What makes a diet best? In Best Diets 2016, the latest set of exclusive rankings from U.S. News, the DASH diet beat out 37 others, including Atkins, Jenny Craig and Slim-Fast, to win the "Best Diets Overall" crown. Among the 17 commercial diet programs marketed to the public, Weight Watchers and the Mayo Clinic Diet came out on top. (Our methodology explains how.) We also ranked the diets on likelihood of weight loss, ability to prevent and control diabetes and heart disease, healthiness and how easy they are to follow.
Our analysis puts hard numbers on the common-sense belief that no diet is ideal for everybody.
Take DASH, the Best Diets Overall winner. It wasn't created as a way to drop pounds, but as a means of combating high blood pressure (it stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The federal government, which funded the research behind DASH, doesn't even call it a diet – it's an "eating plan." If losing weight is your No. 1 goal, a diet in our Best Weight-Loss Diets rankings would be a more likely choice. Or if you have diabetes, you might want to look especially hard at Best Diabetes Diets.
That's why we're giving you lots of tools. Each diet was scored by a panel of experts in short-term and long-term weight loss, on how easy it is to follow, how well it conforms to current nutrition standards and on health risks it may pose – plus its soundness as a diabetes and as a heart diet.
Besides the rankings and data, each diet has a detailed profile that tells you how it works, what evidence supports (or refutes) its claims, a nutritional snapshot – right down to daily milligrams of potassium – and, of course, a close look at the food you'd eat, with photos. All of it is reliable and easy to understand.
These tools will be at least a start at helping you, your mother, your brother – whomever – find that elusive perfect-for-me diet. Once you've whittled down your eligible diets to a few, consider your personality and lifestyle. If you're a foodie, you probably won't be happy with a plan built around frozen dinners, such as Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig, or mostly just-add-water meals, like Medifast. If cutting carbs will make you cranky and resentful, you'll want to stay away from low-carb diets such as Atkins and South Beach.
Then think about what did and didn't work the last time you were on a diet. Was it too restrictive? Lots of diets we covered don't consider any food off-limits. Didn't provide enough structure? Some plans will tell you exactly what to eat and when.
With any diet, ask yourself: How long can I stay on this? No matter how good it looks – or how good it might make you look – if you can't stick with it in the long run, you'll be right back where you started after a couple months.
And consider physical activity – an important component of any healthy lifestyle. Does your plan lay out a specific exercise program, or are you on your own?
The questions are endless. Right now, you may have no idea what will or won't work for you. That's what we're here for. We're not going to tell you what diet you should be on, but we can help lead you to a winner – the Best Diet for you.
Here's which diets came out on top in the nine different ranking lists:
Best Diets Overall
1. DASH Diet
2. MIND Diet (tie)
2. TLC Diet (tie)
Best Weight-Loss Diets
1. Weight Watchers
2. HMR Program
Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets
1. Biggest Loser (tie)
1. HMR Program (tie)
Best Diabetes Diets
1. Fertility Diet
2. Biggest Loser (tie)
2. DASH Diet (tie)
Best Heart-Healthy Diets
1. Ornish Diet
2. TLC Diet
Best Commercial Diet Plans
1. Mayo Clinic Diet (tie)
1. Weight Watchers (tie)
Best Diets for Healthy Eating
1. DASH Diet
2. TLC Diet
Easiest Diets to Follow
1. Fertility Diet (tie)
1. MIND Diet (tie)
1. Weight Watchers (tie)
Best Plant-Based Diets
Updated on Jan. 5, 2016: This is an updated version of a previously published story.
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