Which diet is healthiest? Report ranks popular plans

A photo taken on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at the Bruce Randolph School In Denver, shows fresh fruits and vegetables  provided to Denver Public School fo...
A photo taken on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at the Bruce Randolph School In Denver, shows fresh fruits and vegetables provided to Denver Public School food service personnel to practice their culinary skills that will help encourage kids to eat healthier foods. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)Barry Gutierrez / AP

The DASH diet, rich in vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy, has been named the best overall diet for the fifth consecutive year, outpacing Weight Watchers and the Mediterranean diet, U.S. News & World Report said on Tuesday.

It may not be exciting, but the healthiest diet is one focused on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, experts say.Barry Gutierrez / Today

DASH, which was developed to lower blood pressure without medication, was also chosen by a panel of health experts as the top diabetes diet and the best plan for healthy eating.

Weight Watchers retained the No. 1 spot as the best diet for weight loss, followed by the HMR (Healthy Management Resources) low-calorie, meal-replacement plan; and Jenny Craig, which offers prepared meals to drop excess pounds.

"The DASH diet has been our top diet overall for five years now and this is the fifth year we are evaluating and ranking diets," said Angela Haupt, senior health and wellness editor at U.S. News & World Report.

"Our experts, who rate these diets for us, say it will end up being very good for your waistline, in addition to your high blood pressure, because it is such a common-sense, balanced diet," she added in an interview.

The TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet, which is designed to lower levels of cholesterol, came in second in the best overall category, followed by the Mediterranean diet, Weight Watchers and the Mayo Clinic Diet, which each tied for third place.

At the opposite end of the scale is the Paleo Diet, which focuses on meat, fish and vegetables, and the four-phase Dukan Diet, tied for last place.

"The Paleo Diet never does well in our rankings," said Haupt, adding both are restrictive eating plans.

Weight Watchers, based on a point system assigned to foods, Jenny Craig and the Mediterranean Diet, with its emphasis on vegetables and olive oil, were deemed the easiest diets to follow.

A panel of two dozen experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and food psychology ranked 35 eating plans to compile the annual list.

They looked at sample menus and published medical studies to rate of top diets overall as well as the best for weight loss, diabetes, heart disease and the easiest to follow.

"We provide people with all the facts, comprehensively, in the hope that they can make the best decision for themselves," said Haupt.

The panel selected the Ornish Diet, which is focused on fruits, vegetables and grains, as the top heart-healthy diet, along with TLC and DASH. 

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