The Best and Worst Diets for 2020

Last week, U.S. News & World Report released its 10th annual ranking of the best diets. This report, comprised of 35 diets, included reviews from a panel of 25 health experts. According to the report, to achieve a top ranking “a diet had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against diabetes and heart disease.”

For the third consecutive year, there was a clear winner which stood above the competition, while one of America’s most popular programs ranked near the bottom. So, without further ado… here’s some of the best (and worst) diets to follow for 2020.

The Best

 

Mediterranean Diet

Inspired by the eating habits of people living in Italy and Greece in the 1960s, the Mediterranean Diet was ranked at the top spot for the third year running. This venerated regimen is built around a pyramid that emphasizes the daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, as well as the weekly consumption of fish and other types of seafood, with poultry, eggs, yogurt and cheese eaten in moderation. Adhering to the Mediterranean Diet does not preclude red meat and sweets from your regimen, but they should only be indulged on special occasions. The efficacy of this eating pattern has been assessed in several studies, including in a 2018 study published in Nutrition & Diabetes which showed that sticking to the Mediterranean Diet is associated with lower levels of weight gain, and a slimmer waist.

DASH Diet

Coming in at number two (in a tie), and promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) Diet is designed to combat hypertension. It emphasizes eating foods which are high in blood pressure-fighting nutrients (like potassium, calcium, and protein) and includes “the usual’s” such as veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. Implementing DASH is more about making small, manageable changes rather than overhauling your entire lifestyle. To achieve success using DASH, one can:

  • Add one serving of a fruit or vegetable to each meal.
  • Enhance the taste of foods by using herbs and spices instead of salt.
  • Substitute foods like almonds or pecans in place of your favorite bag of chips.
  • Take a 15-minute walk after lunch or dinner (or both).

The Flexitarian Diet

Tied at the two spot, The Flexitarian Diet, developed by registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, is a vegetarian approach that allows flexibility (as suggested by its name). This eating regimen promotes weight subtraction via food addition, as it encourages you to incorporate five food groups into your habitual eating, including: the “new meats” (non-meat proteins, such as beans or eggs); fruits and veggies; whole grains, as well as sugar and spice. Those who choose to become a “Flexitarian” are provided with a five-week meal plan that details breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack recipes, and encourages all of its followers to go at their own pace, and tweak (either adding or subtracting calories) at their discretion.

Weight Watchers Diet

Formerly used exclusively as a weight loss regimen, the Weight Watchers (WW) Diet now is all-compassing as it focuses on improving overall health and well-being. Beginning late last year, WW launched the myWW program, which builds on the WW’s SmartPoints system of assigning each food or beverage with a point based on nutrition. This new program matches individual members with one of three paths to program adherence based on their food preferences and lifestyle.

A recent review published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes examined the results of previous studies that compared WW, Atkins, South Beach, and Zone diets, and found that WW, according to the researchers was the only diet that “consistently demonstrated greater efficacy at reducing weight at 12 months.”

Honorable Mentions: Mayo Clinic Diet, MIND Diet, Volumetrics Diet, TLC Diet.

The Not-So-Good

 

Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet was developed around the premise that you shouldn’t consume foods that cavemen didn’t eat, thereby eliminating sugar, dairy, legumes, and grains, while emphasizing poultry, meat, fish, fruits, and veggies. Its proponents back the idea that removing modern-era foods not only cuts weight but mitigates the odds of developing “diseases of civilization” such as heart disease, and diabetes. Alas, Paleo still ranked poorly among the experts, who deemed it “too restrictive to be healthy or sustainable.”

Atkins Diet

Perhaps one of the more well-known diets on this list, the Atkins Diet, created by cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins, involves a four phase approach to losing weight – starting with very little carb intake, and eating progressively more until you attain your goal weight. Despite its benefits, such as quick weight loss and the freedom to consume fatty foods, the experts concluded that Atkins is not a favorable all-purpose diet – it’s too restrictive of breads and other carbs, and may cause low-carb dieters to consume an overabundance fats, raising health concerns.

Whole30 Diet

The founders of Whole30 tout that it’s designed to “change your life” by quelling cravings, balancing hormones, and eradicating all digestive problems, among other things. It’s based on the theory that practically any ailment that plagues the human body has a diet-linked causation, and that eliminating all traces of sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy and legumes for 30 days will result in a cleanse. Nevertheless, the experts cautioned that “Whole30 lacks scientific support and is severely restrictive,” with one expert going as far as to say: “This is a quack diet!”

Keto Diet

Last and (one of the) least, the ever-popular Keto Diet, which emphasizes weight loss through extreme fat-burning, has become a polarizing program. Its proponents believe that by cutting carbs and filling up on fats, your body will enter a state of ketosis where it breaks down both dietary and stored fats. However, its detractors can point to a 2017 study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, which found that the Keto Diet has a mildly negative impact on physical performance in terms of endurance capacity, leading to faster exhaustion during exercise. Overall, the article noted that it’s still too soon to tell whether people maintain long-term weight loss on ketogenic diets.

Dishonorable Mentions: Dukan Diet, Raw Food Diet, The Fast Diet, Alkaline Diet.