Looking to shed a few pounds and get healthy in time for bathing suit season? You might be best served by choosing Weight Watchers or the government-developed Dash diet -- at least according to a new report.
An independent panel of 22 experts, including nutritionists, dietitians, cardiologists and diabetelogists reviewed 20 popular diet profiles that were developed by reporters and editors at U.S. News and World Report. Categories were then created to rate the nutrition plans, including Best Weight-Loss Diets, Best Heart-Healthy Diets, Best Diabetes Diets, Best Diets Overall and Best Commercial Diet Plans.
"If there's one goal we had in ranking diets, it's to help you find your very own Best Diet," Kurtis Hiatt, a health reporter at U.S. News and World Report who worked on the Best Diets project. "There is no one diet for everybody."
The Dash Diet received top honors in both Best Diet Overall and Best Diabetes Diet.
And Weight Watchers took home the gold for the Best Commercial Diet Plan and the Best Weight-Loss Diet. Experts ranked Jenny Craig at No. 2 in both categories.
The Mediterranean Diet, the TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) Diet and Weight Watchers all tied for second place in the Best Diet Overall.
Other top contenders included the Raw Food Diet, the Ornish Diet, which ranked No. 1 in heart health, and the TLC Diet, a government-designed eating plan that took second place for the Best Heart-Healthy Diet.
"Ranking diets gives consumers a snapshot of the options, but the most important message for consumers who are trying to lose weight is to find an eating plan that allows them to consume the foods they enjoy, in proper portions, combined with physical activity," said Connie Diekman, director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. "Weight loss is just the first step to alleviating the obesity epidemic, keeping the weight off is most important, and this is when diets will only work if an individual can adhere to them for the long-term."
The Dash Diet
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute created Dash (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) in 1997 to help combat hypertension and encourage a healthy meal plan for Americans. The diet is mostly composed of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry and whole grains. It is high in fiber, potassium, calcium and magnesium, and low in fat.
"The Dash Diet is awesome," said Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "It's basically a healthy, low-fat diet that asks people to eat what we should be eating anyway -- lots of fruits and vegetables and three servings of low-fat [or] fat-free day per day for added nutrition."
Ayoob said he often recommends the Dash Diet to his patients because it is healthy, consistent with the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and acts as a good family diet, "so the person trying to lose weight can still prepare the same meal for the whole family," he said.
In many studies, experts say the Dash has been proved to be more efficient than hypertension medication in lowering blood pressure.
"It is a totally healthy and excellent way to go, probably better than any of the others mentioned," said Carla Wolper, a senior clinical nutritionist at the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York.