U.S. News' 35 Best Diets Overall

U.S. News Staff

The Best Diets Overall

U.S. News evaluated and ranked 35 diets with input from a panel of health experts. To be top-rated, a diet had to be safe, relatively easy to follow, nutritious and effective for weight loss. It also had to be stellar at preventing diabetes and heart disease. Click on to see which diets came out on top.

No. 1 Mediterranean Diet

With its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish and other whole foods, the Mediterranean diet is eminently sensible. Patterned after a traditional way of eating in Greece and other countries around the Mediterranean Sea, this diet earns especially high marks for heart health and diabetes management and prevention. And experts' assessments of it are resoundingly positive, giving this diet an edge over many competitors.

Overall rank: 1
Overall score: 4.2 out of 5

No. 2 (tie) DASH Diet

DASH, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, was developed by physicians specifically to fight high blood pressure. But it certainly looks like an all-star diet to our panel of experts, who give it high marks for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes and its role in supporting heart health. It's widely considered to be a balanced dietary approach for anyone wanting to lose weight or simply improve overall health.

Overall rank: 2
Overall score: 4.1 out of 5

No. 2 (tie) Flexitarian Diet

The Flexitarian diet outperforms many of its competitors, with particularly high scores in nutritional completeness, easiness to follow and long-term weight loss, as well as for heart health. The flexibility of the diet makes it a good fit for many people, thus offering a more sustainable option compared with stricter diets.

Overall rank: 2
Overall score: 4.1 out of 5

No. 4 WW (formerly Weight Watchers) Diet

WW (formerly Weight Watchers) is a smart, effective diet. It surpasses other commercial diet plans in multiple areas, including for short- and long-term weight loss and how easy it is to follow. It's also nutritionally sound and safe, according to experts. Among its pluses: an emphasis on group support, lots of fruits and vegetables and room for occasional indulgences.

Overall rank: 4
Overall score: 3.9 out of 5

No. 5 (tie) Mayo Clinic Diet

This is the Mayo Clinic's take on how to make healthy eating a lifelong habit. It earns especially high ratings from our experts for its nutrition and safety and as a tool against diabetes. Experts found it moderately effective for weight loss.

Overall rank: 5
Overall score: 3.8 out of 5

No. 5 (tie) MIND Diet

The MIND diet takes two proven diets -- DASH and Mediterranean -- and zeroes in on the foods in each that specifically affect brain health. Featuring a wide variety of options, from salad to nuts to fruits and veggies, this diet receives expert praise for its focus on real food. It's a healthy, sensible plan with science to back it.

Overall rank: 5
Overall score: 3.8 out of 5

No. 5 (tie) Volumetrics Diet

Volumetrics outperforms many of its competitors in a number of categories. It earns particularly high marks for being a top weight loss diet, and it also ranked high for healthy eating. The diverse strengths of this eating plan give it broad appeal.

Overall rank: 5
Overall score: 3.8 out of 5

No. 8 TLC Diet

Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, or TLC, is a very solid diet plan created by the National Institutes of Health. It has no major weaknesses, and it's particularly good at promoting cardiovascular health. The diet was designed to help with lowering cholesterol and focuses on fruits and veggies, as well as other health healthy fare like lean proteins.

However, the complete diet requires a "do-it-yourself" approach, in contrast to the hand-holding provided by some commercial diets. And unlike traditional eating patterns such as the Mediterranean, this diet requires a meticulous approach that includes counting calories and closely reading labels.

Overall rank: 8
Overall score: 3.7 out of 5

No. 9 (tie) Nordic Diet

Reflecting a traditional Scandinavian eating pattern, the Nordic diet provides another palatable option to eat healthy. Similar to the Mediterranean diet, it features nutritious foods from land and sea, fruits, veggies, nuts and fatty fish, like salmon, while limiting sweets and red meat. Not surprisingly, the diet gets high marks for nutrition and safety.

Overall rank: 9
Overall score: 3.6 out of 5

No. 9 (tie) Ornish Diet

The Ornish diet gets a mixed reaction from experts. On one hand, it's nutritionally sound, safe and tremendously heart-healthy. On the other, it's not easy for dieters to adhere to the severe fat restrictions that the diet demands.

Overall rank: 9
Overall score: 3.6 out of 5

No. 9 (tie) Vegetarian Diet

As a healthy diet, vegetarianism is solid. It's decent at producing rapid weight loss, according to experts, and is strong in other areas, such as heart health and nutritional completeness, which arguably are more important.

Overall rank: 9
Overall score: 3.6 out of 5

No. 12 (tie) Jenny Craig Diet

Jenny Craig draws praise from experts for being easy to follow, nutritionally complete and safe -- and for offering dieters emotional support. This commercial diet also offers a lower-carb program for people with Type 2 diabetes that's included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's national registry of recognized diabetes prevention programs. But experts noted that Jenny Craig's cost could be a roadblock for some.

Overall rank: 12
Overall score: 3.5 out of 5

No. 12 (tie) The Fertility Diet

If you make these changes to your diet, weight and activity, you can increase ovulation and get pregnant faster -- or so the claim goes. The Fertility diet is a sensible diet that is well-received by our experts for healthy eating and easiness to follow. If getting pregnant is your aim, however, experts say there still isn't sufficient data to support the premise that following it will improve fertility.

Overall rank: 12
Overall score: 3.5 out of 5

No. 14 Asian Diet

The traditional Asian diet is a reasonable choice for an eating pattern, with an emphasis on foods such as rice and fish and infrequent eating of red meat and sweets. Experts give high marks in nutrition and safety, but doubt the plan's ability to deliver short- or long-term weight loss.

Overall rank: 14
Overall score: 3.4 out of 5

No. 15 (tie) Anti-Inflammatory Diet

The Anti-Inflammatory diet is nutritionally sound, with its focus on whole plant foods, but experts express doubt about the potential effectiveness of the diet for weight loss. Others say the impact this diet might have on inflammation in the body still isn't clear.

Overall rank: 15
Overall score: 3.3 out of 5

No. 15 (tie) Nutritarian Diet

An emphasis on whole plant-based foods makes the Nutritarian diet a clearly healthy choice -- if you're able to stick with it. Given its many dietary restrictions, panelists question whether the salad-heavy diet is a viable long-term option for most people trying to shed weight and reach peak health.

Overall rank: 15
Overall score: 3.3 out of 5

No. 17 Vegan Diet

Overall, the health experts are lukewarm on veganism. It receives fairly high marks for being heart healthy, as well as for preventing or managing diabetes. But it's extremely restrictive, doesn't offer built-in social support and may not provide enough of some nutrients like vitamin B12.

Overall rank: 17
Overall score: 3.2 out of 5

No. 18 (tie) Engine 2 Diet

Although experts acknowledge the Engine 2 diet's benefits for heart health and diabetes control and prevention, they faulted the program for being unnecessarily restrictive and "gimmicky."

It also ranked near the back of the pack in regards to ease (or in this case difficulty) of following, requiring serious meal planning and prep and a diet overhaul. "I fail to see anything unique, innovative or useful with this diet," one expert says.

Overall rank: 18
Overall score: 3.1 out of 5

No. 18 (tie) South Beach Diet

Although the South Beach diet rated slightly above average for being able to produce rapid weight loss, its restrictions can make it difficult for dieters to keep the pounds off, experts say. Most are skeptical about its ability to combat diabetes or heart disease.

Overall rank: 18
Overall score: 3.1 out of 5

No. 20 (tie) Biggest Loser Diet

The Biggest Loser diet receives high marks for short-term weight loss, but doesn't rate as favorably for keeping the weight off over the long term. It also ranks lower in other categories like heart health. And many panelists felt that in a sea of diets, it doesn't stand out, ranking near the middle for other categories.

Overall rank: 20
Overall score: 3 out of 5

No. 20 (tie) Nutrisystem Diet

Nutrisystem sits near the middle of the standings. It's safe, easier to follow than many other diets and has few nutritional deficiencies, according to experts. However, it misses the mark for heart health.

Overall rank: 20
Overall score: 3 out of 5

No. 20 (tie) Zone Diet

The Zone diet lagged behind higher-ranked diets, if not always by much, in nearly all ratings categories, including weight loss, how easy it's to follow and its effect on diabetes and heart health.

Overall rank: 20
Overall score: 3 out of 5

No. 20 (tie) Glycemic-Index Diet

Experts are less than impressed with the Glycemic-Index diet, which distinguishes "good" carbs from "bad." Although it rated OK (in the top half of diets) for healthy eating, it scored particularly poorly for weight loss and heart health.

Overall rank: 20
Overall score: 3 out of 5

No. 24 (tie) Macrobiotic Diet

Experts give little credence to the Macrobiotic diet on several counts: Following the plan is a challenge. It's an extreme change from the standard American diet. And it's awfully strict. The macrobiotic approach, one expert sums up, is "a mix of sound dietary guidance, mysticism, folklore and nonsense."

Overall rank: 24
Overall score: 2.9 out of 5

No. 24 (tie) SlimFast Diet

SlimFast is a reasonable approach to dieting, experts conclude. It outscores a number of competitors on weight loss. For being highly structured, it's fairly easy to follow, experts note. But it scores lower than many other diets on heart health.

Overall rank: 24
Overall score: 2.9 out of 5

No. 26 HMR Program

The HMR program topped all diets for short-term weight loss. And it does moderately well in other measures. Still, some experts aren't convinced that the costly meal-replacement program is necessary. "I would only suggest this under extreme circumstances," one says. "It's very expensive and not practical for most people."

Overall rank: 26
Overall score: 2.8 out of 5

No. 27 Optavia Diet

The Optavia diet, a brand based on the original Medifast plan, ranked high behind only HMR for rapid weight loss. But it was dragged down by lower marks in most other categories, including healthy eating and easiness to follow.

Overall rank: 27
Overall score: 2.6 out of 5

No. 28 Alkaline Diet

The Acid Alkaline diet's premise is that by avoiding acid-forming foods, you'll gain health and longevity. The level of acids and alkalines in the body is indicated by pH, a measure on a 0 to 14 scale (with less than 7 being acidic and anything above 7 being alkaline, or basic).

Supporters argue that eating acid-forming foods -- like red meat -- tips your pH balance out of whack and sets the stage for poor health. But don't hold your breath for this diet to work. It's "ridiculous and poorly researched," one expert says. "It's not based on science."

Overall rank: 28
Overall score: 2.5 out of 5

No. 29 (tie) The Fast Diet

This pattern of eating is often referred to as the 5:2 diet -- you eat normally for five days of the week and cut your calories to about 25% of normal intake on two nonconsecutive days of the week. Men consume just 600 calories on their two weekly fast days, while women are limited to 500 calories.

Our experts have plenty of concerns about the Fast diet, ranking it near the back of the pack for heart health and diabetes management.

Overall rank: 29
Overall score: 2.4 out of 5

No. 29 (tie) Paleo Diet

Experts take issue with the Paleo diet on every measure. Regardless of the goal -- weight loss, heart health or finding a diet that's easy to follow -- most experts concluded that it would be better for dieters to look elsewhere.

Overall rank: 29
Overall score: 2.4 out of 5

No. 31 (tie) Raw Food Diet

The experts give the Raw Food diet solid marks for weight loss. But it's considered all but impossible to follow. In addition, its nutritional completeness and safety leave something to be desired among experts who raise concerns about the potential for food poisoning from contaminated ingredients that are raw or undercooked.

"Doing it well involves considerable commitment and effort, knowledge and sacrifice," one expert says. "And there are diets that require less of all these that are likely to be just as healthful."

Overall rank: 31
Overall score: 2.3 out of 5

No. 32 Atkins Diet

Many of our experts find the popular low-carb Atkins diet leaves much to be desired, at least as an all-purpose diet. Although our expert panel concluded that it could outperform nearly all of its competitors in short-term weight loss, unfavorable marks in other measures -- including nutrition, safety and heart health -- drops Atkins in the standings.

Overall rank: 32
Overall score: 2.2 out of 5

No. 33 Whole30 Diet

The Whole30 diet lands near the bottom again this year. The diet was docked for an absence of scientific support, its severely restrictive nature and its elimination of whole grains, legumes and dairy. Our panel of experts also fault its short-term approach with long-term promises.

Overall rank: 33
Overall score: 2.1 out of 5

No. 34 Keto Diet

The aim of the Keto diet is to help a person lose weight and burn fat by entering into a state of ketosis, in which the body breaks down dietary and stored fat into substances that are called ketones. But the strictly carb-limited, high-fat diet leave some experts concerned about nutritional imbalances. Two recommend medical supervision would be necessary. Others raise concerns that the diet is extreme or rigid and would be difficult to sustain.

Overall rank: 34
Overall score: 2 out of 5

No. 35 Dukan Diet

The Dukan diet finished last, with experts giving it dismal ratings in almost every category. Its overall score is more than a full point below average. It's too restrictive, with lots of rules. And there's no evidence it works.

Overall rank: 35
Overall score: 1.9 out of 5

10 Best Diets Overall

-- Mediterranean diet.

-- DASH diet (tied for No. 2).

-- The Flexitarian diet (tied for No. 2).

-- WW (formerly Weight Watchers).

-- Mayo Clinic Diet (tied for No. 5).

-- MIND diet (tied for No. 5).

-- Volumetrics diet (tied for No. 5).

-- TLC diet.

-- Nordic diet (tied for No. 10).

-- Ornish diet (tied for No. 10).

-- Vegetarian diet (tied for No. 10).