Last year’s fad diets fell to the bottom of the pack in the U.S. News and World Report’s annual heart-healthy “Best Diet” rankings for 2018, the magazine announced this month, while clinician-recommended staples like the DASH and Mediterranean diets topped the list for the eighth year in a row.
The DASH diet, a regimen designed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to fight and prevent hypertension, tied with the whole grain- and legume-heavy Mediterranean diet as the best overall diet for 2018, according to the report, and also snagged the gold and silver spots for the most heart-healthy regimens of the year, respectively. Of the 40 diets analyzed, popular go-tos like paleo , Atkins, keto and Whole30 diets all lagged in the rankings, pooling in the bottom five.
Unlike some of the more buzzed-about regimens, the DASH diet doesn’t emphasize counting calories, tracking food intake or even shrinking your waistline. According to the U.S. News and World Report, minimizing intake of high-fat and high-salt foods and emphasizing nutrients “you’ve always been told to eat”—such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy—is enough to match recommended guidelines.
The Mediterranean diet is similarly loose, because the eating patterns of the countries the diet is based on—Greece, Italy and France, to name a few—all vary geographically. An emphasis is placed on lower consumption of red meat, sugar and saturated fats and higher consumption of produce, nuts, fish and legumes. The regimen tied with the lesser-known Ornish diet, which heralds fish, whole grains, produce and aerobic exercise, for second place on the heart-healthy list.
The difference between these “winners” and the lowest-ranked diets is largely restriction, experts explained in the 2018 report. The Whole30 diet, which rose to fame in 2015 after Melissa and Dallas Hartwig published a book of the same name, strips full food groups from a person’s diet for 30 days. No sugar, legumes, alcohol, grains or dairy are allowed—and cheat days are a strict no-no.
“No independent research. Nonsensical claims. Extreme. Restrictive,” the report read. “The slams against Whole30 came in strong from our panelists, and it tied with the Raw Food Diet as the worst of the worst for healthy eating.”
The Dukan Diet—a weight-loss strategy that’s restrictive and rule-heavy—was ranked 40th on the heart-healthy diet list and called “idiotic” by one panelist.
The 40 diets were ranked by a group of nutrition and dieting experts, according to the report. Panelists with expertise in obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease reviewed diet profiles and rated each regimen based on how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss results, its safety and its potential to prevent chronic disease, among other factors.