With 2019 officially behind us and 2020 just beginning, experts have compiled data to give us an answer to one of our biggest new year’s questions. Which diet is the best? And maybe even more important, which diets will waste our time?
U.S. News and World Report recently released their 2020 ranking of 35 popular diets. This is the 10th year for the list, and they’ve gathered a panel of health experts to give an objective and well-researched presentation of the facts. To make it to the top of the overall list, diets were evaluated based on their scores in different categories. Those categories included how easy the diet is to follow, safety, effectiveness, nutrition, and how protective it is against conditions including diabetes and heart disease.
Some of the results are predictable, but there are a few surprises. One of the most popular nutritional trends of 2019, for example, ended up near the very bottom of the list. Here’s a breakdown of the findings.
The Best of the Best
According to the study, the best diet for 2020 is the all-popular Mediterranean diet. This simple, plant-based diet has now held its top ranking for three years in a row. Its success has a lot to do with how easy it is to follow and its long list of proven health benefits.
The key to the Mediterranean diet is cutting back on red meat, sugar, and saturated fat. It encourages whole grains, fruits, herbs, and foods that are rich in Omega-3. Seafood is an important part of the diet, as is olive oil and the occasional glass of red wine (something I think we can all get behind). Moderate amounts of dairy and poultry are okay, but red meat is reserved for only cheat days and special occasions. Another big part of this nutritional regimen—and a reason why it’s so popular—is that it emphasizes the importance of enjoying good food with good friends. Meals can be put together from foods found easily in the grocery store, and most people say they can stick to the diet because the foods are tasty as well as nutritious.
Research shows that as the best diet, sticking to this meal plan can support a healthier heart and lower the risk of dementia. It’s also linked to stronger bones, reduced risk of diabetes and breast cancer, lower blood sugar, and a longer life.
While the Mediterranean diet claims the top spot, a few others also earned high marks. The DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) and Flexitarian diets tied for second place. DASH is often recommended by health expert to people needing to lower their blood pressure. It involves eating more fruits and veggies while basically eliminating saturated fats and limiting salt intake. The equally-ranked Flexitarian diet focuses on the benefits of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and plant-based proteins. It limits meat but allows for the occasional indulgence, hence its “flexibility.”
In third place, the MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. People typically find this nutrition plan easier to follow, as it allows more meat options and less fish.
And in fourth place, WW (the previously rebranded Weight Watchers) earned good points for weight loss. It’s also applauded for recognizing the importance of having a support group when it comes to diet changes.
Better Luck Next Year?
Scroll to the bottom of the list, and the worst-ranked diet for 2020 is the unfamiliar Dukan diet. This high-protein plan is based on eliminating carbs to force the body to start burning fat. It sounds good in theory, but there are more than a few problems. First, there are a lot of rules, and it’s not easy to follow. You have to carefully watch what you eat and cut out favorites like bread, cheese, and fruit. It also falls short nutritionally and has little scientific evidence to back up its claims.
Possibly the most surprising ranking on this list comes in second to last. It’s the keto diet that so many have raved about in 2019. Similar to the Dukan diet, keto is all about forcing the body into a state of ketosis, where it runs on fats instead of carbs. Praise for keto includes that it makes you feel fuller (so you want to eat less), and it can bring about rapid weight loss. But according to this study, the bad mostly outweighs the good.
Keto involves cutting carbs to the extreme. Not only is this hard to do, it’s also not very healthy. It provides fewer carbs than what is recommended by health guidelines. A lot of people experience rapid weight loss soon after switching to keto, but it’s common for them to put the weight back on within weeks. It’s simply unrealistic to completely cut carbs out of a diet for the long-term. As JAMA Internal Medicine put it, “enthusiasm outpaces evidence” when it comes to the keto diet.
In addition to the overall ranking, U.S. News & World Report also breaks down the same 35 diets into different categories. There is the Best Weight-Loss Diet (Weight Watchers), Best Diabetes Diet (Mediterranean), Best Fast Weight-Loss Diet (HMR Program), and Easiest Diet to Follow (Mediterranean again).
Check out the full list to help reach your 2020 nutritional goals.