By Jamie Ducharme – Time
Following a Mediterranean diet involves eating lots of plants, whole grains, healthy fats (such as olive oil) and lean proteins, and cutting back on processed foods, red meat and refined sugars. The diet has long been linked to many health benefits, including lower risks of cancer and heart disease, better kidney health and a healthier gut. In the latest rankings, the Mediterranean diet also took the titles of best diet for healthy eating, diabetes and heart health, the easiest diet to follow and the best plant-based diet.
While no single diet is best for everyone, U.S. News’ expert rankings are meant to promote the eating styles most likely to improve health and steer people away from misguided diet plans — like the last-place Dukan diet, a restrictive, high-protein system.
Meanwhile, the Nordic diet — a plant-focused plan that borrows from the Scandinavian tradition — made its first appearance on the list, at number nine. The trendy ketogenic diet (also known as the keto diet), which is very high in fats but low in carbohydrates, moved up to the second-best plan for weight loss.
Here are the other diets that topped the list.
#2: DASH Diet
DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was specifically designed to lower blood pressure. The plan involves lowering sodium intake and loading up on foods that contain minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium, which can help lower blood pressure. Followers are meant to eat mainly fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and moderate amounts of lean protein, while limiting red meat, sweets and fats.
#3: Flexitarian Diet
The diet for “flexible vegetarians” is all about significantly reducing meat intake without cutting it out completely. Eating a mostly plant-based diet is good for weight loss and for lowering the risk of chronic conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, research shows. The Flexitarian diet also landed on U.S. News’ lists of best diets for healthy eating, diabetes and weight loss.
#4: MIND Diet
The MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) combines aspects of the DASH and Mediterranean diets, with the goal of improving brain health. Each day, people following this eating plan have at least three servings of whole grains, a salad, another vegetable and a glass of wine. While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent or reverse cognitive decline, experts praise MIND for combining two other healthy eating styles.
#4 (tie): WW
WW — the rebranded eating plan from Weight Watchers — was named fourth best diet overall, best diet for weight loss and best commercial diet. The diet works by assigning point values to foods based on their calorie, sugar, saturated fat and protein content. (Some healthy foods are considered zero points.) Each user is assigned a daily point total, depending on his or her needs and goals, and then logs food throughout the week.
Write to Jamie Ducharme at [email protected].