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For 7th year in a row the DASH diet is ranked the 'best'. Why?

Thinking about eating healthier in the new year? For the 7th year in a row, DASH leads U.S. News and World Report's best diets list.
/ Source: TODAY

People who made healthy eating a priority for the 2017 are in luck. U.S. News and World Report released its best diets rankings and the high performing diets are easy to follow and have proven track records.

For the seventh year in a row, the DASH diet — which focuses on vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy — is the best overall diet. Weight Watchers remains the best diet for weight loss and it again ties the Mayo Diet as the best commercial diet.

“Diets that do the best encourage moderation and balance,” Angela Haupt, assistant managing editor of health at U.S. News and World Reports, told TODAY. “The reason we always hear about DASH is that it does work. It takes these common-sense rules and puts it in the plan.”

Close-up of woman's hand eating salad
Diets that focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fat perform well in U.S. News' best diets rankings. Alamy stock / Alamy Stock Photo

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Developed by the National Institutes of Health, the DASH diet aims to lower blood pressure without medication and it also helps people shed pounds. Leslie Bonci, owner of Active Eating Advice, who was not involved in the rankings, says that one of the reasons DASH performs so well is because it doesn’t encourage people to cut out food groups, such as carbs or dairy. This is also true of the number 2 and 3 overall diets, Mediterranean and MIND.

“They are more inclusive than exclusive,” she said.

Also, these diets appeal to people because they provide them with benefits other than just weight loss. DASH lowers blood pressure, MIND bolsters brain health, and Mediterranean lowers cholesterol.

“We want value-added,” Bonci said.

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Haupt agrees and said many readers rely on the rankings because of health conditions.

“Many people come to our site not because they are interested in losing weight but it is because they have a disease,” she said. “Thinking about your risk for these diseases, how can you manage them or prevent them if you don’t have it, it is holistic. It is the whole body approach.”

Easy to follow diets

While there were few surprises with 2017's rankings, Haupt feels stunned that MIND continues performing so well. It's only the second year it was included and it performed well last year, too. In addition to being one of 2017's best diets, it tied with the Weight Watchers and the fertility and Mediterranean diets as easy to follow.

“It is so new. It is so interesting to me that it is a top performer. Preserving brain health is something that people really really care about,” she said.

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The bottom of the bunch

For the second year in a row the Whole30 diet ranked 38 of 38. This is only the second year the diet has been on the list and it remains at the bottom with other hard-to-follow diets, including paleo and the raw food diets.

“Whole30 is incredibly restrictive and that is the problem,” said Haupt.

The diet prevents people from consuming sugar, carbs, legumes, dairy, and alcohol for 30 days.

“Every year our experts say in unison ‘you do not need to be so restrictive and you do not need to wipe out whole food groups to lose weight.'”

A panel of two dozen experts, including nutritionists, diabetes specialists, cardiologists, and weight loss experts, evaluated 38 different diets on a variety of criteria, including:

  • Ease in following
  • Chance of significant weight loss in the short term
  • Chance of significant weight loss in the long term
  • Effect of helping cardiovascular disease
  • Effect of helping diabetes

Well balanced is the way to go

The scores determine what diets do well in several categories, including: best overall diet, best commercial diets, best weight-loss diets, best fast weight-loss diets, best diets for healthy eating, best diets for diabetes, easiest diets to follow, best diets for heart disease, and best plant-based diets.

One theme continues emerging, Haupt said.

“The well balanced diet is the way to go. It comes back to 'all things in moderation.'"