Every year info service US News gathers a panel of experts – including dietitians, academics and doctors – to rank and review the best diets in the world, and for the eighth year in a row the DASH Diet has come out on top.
This year, though, the Mediterranean diet also topped the rankings alongside the DASH diet. The diets’ scores are determined by a number of criteria, including how good the diet is for weight loss, how healthy it is in the long term and how easy it is to stick to.
Most of us are now familiar with the Mediterranean diet, which broadly involves eating more fish, vegetables, olive oil and wholegrains, and less dairy and red meat, but the DASH diet is not so well established in the collective consciousness. So what is it exactly?
The DASH diet is in fact similar to the Mediterranean diet in emphasising foods like fruit, veg, wholegrains, lean protein and low-fat dairy, and treating sweets and red meat as occasional treats rather than the norm. It was developed to help people combat high blood pressure but everyone can benefit from following its advice.
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The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) developed the DASH diet and has free guides (PDF) for those looking to follow the plan. To get started with the DASH diet, try swapping a couple of meaty meals a week for plant-based alternatives that feature nuts, seeds and legumes, and simply eating more veg in general.
While the DASH and Mediterranean diets both come recommended by the US News rankings, highly restrictive diets like the keto and Dukan both scored poorly, coming joint last of the 40 diets considered. While both got high grades for short-term weight loss, the expert panel deemed them an unwise long-term option because they are hard to maintain and potentially unhealthy due to cutting out or severely restricting entire food groups (mostly carbs), which can put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies.
You can see the full reports on each diet ranked, including other recommended options like the flexitarian and Weight Watchers diets (third and fourth overall), on the US News website.