With the increased amount of attention on holistic health along with the rise of idealistic new diets, it’s no surprise that millions of people are confused about what they should actually eat.
Recently, the U.S. News & World Report (best known for ranking colleges) came out with its list of the top 40 major diets in the world, raising eyebrows with more than a few choices (including a surprise last place finisher, the ketogenic diet).
The online magazine’s top choice is also likely to ruffle a few feathers, as is its decision to completely ignore the benefits of avoiding toxic, synthetic pesticides and other food additives.
Mediterranean Takes #1 Spot Overall Diet Rankings
According to the new rankings, the Mediterranean Diet, a classic diet emphasizing vegetables, olive oil, and smaller servings of meat, took home Best Overall honors, tied with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet.
Overall, the Mediterranean and DASH Diets scored a 4.8 out of 5 on the ‘Healthy’ scale.
The Mediterranean Diet ranked low in terms of its ‘Weight Loss’ benefits both short-term and long-term (2.9 and 3.1 scores, respectively) but scored higher in terms of being ‘Easier-to-Follow (3.6).’
“It’s generally accepted that the folks in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments,” the report said, explaining the theory behind it.
The DASH Diet is not as well known, but tied for first because of its “nutritional soundness and safety.”
“Endorsed by the federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services, the diet is packed with produce and light on saturated fat and salt,” the report continued (definitely a red flag there considering the government’s support for so many toxic food additives).
The diet was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and focuses on limiting salt while recommending that meat servings be kept low (6 ounces a day tops).
It also recommends a sky-high 6 to 8 servings of grains daily along with lots fruits and vegetables — a definite departure from gluten-free styles that are popular nowadays and an approach similar to the oft-criticized, classic food pyramid.
Some research has shown it may be useful for weight loss, although it garnered the same low scores as the Mediterranean Diet in both the short and long-term categories.
The third highest-ranking was the Flexitarian Diet, which is almost exclusively plant-based but gives followers the option to eat meat if they feel the need. The Weight Watchers Diet (believe it or not) finished fourth.
Rankings were determined by a “panel of experts,” most of them coming from mainstream academic, nutrition or medical backgrounds.
Where the Rankings Completely Drop The Ball
Despite the wealth of information presented, the rankings do not seem to take into account whether or not each diet recommends eating organic, avoiding GMO foods and synthetic pesticides, or eating “cleaner” in general, leaving consumers in the dark.
For example the ketogenic diet finished dead last with a ranking 1.9 out of 5, even though the recommendation to eat grass-fed foods was not even included, which makes a huge difference.
In the Paleo Diet section, the article speaks about one aspect of the inspiration behind the diet (our Paleolithic ancestors and going mostly grain-free), but completely neglects to mention its focus on organic foods and grass fed foods, culminating in a 2.9 out of 5 ranking that is sure to be controversial.
The vegan diet section also fails to mention the focus on organic and non-GMO foods as a basis of the diet, products which have become commonplace in vegan food sections and restaurants.
Taken at face value, the rankings focus on the macro element of each combination of foods rather than the overall quality of foods consumed — a key component of any diet.
Thoughts on the U.S. News & World Report Rankings
While it’s admirable that U.S. News & World Report came out with such a comprehensive list, this one still feels lacking because it focuses almost entirely on mainstream and some would say gimmicky diets (like the ‘Cookie Diet’ for example).
At the end of the day, you could do far worse for health advice than spending a few hours combing through the rankings to see what diet works for you.
Just be careful not to blindly follow any advice, especially considering the rankings’ support for mainstream diets that often do little to distinguish between naturally raised foods and their factory farmed counterparts.
As someone who has tried multiple diets ranging from raw almost entirely plant-based to the Bulletproof (ketogenic) Diet (which seemed quite good but was also hard to follow), I still don’t have a good handle on which diet works best for me, something that can be said abut most people.
But one thing I do know is that organic, whole foods and clean, filtered water should be the foundation of any successful diet, and to not mention these aspects of health is leaving out the whole truth.
You can view the full rankings by clicking on this list.
Consult a doctor before changing your diet, you can see our full disclaimer here. If you’d like to learn more about the DASH Diet, you can check out the Amazon best-selling book ‘The Dash Diet Weight Loss Solution: 2 Weeks to Drop Pounds, Boost Metabolism, and Get Healthy.’