual fitness level, for example—while other diets do no more than recommend it. If that's the case, remember that exercise need not be drudgery. Take a Zumba dance class, go hiking, jump rope, or bounce on a trampoline. Try kayaking, pilates, or swimming; vigorous household chores and yard work count, too. For the best conditioning, switch up your routine every 12 weeks, including frequency, intensity, and type. And avoid an all-or-nothing mentality: It's better to take a 30-minute walk five times a week than to run half a marathon on just one day. [Read more: Don't Just Diet—Exercise to Lose Weight, Too.]