What do colleges, hospitals and diets have in common? The U.S. News and World Report ranks them. Recently, U.S. News and World Report evaluated 32 diets and announced what they thought was the best diet. In order to rank high on the list of diets, a diet has to be easy to follow, nutritionally sound, effective against diabetes and heart disease, and effective for weight loss. They found that the DASH diet ranked number one overall. Weight Watchers ranked number one as a weight loss diet and as the easiest to follow. The Ornish diet was the number one heart healthy diet, and the Biggest Loser diet and the Dash diet were the best diets to follow for diabetes.
If some of these diets sound unfamiliar, below is a rundown:
The DASH diet. This diet, which was created by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and studies show that this diet can in fact help lower blood pressure. Studies have also shown that the diet can help lower “bad” cholesterol and increase “good” cholesterol and can help control blood sugar, as well. The DASH diet promotes foods high in potassium, calcium, and fiber with the idea that these nutrients are crucial to fighting hypertension. However, what makes the diet relatively easy is instead of tracking the micronutrient contents of the foods you eat, the diet promotes foods rich in these nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean proteins, and limits sugar, salt, saturated fat, and, by definition, many processed foods.
Weight Watchers. This diet ranked number one in weight loss, easiest to follow, and best commercial diet. The claim is that if this diet is correctly followed, the dieter should lose two pounds a week. On the Weight Watchers diet every food is given a certain amount of points based on protein, carbohydrate, fat, fiber, and calorie content, as well as how hard the body has to work to burn it off. Dieters are allotted a certain amount of daily points based on their height, weight, age, and activity level. The individualized allotment of points is to create an approximately 1,000 calorie/day deficit to enable weight loss. Exercise is encouraged and extra points can be earned based on exercise done. For an extra cost, individuals can also go to meetings and use online tools for emotional support.
The Ornish Diet. Also known as the Spectrum diet, Ornish is based on the theory that all-or- nothing diets don’t work. This diet has foods ranked from one to five (one being “the most healthful”). Individuals can analyze various foods and see how their eating patterns measure up against a predetermined advantageous spectrum. The goal is to move toward the group one end of said spectrum. Foods in the group one end include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy, nonfat dairy, and egg whites. Avocados, seeds, and nuts are among the foods categorized in group two. Red meat, fried foods, butter, and egg yolks are all found in group five. This diet, which promotes a very low-fat way of eating was ranked number one for heart health, however ranked number 26 for easiest diet to follow.
The Biggest Loser Diet. Based on the reality television show, this diet is a basic balanced diet. The diet recommends at least four servings of fruits and vegetables, three servings of protein, two servings of whole grains, and limits “extras” to 200 calories a day. Additionally, exercise is an essential component of the diet. Individuals may like the diet as no foods are off limits and it is nutritionally sound, however, it does require effort.
The raw foods diet (in which 75-80% of the food consumed daily is not heated above 115°), the Paleo diet (a diet based on what the cavemen ate), and the Atkins diet (a high protein and low carb diet) were all among the lowest on the diet totem pole.
To see how other diets weighed in go to http://health.usnews.com/best-diet
By Shoshana Genack, MS, RD