Mediterranean diet ranked best diet for 5th year in a row

U.S. News and World Report shared their top diets of 2022.

January 04, 2022, 8:19 AM

U.S. News and World Report has released their annual ranking of diets, and the Mediterranean diet has topped the list for the fifth year in a row.

The Mediterranean diet -- an eating pattern that emulates how people in the Mediterranean region have traditionally eaten, with a focus on foods like olive oil, fish and vegetables -- was named best diet overall for 2022, as well as best diet for healthy eating, easiest diet to follow, best heart-healthy diet, best plant-based diet and best diet for diabetes.

"There's no real surprise why that is," Gretel Schueller, managing editor of U.S. News and World Report, told "Good Morning America." "It's healthy. It's delicious. It's nutritious, and it's really easy to follow."

Overall, the diets that ranked in the top five of this year's list -- Mediterranean, DASH, Flexitarian, MIND, TLC, Mayo Clinic, WW and Volumetrics -- have consistently ranked near the top of U.S. News and World Report's list for the past several years.

In addition to ranking in the top five in overall diets, WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers, also took the top spot in the best weight-loss diet and best diet plan categories. The diet was applauded by U.S. News' panel of experts for providing a "customizable, community-driven, long-term strategy for weight loss."

As in past years, diets that are among the most-searched online -- like the Whole30, Atkins, Dukan and ketogenic diets -- ranked lowest on U.S. News & World Report's list, in large part because of their restrictions.

Here is a breakdown of the top three diets in U.S. News and World Report's 2022 Best Diets Overall ranking.

Mediterranean diet

PHOTO: The Mediterranean diet highlights fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil.
The Mediterranean diet highlights fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil.
STOCK PHOTO/Shutterstock

U.S. News and World Report called the Mediterranean diet a "well-balanced eating plan" and pointed to research that suggests the diet helps prevent some chronic diseases and increases longevity.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil and flavorful herbs and spices; fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; and poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation, according to U.S. News and World Report.

DASH diet

PHOTO: The DASH diet, designed to help prevent or treat hypertension, includes fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
The DASH diet, designed to help prevent or treat hypertension, includes fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

Tied at number two is the DASH diet, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, and was originally started by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) as a diet to help reduce blood pressure.

The plan focuses on fruit, vegetables, whole grain, lean protein and low-fat dairy and eliminates foods high in fat and sugar-sweetened drinks and sweets, according to U.S. News and World Report.

"DASH discourages foods that are high in saturated fats like fatty meats. It's not a restrictive diet, it's nutritionally sound," said Schueller. "There's a tremendous amount of science to back up its effectiveness."

The NHLBI publishes free guides on the plan so you can see if it is right for you.

Flexitarian diet

PHOTO: A selection of beans and lentils.
A selection of beans and lentils.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

The flexitarian diet encourages people to try alternative meat options, like tofu, but leaves room for flexibility if you can't quite fully give up meat. The diet was promoted by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner in a 2009 book that says you can reap the benefits of a plant-heavy diet even if you eat meat occasionally, according to U.S. News and World Report.

This plant-heavy diet focuses on adding five food groups -- "new meat," fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and sugar and spices -- to your diet, instead of taking foods away.

The "new meat" food group includes tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds and eggs, according to U.S. News and World Report.

"For those who want to sort of be more plant-forward, this allows them to do that while still having their little meat treats when they want them," said Schueller.

MIND diet

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet, ranked fifth last year, is a hybrid of the top-rated DASH and Mediterranean diets.

The diet focuses on "10 brain-healthy food groups: green leafy vegetables in particular, all other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine," according to U.S. News and World Report.

Among the diet's requirements is eating three servings of whole grains, a salad and another vegetable daily, as well as a single glass of wine if desired.

TLC diet

The TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet was created by the National Institute of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program with the "goal of cutting cholesterol as part of a heart-healthy eating regimen," according to US News and World Report.

The diet, which moved from up three spots in the Best Overall Diets ranking this year, calls for eating lots of vegetables, fruits and lean meats, and allows for breads and pasta too.

In addition to setting a daily caloric goal, participants aim to cut saturated fat to less than 7% of daily calories and aim to consume no more than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Mayo Clinic diet

The Mayo Clinic diet focuses on a restructured food pyramid that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains, according to U.S. News and World Report.

"In general, these foods have low energy density, meaning you can eat more but take in fewer calories," writes U.S. News & World Report. "Think of it this way: For about the same amount of calories you could have a quarter of a Snickers bar or about two cups of broccoli."

Volumetrics diet

The Volumetrics diet is described by U.S. News and World Report as "more of an approach to eating" than a structured diet.

Food is divided into four groups with the goal of eating more of categories one and two (fruits and vegetables, nonfat milk and broth-based soup, grains, low-fat meat, legumes) and less of categories three and four (meat, crackers, cheese, cookies, nuts, butter, oil, candies and chips).

"The point is to learn the Volumetrics philosophy and apply it where you can throughout the day," writes U.S. News and World Report. "See where you can replace a category four item with a category one item, for example."

WW

WW rebranded in 2018 with the new name and a new focus on wellness.

WW's myWW program, launched in 2019, uses details of members' food preferences and lifestyle to match members with one of three ways to follow the WW program, according to the company.

WW also introduced a PersonalPoints Program in November that offers a custom-built plan for each member. In another new addition, WW's Points now account for added sugar, unsaturated fat and fiber, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Tips for incorporating the diets into your life

Maya Feller, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, said the top diets all share one thing in common, that they are easy to follow.

"This is about what you can add to your pattern of eating, rather than what you remove," she said. "It is not restrictive. It's incredibly health-forward, bursting with nutrients and something that everyone can customize to their own palate.'

Feller shared a recipe for each of the top three overall diets.

Mediterranean Diet: Vegetable Tagine

PHOTO: Maya Feller recommends trying vegetable tangine if following the Mediterranean diet.
Maya Feller recommends trying vegetable tangine if following the Mediterranean diet.
Maya Feller for ABC

Ingredients:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp black pepper

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic minced

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1/2 head cauliflower, roughly chopped

1/2 eggplant, roughly chopped

1 zucchini, roughly chopped

1 potato, roughly chopped

1, 15oz box of low sodium chickpeas

2 pinches of saffron

1 cinnamon stick

Fresh mint and parsley, for garnish

Serve with couscous or flatbread of your choice

Directions:

1. Place olive oil, cumin, turmeric and black pepper in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and cook for 3-5 min. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, potato, and 3 cups of water or low sodium vegetable broth, reduce flame cover, and cook for 20 minutes.

3. Add chickpeas, saffron, cinnamon stick, and 15oz of water and cook for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile cook couscous according to package instructions.

5. Spoon vegetables into a shallow bowl over couscous and garnish with fresh mint and parsley.

DASH Diet: Soup Joumou

PHOTO: Maya Feller recommends trying Soup Joumou if following the DASH diet.
Maya Feller recommends trying Soup Joumou if following the DASH diet.
Maya Feller for ABC

Adapted from Cindy Similien's soup joumou recipe originally published by The New York Times.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Epis seasoning or Trinidadian Green Seasoning

1 lb boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes

3/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 ribs celery, diced

2 Scallions, diced

1 bunch Parsley, roughly chopped

1 Shallot, roughly chopped

2 tomatoes roughly chopped

8 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 winter squash, peeled and cut into 3 inch cubes

5 medium Idaho potato, roughly chopped

5 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 habanero pepper

Ripe avocado for garnish

For the dumplings (optional):1 1/2 cups einkorn flour1/4 tsp baking powder 1 tsp extra virgin olive oilPinch of flakey salt1/8 tsp fresh black pepper

Directions:

1. Marinate the beef in the green seasoning and lime juice overnight.

2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot add olive oil, onion, garlic, celery, scallion, parsley, and shallots over medium heat. Sautee for 5-7 minutes until vegetables are soft.

3. Add tomatoes, broth, squash, potato, carrots, habanero, and marinated meat, cover and cook for 60-90 minutes allowing the flavors to come together.

4. Meanwhile, make the dumplings by combining all ingredients in a medium bowl and hand mixing. Add water 2 tablespoon at a time, as needed. Take a golf ball sized portion of dough and roll between your hands until it becomes elongated. Drop them into the soup one by one and cook for another 15-20 minutes.

5. To serve, spoon a heaping portion into a bowl an top with 1/2 ripe avocado. Enjoy.

Flexitarian Diet: Multigrain rice bowl with grilled chicken and mixed vegetables

PHOTO: Maya Feller recommends trying vegetable tangine if following the Mediterranean diet.
Maya Feller recommends trying vegetable tangine if following the Mediterranean diet.
Maya Feller for ABC

Ingredients:

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 bunch of chives, minced

1 package straw mushrooms

1 package enoki mushrooms

1 package beech mushrooms

4 chicken breasts

2 tablespoons togarashi

Cooked multigrain rice

Shredded carrots

Juice of 1 lemon

Pickled cabbage

Directions:1. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

2. Add sesame oil and chives to a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Sautee for 3- 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes until soft.

3. Season chicken breasts with togarashi and arrange on a sheet pan. Place into oven and bake for 20 minutes.

4. To serve: In a large bowl 1 heaping portion of sauteed mushrooms, 3/4 chicken breast, 1 serving spoon of rice, 1 handful of carrots topped with lemon juice and 1 serving spoon of pickled cabbage.

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