U.S. News' 40 best diets overall

U.S. News evaluated and ranked 40 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 ahead.

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Best diets in 2018
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Best diets in 2018

#1 (tie) DASH Diet

DASH was developed to fight high blood pressure, not as an all-purpose diet. But it certainly looked like an all-star to our panel of experts, who gave 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: 1 
Overall score: 4.1 out of 5

#1 (tie) Mediterranean Diet

With its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish and other healthy fare, the Mediterranean diet is eminently sensible. And experts’ assessments of it were resoundingly positive, giving this diet an edge over many competitors. 

Overall rank: 1
Overall score: 4.1 out of 5

#3 Flexitarian Diet

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

Overall rank: 3
Overall score: 4 out of 5

#4 Weight Watchers Diet

Weight Watchers is a smart, effective diet. It surpassed 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

#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 behind it.

Overall rank: 5
Overall score: 3.8 out of 5

#5 (tie) 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. However, the complete diet requires a “do-it-yourself” approach, in contrast to the hand-holding provided by some commercial diets. 

Overall rank: 5 
Overall score: 3.8 out of 5

#5 (tie) Volumetrics Diet

Volumetrics outperformed its competitors in many categories. It earned particularly high marks for being safe and nutritious, and experts said it could have a positive effect on heart health and diabetes. The diverse strengths of this eating plan give it broad appeal.

Overall rank: 5
Overall score: 3.8 out of 5

#8 Mayo Clinic Diet

This is the Mayo Clinic’s take on how to make healthy eating a lifelong habit. It earned 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: 8
Overall score: 3.7 out of 5

#9 Ornish Diet

The Ornish Diet got 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 restriction the diet demands. 

Overall rank: 9
Overall score: 3.6 out of 5

#10 (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 impressed experts, receiving moderate-to-high scores across the board. It performed particularly well in the diabetes, easiness-to-follow, nutrition and safety categories. Still, if getting pregnant is your aim, while it's considered a sensible diet, experts say there still isn't sufficient data to support the premise that it will help with fertility.

Overall rank: 10
Overall score: 3.5 out of 5

#10 (tie) Vegetarian Diet

As a health 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: 10
Overall score: 3.5 out of 5

#12 (tie) Jenny Craig Diet

Jenny Craig drew praise from experts for being easy to follow, nutritionally complete and safe, and for offering dieters emotional support. But these experts were lukewarm about its potential to bolster heart health or help people with diabetes, and noted that Jenny Craig’s cost could be a roadblock for some. 

Overall rank: 12
Overall score: 3.4 out of 5

#12 (tie) Traditional 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 little red meat. Experts handed out high marks in nutrition and safety, but doubted the plan’s ability to deliver short- or long-term weight loss. 

Overall rank: 12
Overall score: 3.4 out of 5

#14 Anti-Inflammatory Diet

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

Overall rank: 14
Overall score: 3.3 out of 5

#15 (tie) Flat Belly Diet

The Flat Belly Diet landed near the middle of the pack because most of its scores from the experts were right around average. It did get high marks in safety and nutrition. 

Overall rank: 15
Overall score: 3.2 out of 5

#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 questioned 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: 3.2 out of 5

#15 (tie) Spark Solution Diet

The Spark Solution diet is designed around nutritious, reduced-calorie meals that optimize your metabolism, along with a regular fitness routine. Though it’s not particularly novel, it’s a sensible diet, and there’s a good chance it will help you lose weight and keep it off. It’s a “comprehensive program that can lead to healthier eating behaviors,” one expert said. 

Overall rank: 15
Overall score: 3.2 out of 5

#18 Engine 2 Diet

Though experts acknowledged the Engine 2 Diet’s benefits for heart health and diabetes control and prevention, they faulted the program for being unnecessarily restrictive and “gimmicky,” and called for more research into some of its claims. “I fail to see anything unique, innovative or useful with this diet,” one expert said.

#19 (tie) Biggest Loser Diet

The Biggest Loser Diet received high marks for short-term weight loss, safety and soundness as a regimen for diabetes, and it was rated moderately effective for heart health. But many panelists felt that in a sea of diets, it’s not overly special. 

Overall rank: 19
Overall score: 3 out of 5

#19 (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. As a heart-healthy diet, it’s off the mark. 

Overall rank: 19
Overall score: 3 out of 5

#19 (tie) Vegan Diet

Overall, the health experts were lukewarm on veganism despite giving it fairly high marks as a diabetes or heart-disease diet. It is extremely restrictive, doesn’t offer built-in social support and may not provide enough of some nutrients. 

Overall rank: 19
Overall score: 3 out of 5

#22 (tie) Eco-Atkins Diet

One expert summed up Eco-Atkins as a "healthier version of the Atkins diet, but compliance is likely to be more difficult." That's because it's restrictive and little guidance is available. 

Overall rank: 22
Overall score: 2.9 out of 5

#22 (tie) Glycemic-Index Diet

Experts were less than impressed with the Glycemic-Index diet, which distinguishes “good” carbs from “bad.” Although the diet’s ratings in nutrition and safety were relatively strong, it scored particularly low on long-term weight loss, heart benefits and ease of adherence.. 

Overall rank: 22
Overall score: 2.9 out of 5

#22 (tie) South Beach Diet

Although the South Beach Diet earned positive ratings for being able to produce rapid weight loss, its restrictions can make it difficult for dieters to keep the pounds off, experts said. Most were less enthusiastic about its ability to combat diabetes or heart disease. 

Overall rank: 22
Overall score: 2.9 out of 5

#22 (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 is to follow and its effect on diabetes and heart health.

Overall rank: 22
Overall score: 2.9 out of 5

#26 (tie) Abs Diet

The experts found the Abs Diet moderately effective for quick weight loss and middle of the road in most other respects. They took issue with the company’s claim that dieters can drop up to 12 pounds of belly fat in two weeks and questioned the evidence behind some of its tactics. 

Overall rank: 26
Overall score: 2.8 out of 5

#26 (tie) Macrobiotic Diet

Experts gave 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 summed up, is “a mix of sound dietary guidance, mysticism, folklore and nonsense.” 

Overall rank: 26
Overall score: 2.8 out of 5

#26 (tie) SlimFast Diet

SlimFast is a reasonable approach to dieting, experts concluded. It outscored a number of competitors on weight loss and as a diabetes diet, and being highly structured, it’s fairly easy to follow. But it scored lower than many other diets on heart health. 

Overall rank: 26
Overall score: 2.8 out of 5

#29 (tie) HMR Program

The HMR Program received moderate scores in most measures. It did particularly well in categories such as short-term weight loss, nutrition, safety and healthiness. Still, some experts weren’t convinced the costly meal-replacement program is necessary. “I would only suggest this under extreme circumstances,” one said. “It’s very expensive and not practical for most people.”

Overall rank: 29
Overall score: 2.7 out of 5

#29 (tie) Medifast Diet

Experts were likewise unenthused about Medifast. It scored above average in short-term weight loss but was dragged down by lower marks in most other categories. 

Overall rank: 29
Overall score: 2.7 out of 5

#31 Acid Alkaline Diet

The Acid Alkaline diet’s premise is that by helping your body control your pH through diet, you’ll gain health and longevity. pH is a measure of acids and alkalines throughout the body on a 0 to 14 scale, and 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 said. “It’s not based on science.” 

Overall rank: 31
Overall score: 2.4 out of 5

#32 (tie) Paleo Diet

Experts took 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. “A true Paleo diet might be a great option: very lean, pure meats, lots of wild plants,” said one expert – quickly adding, however, that duplicating such a regimen in modern times would be difficult. 

Overall rank: 32
Overall score: 2.3 out of 5

#32 (tie) Raw Food Diet

The experts gave the Raw Food Diet solid marks for weight loss, both for the short and long term, but considered it all but impossible to follow, and its nutritional completeness and safety raised concerns. “Doing it well involves considerable commitment and effort, knowledge and sacrifice,” one expert said. “And there are diets that require less of all these that are likely to be just as healthful.” 

Overall rank: 32
Overall score: 2.3 out of 5

#32 (tie) Supercharged Hormone Diet

Experts were not eager to recommend the Supercharged Hormone Diet, which received mediocre marks in all categories. It performed particularly poorly in areas such as easiness to follow, long-term weight loss, nutrition and effect on diabetes and heart health.

Overall rank: 32
Overall score: 2.3 out of 5

#35 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 percent 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. Not surprisingly, the experts had plenty of concerns, and the Fast Diet landed toward the bottom of the Best Diets Overall rankings. 

Overall rank: 35
Overall score: 2.2 out of 5

#36 Atkins Diet

Many of our experts found 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 long-term weight loss, nutrition, safety and heart health – yanked down Atkins in the standings. 

Overall rank: 36
Overall score: 2.1 out of 5

#37 (tie) Body Reset Diet

Experts were unenthusiastic about the Body Reset Diet, which received mediocre marks in all categories. It performed particularly poorly in areas such as long-term weight loss and easiness to follow. 

Overall rank: 32
Overall score: 2 out of 5

#37 (tie) Whole30 Diet

The Whole30 diet landed near the bottom again this year. The diet has been docked for an absence of scientific support; its severely restrictive nature; its elimination of whole grains, legumes and dairy; and its short-term approach and long-term promises.

Overall rank: 38
Overall score: 2 out of 5

#39 (tie) Dukan Diet

The Dukan Diet tied for last, with experts giving it dismal ratings in almost every category. Its overall score was more than a full star below average. It’s too restrictive, with lots of rules, and there’s no evidence it works.

Overall rank: 39
Overall score: 1.9 out of 5

#39 (tie) Keto Diet

The aim of the Keto diet is to help a person lose weight burning 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 left some experts concerned about nutritional imbalances (a couple recommended medical supervision would be necessary); others raised concerns the diet is extreme or rigid and would be difficult to sustain.

Overall rank: 29
Overall score: 1.9 out of 5

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