Brain and Body

These are the Best Diets of 2016 Ranked by Nutritionists and Psychologists

January 11, 2016 | Kelly Tatera


No more wasting time on bogus ones.

When you hear the word “diet,” you probably envision some kind of plan that requires you to exercise daily and binge on kale smoothies. However, not all diets are about weight loss — some focus on improving heart health, lowering your risk of neurological disease, and lowering blood pressure.

Whatever your health goal may be, it’s no secret that the world is filled with bogus diets that promise unrealistic weight loss goals. To help you weed out the scams, US News & World Report spent months fishing through medical journals, government reports and other sources to select 38 diets to rank.

Then, they reached out to a panel of nationally recognized experts in a number of fields including diet, nutrition, obesity, and food psychology. The experts ranked the diets on a scale of one to five, with one being the least effective and five being extremely effective, for four different categories, which are listed below.

Of the 38 diets, there were a few ties, but these are the diets that were ranked in the top 10:

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10. Jenny Craig — Score: 3.7/5

The Jenny Craig diet, founded in 1983, was made popular by a number of celebrities, including Kirstie Alley, Mariah Carey, and Queen Latifah. The program combines customized weight-management counseling with a healthy menu of prepared meals. Customers can either choose to have the meals delivered straight to their doorsteps, or they can pick them up at one of the 700 centers around the world.

Here’s how Jenny Craig fared in the category ratings:

Short-term weight loss: 3.8

Long-term weight loss: 3.2

Easy to follow: 3.6

Healthy: 4.2

8. (Tie) Volumetrics — Score: 3.8/5

Volumetrics is a slow dietary process, so if you’re expecting to drop 10 pounds in two weeks, it’s just not going to happen. However, many diets simply don’t satisfy our hunger, and this can lead to intensified cravings for food.

Volumetrics founder Barbara Rolls, PhD, says that it’s not the number of calories you eat that makes you feel full, but the amount and types of food you eat that matter the most.

This diet focuses on consuming fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy, but it still allows you to occasionally chow down on some fried food and fatty meats.

Here’s how Volumetrics did in the ratings:

Short-term weight loss: 3.6

Long-term weight loss: 3.2

Easy to follow: 3.2

Healthy: 4.4


8. (Tie) The Flexitarian Diet — Score: 3.8/5

Have you ever considered going Vegetarian, but simply can’t bare the thought of completely nixing meats from your diet? If so, the flexitarian diet may be just what you’ve been looking for — the diet focuses on reaching weight loss goals by emphasizing the importance of eating more veggies and less meat but not completely taking meat out of your diet.

Most “flexitarians” aim to go vegetarian for three to five days a week. The idea is pretty simple: by replacing high-calorie meats with low-calorie fruits and vegetables, you’ll likely end up shedding some pounds.

Here's how the Flexitarian diet stacked up against the others:

Short-term weight loss: 3.4

Long-term weight loss: 3.3

Easy to follow: 3.3

Healthy: 4.2


Next, we drop down to 4th place since these 4 diets ended up in a 4-way tie.

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4. (Tie) The Mediterranean Diet - Total score: 3.9/5

You’ve probably heard that the Mediterranean diet works wonders for your health, and a study of over 1.5 million healthy adults showed that following the diet was associated with a lower risk of death from cancer and heart disease.

The Mediterranean diet reportedly follows the traditional cooking style of countries near the Mediterranean sea, so it’s heavy on fish. Additionally, the diet includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like olive oil.

The general goal of this diet is to promote heart health and prevent disease — both important things to be addressing when it comes to your overall health.

Here’s how the Mediterranean Diet performed in its rating scores:

Short-term weight loss: 3.0

Long-term weight loss: 2.9

Easy to follow: 3.3

Healthy: 4.6


4. (Tie) Weight Watchers — Score: 3.9/5

Surely you’ve heard of the Weight Watchers diet before, and it turns out the popular program is the real deal. Weight Watchers claims that by eating healthy and exercising, you’ll lose about 2 pounds a week. With the help of this diet, celebrity Jessica Simpson reportedly shed 60 pounds (27.2 kilograms).

The diet focuses on consuming foods that are high in protein and low in calories, saturated fat, and sugar. There’s also a new SmartPoints food plan that helps you track your eating habits.

Here's how the experts ranked it:

Short-term weight loss: 4.0

Long-term weight loss: 3.5

Easy to follow: 3.7

Healthy: 4.3


4. (Tie) The Mayo Clinic Diet — Score: 3.9/5

This diet focuses on developing a lifestyle that will lead to long-term weight loss. It was created by health experts at the Mayo Clinic, and can supposedly help you lose up to 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms) in a year!  

First, dieters are asked to break five unhealthy habits and replace them with five new healthy habits. The program is heavy on exercise, and recommends that dieters get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise every day.

The diet’s guidelines are on the Mayo Clinic’s website, and if you follow them closely, you could lose 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.3 kilograms) within the first two weeks! Pretty impressive.

Here are the Mayo Clinic Diet’s rankings:

Short-term weight loss: 3.3

Long-term weight loss: 2.9

Easy to follow: 3.1

Healthy: 4.5


4. (Tie) The Fertility Diet — Score: 3.9/5

What you put in your body could in turn affect your chances of conceiving. Two doctors at the Harvard School of Public Health, Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett, founded the Fertility diet after they conducted a study on how women’s diets affected their fertility.

They found that women who regularly ate whole grains, healthy fats, and plant protein had a better egg supply than women who ate a regularly diet of red meat, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats.

Here’s what the experts thought of the diet:

Short-term weight loss: 3.0

Long-term weight loss: 2.6

Easy to follow: 3.7

Healthy: 4.4

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2. (Tie) The TLC Diet — Score: 4/5

While TLC doesn’t stand for “tender loving care,” the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet does aim for dieters to focus on loving and caring for their bodies.

This diet isn’t a weight loss diet — the main goal is to lower your cholesterol. The National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program recommends the TLC diet and claims you can lower your cholesterol by 8 to 10 percent in just six weeks.

How? By cutting back on saturated fat. An easy way to do this is by reducing your intake of whole-milk and meat products. Even though the diet isn’t focused on losing weight, some dieters do end up shedding some pounds on the way.

Here’s how the experts ranked it:

Short-term weight loss: 3.2

Long-term weight loss: 2.8

Easy to follow: 3.0

Healthy: 4.7


2. (Tie) The MIND Diet — Score: 4/5

The MIND diet is all about reducing your risk of neurological disorders, in particular, Alzheimer’s disease. MIND stands for “Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.”

The MIND diet is based on foods that medical literature suggests are good for the brain, and the 10 food categories are: green leafy vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, berries, fish, and olive oil. Apparently the diet is one of the easiest and healthiest to follow.

Here’s what the experts thought about the MIND diet:

Short-term weight loss: 3.1

Long-term weight loss: 2.9

Easy to follow: 3.7

Healthy: 4.5


And finally, drum roll…


1. The DASH Diet — Score: 4.1/5

For the sixth year in a row, the DASH, or "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension," has stolen the number one spot for best overall diet of the year.

The diet aims to treat or prevent hypertension, or abnormally high blood pressure, by promoting lifelong eating habits. The DASH diet can help drop systolic blood pressure by as many as 7 to 12 points, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The DASH diet focuses on reducing sodium intake — in addition to eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, the program suggests to limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day. For reference, just one hot dog can contain 567 mg of sodium.

Here are the winning rankings:

Short-term weight loss: 3.2

Long-term weight loss: 3.0

Easy to follow: 3.1

Healthy: 4.8

For more information on all of these diets, check out US News & World Report’s detailed explanations of each here.

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