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U.S. News & World Report Reveals the Best and Worst Diets for 2024: Mediterranean, DASH, MIND, and More – Everyday Health

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The latest rankings include dozens of plans, such as the Mediterranean diet and the popular keto diet, to help you choose wisely.

It’s the beginning of January, aka diet season, and the rankings are in: U.S. News & World Report just released its top diets for 2024. The winner? (Drumroll, please.) Out of 30 diets, the Mediterranean diet is No. 1 for the seventh year in a row. Meanwhile, other popular diets, including the ketogenic diet (“keto”) and Atkins, landed toward the bottom of the Best Diets Overall list, at Nos. 25 and 26, respectively.
As in previous years, in 2024 the Mediterranean diet beat out the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet on the overall list. (In 2018, the two tied for the top slot.) Here’s why the panel of nutritionists, dietary consultants, and physicians awarded the Mediterranean diet highest honors: It wins for its health benefits. Indeed, the Mediterranean diet won in other categories, too, including Best Diets for Diabetes, Best Heart-Healthy Diets, Easiest Diets to Follow, Best Diets for Bone and Joint Health, Best Family-Friendly Diets, and Best Diets for Healthy Eating.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and some lean meat and fish. Similarly, the second-place DASH diet is a plan designed to lower blood pressure, and it incorporates vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy along with whole grains, lean meats, and nuts. It also sticks to sodium guidelines in an effort to reduce hypertension (high blood pressure), though you can certainly still benefit from this eating style if you have normal blood pressure.
DASH is ahead of the MIND diet, which moved up from No. 4 to No. 3 in 2024. MIND is a plan that is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diet, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This diet promotes cognitive health and focuses on whole grains, vegetables and leafy greens, nuts, beans, berries, poultry, fish, and olive oil to slow brain aging.
That said, the overall rankings didn't shift that much in 2023. The top two diets remain in the top two spots. “It’s no surprise that the Mediterranean diet is ranked best diet for the seventh year in a row,” says Roxana Ehsani, RD, a registered dietitian-nutritionist and board-certified sports dietitian on the medical review board at Everyday Health. She appreciates how the approach can adapt to a wide variety of people during different ages, lifestyles, or chronic health conditions and does not have strict rules. “I love that it allows for a flexible eating style and also allows you to change up your plate at each meal, too, so you don’t get in a food rut or food boredom,” she says.
In addition, the Mediterranean diet can be a useful investment in your future health, says Kelly Kennedy, RDN, the staff nutritionist at Everyday Health. “It is interesting to see the Mediterranean diet come in No. 2 for Best Weight Loss Diet considering this diet isn’t really intended to promote weight loss,” she says. “That benefit is likely a result of the satiating nature of eating a whole-foods-focused diet. The best part is that there is no calorie counting or tracking with the Mediterranean diet, so it may be easier to follow than other weight loss focused diets. In fact, it comes in at number 1 for the easiest diets to follow!”
U.S. News added two new categories in 2023 that stuck around for 2024: Best Family-Friendly Diets and Best Diets for Bone & Joint Health. “The pandemic made it especially clear how important it is for people to be able to prepare meals at home and enjoy those meals together with their loved ones,” says Gretel Schueller, the managing editor of health at U.S. News & World Report. (The term “family-friendly,” she points out, can include meals enjoyed socially with friends and other nonrelatives, and accommodates those with varying cultural, religious, dietary preferences, or nutritional needs.)
When it comes to bone and joint health, this is an important category because diet influences the health of your bones and joints, says Schueller. What’s more, she says, calcium and vitamin D have been named as dietary components of public health concern, according to the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines; many people are falling short on these nutrients, which are essential for good bone health. “A diet that is ranked as ‘good for bone and joint health’ will provide adequate calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K, as well as promote physical activity,” she explains.
Kennedy likes both these categories, particularly Family-Friendly Diets, as she often sees families struggle to prepare multiple meals to cater to everyone’s individual needs. “It’s great that there is now a list to help people select a plan that’s healthy and realistic, not only for themselves but for their entire family,” she says.
RELATED: What Is the Green Mediterranean Diet, and Should You Try It?
All three diets are highly recommended by doctors because of their known health benefits. “The Mediterranean eating plan doesn’t have a set calorie range or portion guidelines, which is why it can fit almost anyone’s needs. Eating in this way may promote weight loss, but the main goal of this eating style is the health benefits it can offer, such as improvements in cardiovascular health,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, the author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies.
For instance, the Mediterranean diet is superior for weight loss compared with other diets and has been found to lower the risk of weight gain and obesity over time, according to a narrative review. Switching from an omnivore diet to a plant-based diet was found to help the majority of people lose weight, possibly because of the boost in fiber intake and the reduction of animal proteins in favor of plant proteins, among other reasons, per a systematic review published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy in 2020.
In a study of more than 100,000 middle-aged and older adults, those who followed the Mediterranean diet closely had up to a 29 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality than those who didn’t eat according to Mediterranean diet principles. Those eating a Mediterranean diet also had up to a 28 percent lower risk of death from cancer. Earlier research also found that those who followed the Mediterranean diet closely had up to a 28 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who didn’t follow the diet, likely because the diet helped lower inflammation, improve insulin function, and reduce body mass index (BMI). A large-scale review called the evidence for the Mediterranean diet's ability to decrease risk of heart disease and stroke “large, strong, and consistent.”
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) funded several studies examining the health benefits of DASH, and found that it can lower blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, as well as help people lose weight, compared with diets such as the standard American diet (SAD).
What’s more, a meta-analysis published in Medicine in September 2018 of 12 studies including more than half a million participants concluded that people who followed the DASH diet closely had a 12 percent lower risk of stroke than those who were more lax in their diet. Experts say this diet is applicable to a wide population. “People tend to think of DASH as a diet only for those with high blood pressure, but the truth is that anyone could benefit from a well-balanced, reduced-sodium diet like DASH,” says Kennedy.
As for the MIND diet, though more research is needed, some studies suggest that those who adhered closely to the MIND diet had a lower risk of dementia than those whose diets weren't aligned with the MIND diet. That said, data is mixed. Other research has concluded that there was no difference in brain health outcomes among cognitively healthy older adults who followed a calorie-restricted MIND diet compared with a calorie-restricted control diet.
RELATED: The Best Foods to Eat When You Have High Blood Pressure
There has been some pushback against the list, as it also includes diets that would be considered fad diets, which tend to be notoriously unsustainable and in some cases unhealthy. But listing a broad range of diets can actually be helpful to consumers, says Kennedy. Registered dietitians guide people toward eating plans that are based on nutritious whole foods, but they also get asked about trending diets all the time, she says. “I think it’s important for people to realize that these rankings aren’t recommending any fad diets, but rather [they’re] a tool to determine if a diet you’re considering is a good fit for you or if there’s a healthier option that would be more maintainable in the long term.” Also, Kennedy points out that some of the most nutritious diets may not rank as high as a weight loss diet or for fast weight loss, as they were designed with health — not weight loss — in mind.
If you’re looking to lose weight, Weight Watchers (WW) or Mediterranean may be a better bet. Both were ranked at No. 1 and 2, respectively, among weight loss diets, followed by Volumetrics and Mayo Clinic in third and fourth place. “I have personally seen [WW] help quite a few people lose weight in a healthy way. Again, the focus is on lots of fruits and veggies, as it is with all the top diets,” Kennedy says. She adds that this is a diet where even desserts aren’t off-limits. “This flexibility makes it easier to follow long term without feeling deprived.” What’s more, by making fruits and vegetables “free” on the points system, this may help people transition to a more plant-based style of eating, she notes.
One popular diet, Noom, fell slightly from last year’s No. 5 spot to the No. 7 in the Best Weight Loss Diets category. “Noom focuses on behavior change along with nutrition education, which in my opinion is an effective combination in bringing about lasting change,” says Palinski-Wade. She notes that the community support, positive reinforcement, and accountability in the app can set the stage for long-term results.
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In 2023, the list ranked 28 diets, and in 2023, 30 are featured, which naturally shook up some of the rankings. Last year, many diets were incorporated into others. For example, vegetarian and vegan (integrated into all diets), Nordic and traditional Asian diet (integrated into the Mediterranean diet), and modified keto (integrated into the keto diet). In 2024, though, the vegan diet was moved back onto the list as its own diet. “I think it’s great that they are ranking and including the vegan diet this year, as plant-based diets are increasing in popularity each year. There have been plenty of studies showing the benefits of eating more plant-based foods and how they are linked to longevity, as well,” says Ehsani.
In addition, last year, HMR was removed because it was no longer available, but it has returned once again and is back on 2024’s list. Others, such as Dukan, Herbalife Nutrition, Plantstrong, and Profile Plan were added.
That said, some of the most popular diets today didn’t fare as well. Near the bottom? Paleo (No. 20), keto (No. 25), Atkins (No. 26), SlimFast (No. 27), and Dukan (tied at No. 28), Herbalife (No. 29), and the raw food diet (No. 30). Rather than focus on lifestyle changes with staying power, these plans present “a quick fix that’s not maintainable,” says Kennedy. “Those trendy diets that eliminate entire food groups or call for extreme changes or deprivation will not rank well with wellness professionals, and this is represented in these rankings,” she says.
Though keto remains a popular diet, outside of a medical need for the diet, such as epilepsy, this high-fat plan can backfire. “These diets are incredibly high in fat and very low in carbohydrates. As a result, they encourage limiting or eliminating healthy foods such as whole grains, legumes, dairy, and many types of fruit. To me, this is a red flag,” says Kennedy. She points out that though keto ranks No. 1 as the Best Fast Weight Loss Diet, “fast doesn’t usually translate to long-lasting. Keto is difficult to do correctly and many people end up going off the diet as a result,” she adds. That ultimately can lead to weight regain.
Palinski-Wade agrees. “I'm not surprised to see some of the most popular diet trends rank near the bottom of the list.” These diets have made a name for themselves by being restrictive and cutting out entire food groups. “Although there is some positive research on the health benefits of following a ketogenic diet on improving insulin resistance and helping to manage diabetes, the diet itself is very restrictive and hard to maintain long term,” she says.
New-to-the-list additions are Plantstrong and Herbalife Nutrition. Plantstrong is a diet that focuses on whole, plant-based foods. Herbalife Nutrition is based on meal replacement protein shakes and snacks, as well as beverages and supplements.
Ultimately, for a diet to successfully help you improve your health, it needs to be sustainable for the long haul — as in, for life. “Fad diets and ultra-restrictive plans may promote fast weight loss initially, but for improved health and disease prevention, weight loss is not a race,” says Palinski-Wade. “Choose the approach that you can foresee yourself sticking with effortlessly for years to come, and that is what will bring you success,” she says.
RELATED: Why Are Healthy Eating Habits Important?
You'll find the full list at U.S. News & World Report, but here’s a broad glance at the results.
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