It's a winning streak that just won't quit. For the fifth year in a row, the Mediterranean diet was first across the finish line in the annual race for best diet, according to ratings announced Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report.
Coming in a close second, in a tie: The DASH diet, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension and emphasizes reducing salt intake; and the flexitarian diet, which encourages being a vegetarian most of the time -- but is flexible enough to allow a burger once in a while.
All three of these diets reduce or eliminate processed foods, and stress packing your plate with fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
"I think it's important to note that the top three diets -- Mediterranean, DASH and flexitarian -- all offer variety, flexibility and few, if any, rules," said Gretel Schueller, managing editor of health for U.S. News & World Report, who puts out an annual ranking of diets, in an email.
"All the diets that perform well are safe, sensible and backed by sound science. The diet winners also all provide adequate calories with a focus on vegetables, fruits and whole grains; a modest amount of lean protein, dairy; and an occasional treat," Schueller added.
A panel of 27 experts examined 40 diets and ranked them on several categories: How easy is the diet to follow; how likely is a person to lose significant weight, both in the short and long term; how effective the diet is in preventing cardiovascular disease or diabetes; and the diet's nutritional completeness.
"Generally speaking, the top diets are driven by what you can eat -- not what you can't eat. And right now -- during these stressful times of the pandemic -- that's especially helpful for people," Schueller said. "We want food we can enjoy. And we want food that will maintain our health, maybe even boost our immunity. The top-ranked diets offer this."