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DASH voted best diet of 2016: Get the skinny on eating well

A diet that focuses on vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy tops a list of the most popular weight-loss plans.
/ Source: TODAY

For the sixth year in a row, DASH — a diet that focuses on vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy — tops U.S. News and World Report’s list as best overall diet. Weight Watchers continues to lead the pack as the number one weight-loss diet, tying the Mayo Clinic Diet as the best commercial diet.

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“We know that dieting is extremely hard. People go on diets and fall off the next week no matter how good their intentions are. We want to give people all the tools and all the information to make it easy for people to pick a diet,” says Angela Haupt, senior health and wellness editor at U.S. News and World Report.

The DASH diet — which was developed to help lower blood pressure without medication and is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health — scores so well because it supports lifestyle changes and contributes to “overall health,” says Leslie Bonci, owner of Active Eating Advice, who was not involved in the rankings.

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While this is the sixth year the magazine ranked diets, Haupt says some results still surprised her. The list included three new plans: the MIND diet, Fertility Diet and Whole30 diet.

The MIND Diet, which includes foods that boost cognitive functioning and takes cues from both the DASH and Mediterranean diets, tied the cholesterol-lowering TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet for second place as best overall diet.

“MIND ranked incredibly well,” says Haupt. “Our readers are interested in what they can do to protect their brain [health].”

The Mediterranean Diet, the Mayo Diet and Weight Watchers, which often rank highly in overall best diets, tied for fourth place with the Fertility Diet.

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Haupt says the Fertility Diet’s success surprised her.

“It ended up doing exceptionally well,” says Haupt. “You hear fertility and you think this is a diet for women. It rated as our number one best diabetes diet this year … that was quite unexpected, for me.”

Several panelists said the Fertility Diet, which promotes nuts and vegetables as a source of protein along with changes in exercise and weight loss, could benefit from rebranding. The experts believe that its focus on eliminating trans fats and increasing vegetable protein makes it a healthy choice for many people beyond women wanting to get pregnant.

The third new entry — the Whole30 Diet — did poorly, ranking 38 in best overall diet and hovering near the bottom in many other categories, along with the paleo diet and raw food diet.

The restrictive Whole30 regimen is essentially a modified paleo diet with its focus on cutting carbohydrates and eliminating grains and sugar.

“Whole30 kind of has the cult diet [following] and it might not be the best diet. And our experts didn’t think it was,” Haupt says.

The Raw Food diet is the most difficult to follow, the panel found.

To arrive at the rankings, the magazine asked 22 health experts to rank 38 diets in seven categories, including:

  • how easy it is to follow
  • how well it produces short-term and long-term weight loss
  • how nutritionally complete it is
  • how safe it is
  • how effective it is at preventing and managing heart disease and diabetes.

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The scores help determine the best diets overall, the best commercial diets, best weight-loss diets, best diabetes diets, best heart-healthy diets, best diets for health eating, easiest diets to follow, best plant based diets and best fast weight loss diets.

Bonci says the rankings can be useful for people hoping to lose weight and live healthy lifestyles.

“I think what [the rankings] do is they help people get a plan of action into place,” she says. “Really what we are looking at are the best sustainable eating patterns.”