The Best Diets of 2020, According to U.S. News & World Report

It’s the beginning of January, aka diet season, and the rankings are in: U.S. News &…

The Best Diets of 2020, According to U.S. News & World Report

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 2020. The winner? (Drumroll, please.) Out of 35 diets, the Mediterranean diet is No. 1 for the second year in a row. Meanwhile, other popular diets, including the ketogenic diet (“keto”) and the Dukan diet landed toward the bottom of the “Best Diets Overall” list, at Nos. 34 and 35, respectively.

How the Best Diets of 2020 List Compares With 2019’s List

For the first time, in 2019, 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 gets points (a score of 4.2 out of 5) for its health benefits. In fact, the Mediterranean diet also won in other categories, including “Best Plant-Based Diets,” “Best Diabetes Diets,” “Best Diets for Healthy Eating” (tie), and “Easiest Diets to Follow.”

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating 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 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 the eating style if you have normal blood pressure.

DASH was tied with the flexitarian diet, another plant-based eating plan that’s often called “semi-vegetarian.” Whatever plan you choose to follow, one thing is clear: Focusing on plant-based foods is one of the best things you can do for your health. According to an article published in May 2017 in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, eating a plant-based diet is associated with a lower risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

That said, the overall rankings haven’t shifted that much from 2019, with the top three diets remaining in the same place as last year. “These rankings continue to show that the healthiest diets are those that focus on long-term lifestyle changes rather than a quick fix that is not maintainable,” says Kelly Kennedy, RD, the staff nutritionist at Everyday Health. “The diets at the top of the list are not what we’d consider ‘hot’ or ‘trendy.’ The top of the list are diets that you might have heard of in your doctor’s or dietitian’s office, not the ‘diet of the moment,’” she says.

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Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, and Flexitarian Diets Are the Best Diets of 2020

Both diets are also highly recommended by doctors because of their known health benefits. “A large amount of research has shown the Mediterranean diet to be effective at preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, the author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies.

For instance, the Mediterranean diet beat low-fat diets for weight loss after one year and improved measures of heart health, according to a study published in April 2016 in the American Journal of Medicine. And in a December 2018 study published in JAMA Network Open on nearly 26,000 women, those who followed the Mediterranean diet closely had up to a 28 percent lower risk of heart disease compared with those who didn’t follow the diet, likely because the diet helped lower inflammation, improved insulin function, and reduced body mass index (BMI). A large-scale review in February 2019 in the journal Circulation Research 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 three studies examining the health benefits of DASH, and found that it can lower blood pressure and LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels, as well as help people lose weight, when compared with diets such as the standard American diet (SAD). The SAD is high in salt, added sugar, and saturated fat, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion notes. What’s more, a September 2018 study published in the journal Medicine analyzed 12 studies of more than a half million participants. Researchers concluded that people who followed the DASH diet closely had a 12 percent lower risk of developing a stroke compared with those who were more lax in their diet.

As for the flexitarian diet, in a review of 25 studies, the diet was shown to help with weight loss, improve blood pressure, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a study published online in January 2017 in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition. Its jump to number 2 (tied) is well deserved, says Kennedy. “The flexitarian diet is an easy way for anyone to cut back on the amount of calories and saturated fat in their diet without having to do a complete diet overhaul. This flexibility makes this diet more easily maintainable in the long term. It also increases the number of servings of fruits and vegetables you’ll be eating, which is really key for a healthy diet,” she says.

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The Diets That U.S. News Says Are the Best for Weight Loss

If you’re looking to lose weight, WW (formerly called Weight Watchers) may be a better bet. It was ranked No. 1 among weight loss diets, followed by the vegan diet. “I have personally seen [WW] help quite a few people to lose weight in a healthy way. Again, the focus is on lots of fruits and veggies, as it is with all the top diets.” 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,” says Kennedy.

The vegan diet came in at No. 2, in a four-way tie with Volumetrics, the flexitarian diet, and Jenny Craig. The vegan diet eliminates all animal foods, including meat and dairy, and represents a move toward more plant-based eating. It won accolades for being filling from the high-fiber foods that are recommended on a vegan diet, such as vegetables and whole grains. Because of that, it also tends to contain fewer calories, helping people lose weight.

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Which Fad Diets Ranked Low on the 2020 U.S. News List?

That said, some of the most popular diets today didn’t fare so well. Near the bottom? The paleo diet (No. 29); raw food diet, of which a raw vegan diet is one type (No. 31); Atkins diet (No. 32), a low-carb diet similar to keto; Whole30 (No. 33), keto (No. 34), and Dukan (No. 35). Rather than focusing on lifestyle changes that can stick for the long haul, these plans present “a quick fix that’s not maintainable,” says Kennedy. “Those trendy diets that eliminate whole 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.

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, adding that the Whole30 also features strict rules that are tough to follow.

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: What to Eat and Avoid on the Ketogenic Diet: A Complete Food List and 7-Day Sample Menu

A Broad Look at the Best Diets Overall in 2020

See the full list at U.S. News, but here’s a broad glance at the results.

Best Diets Overall

  1. Mediterranean Diet
  2. DASH Diet (tie)
  3. Flexitarian Diet (tie)
  4. WW (Weight Watchers) Diet
  5. Mayo Clinic Diet

Best Commercial Diets

  1. WW (Weight Watchers) Diet
  2. Jenny Craig
  3. Nutritarian Diet
  4. The Engine 2 Diet (tie)
  5. South Beach Diet (tie)
  6. Nutrisystem (tie)
  7. Zone Diet (tie)

Best Weight Loss Diets

  1. WW (Weight Watchers) Diet
  2. Vegan Diet (tie)
  3. Volumetrics Diet (tie)
  4. The Flexitarian Diet (tie)
  5. Jenny Craig Diet (tie)

Best Fast Weight Loss Diets

  1. HMR Diet
  2. Optavia Diet
  3. Atkins Diet (tie)
  4. Jenny Craig (tie)
  5. Keto Diet (tie)

Best Diets for Healthy Eating

  1. DASH Diet (tie)
  2. Mediterranean Diet (tie)
  3. The Flexitarian Diet
  4. MIND Diet (tie)
  5. TLC Diet (tie)

Easiest Diets to Follow

  1. Mediterranean Diet
  2. The Flexitarian Diet
  3. MIND Diet (tie)
  4. WW (Weight Watchers) Diet (tie)
  5. The Fertility Diet
  6. DASH Diet

Best Diets for Diabetes

  1. Mediterranean Diet
  2. DASH Diet (tie)
  3. The Flexitarian Diet (tie)
  4. Mayo Clinic Diet (tie)
  5. Vegan Diet (tie)

Best Heart-Healthy Diets

  1. Ornish Diet
  2. Mediterranean Diet
  3. DASH Diet
  4. Vegan Diet
  5. TLC Diet
  6. The Flexitarian Diet

Best Plant-Based Diets

  1. Mediterranean Diet
  2. The Flexitarian Diet
  3. Nordic Diet (tie)
  4. Ornish Diet (tie)
  5. Vegetarian Diet (tie)