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Top 10 Diets to Support Physical and Mental Health in 2022

They're all healthy in their own ways, but some may suit you better than others.

Key points

  • In recent years, the Mediterranean diet has consistently won the "Best Overall Diet" category.
  • Several diet plans are considered very healthful by nutrition experts, and one may suit your needs better than another.
  • The best diet plans are nutritionally balanced, flexible, and easy to follow for a lifetime of healthful eating.

Every year, U.S. News & World Report, in collaboration with a panel of health, nutrition, and diet experts, ranks the most well-known eating styles to come up with the best overall diet in categories. For 2022, 40 different diets were ranked within categories that included “Best Diets for Healthy Eating,” “Best Plant-Based Diets,” “Best Weight-Loss Diets,” “Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets” “Best Heart-Healthy Diets,” “Best Diabetes Diets,” and “Easiest Diets to Follow,” in addition to “Best Overall Diet.”

This year, the Mediterranean diet ranked #1 in all but two categories, leading to its nomination as “Best Overall Diet.” If you are looking to follow a plant-based diet, a heart-healthy diet, a diabetes prevention or management diet, a general diet for good health, and/or an easy diet to maintain, then this is for you. The Mediterranean diet came in “best in show” in all of these categories. But it isn’t the only game in town. Following are descriptions and benefits of the 10 top-ranked overall best eating plans, in descending order.

Best Diet Overall

While the diets listed here are ranked from 1 to 10, several are actually tied.

#1 Mediterranean Diet

With its diversity of food choices, emphasis on fresh foods, especially fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, the low-sugar, low saturated fat, nutritionally balanced Mediterranean diet has proven year after year to be the “best of the best” eating plans for most people who are trying to keep body and brain in tip-top shape.

#2 The DASH Diet

The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was designed (and has been proven) to lower or prevent high blood pressure by lowering both diastolic and systolic pressure. This balanced diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet and has also been shown to support heart health, lower the risk of stroke, and help prevent or manage Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

#3 The Flexitarian Diet (tied for second place with the DASH Diet)

This flexible vegetarian, or “mostly” vegetarian diet is a nutritionally balanced diet that emphasizes vegetarian meals most of the time but still includes small amounts of meat. A good diet for those who love plant-based foods, but don’t want to commit to a full-out vegetarian diet.

#4 The MIND Diet

The MIND diet was designed to help prevent or delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This diet was based on both the Mediterranean and DASH diets but with a strong emphasis on eating specific foods such as nuts, beans, berries, and fish, a specific number of times each week.

#5 The Mayo Clinic Diet

Primarily a weight-loss plan, the Mayo Clinic diet focuses on breaking bad eating habits (such as eating in front of the television) and developing a solid, more healthful eating plan that will not only help you lose or maintain weight but that you enjoy enough to stick with for the rest of your life. While the focus is on food, the plan also includes guidance for goal-setting and physical activity.

#6 The TLC Diet (tied for fifth place with the Mayo Clinic Diet)

The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet was designed to cut cholesterol from your diet as part of a heart-healthy eating plan. The low-fat TLC regimen highlights fruits, vegetables, pasta, bread, and lean meats, and relies on your ability to decipher and use the Nutrition Facts information on packaged foods.

#7 Volumetrics Diet (tied for fifth place with Mayo Clinic and TLC Diets)

Centered on food density, the Volumetrics approach to healthier eating and weight control divides foods into categories based on their density. You are encouraged to fill yourself up with mostly very-low-density foods (i.e. non-starchy vegetables, nonfat milk) and low-density foods (i.e. cereals, grains, low-fat meats, starchy vegetables). You practice portion control when it comes to medium-density foods (i.e. pizza, fries, meats, ice cream), and limit high-density foods (i.e. chips, cookies, butter) as much as possible.

#8 The Weight Watchers Diet (tied for fifth place with the Mayo Clinic, TLC, and Volumetrics Diets)

Although it’s not at the very top of the “best overall diet” list, the Weight Watchers plan was ranked #1 in the Best Weight-Loss Diet category. The plan is flexible and allows you to custom-build your own healthy diet, not only to lose weight but to eat better as part of an overall healthy lifestyle that includes behavioral changes and exercise.

#9 Vegetarian Diet

While it was ranked #9 in “Best Diets Overall,” a vegetarian diet ranked #3 in Best Plant-Based Diets and #5 in Best Weight Loss Diets and Best Diabetes Diets. According to the U.S. News & World Report and other sources, most vegetarians are “lacto-ovo” vegetarian, meaning they don’t eat meat, fish, or poultry, but they will eat eggs and dairy products. A well-balanced lacto-ovo vegetarian diet will provide all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

#10 The Nordic Diet

At the core of the Nordic diet (which originated in Denmark) are seasonal, locally produced foods, including fresh, natural foods from the wild and from nearby seas and lakes, as well as the traditional Scandinavian concern for protecting the environment. Non-Scandinavians can adapt the Nordic diet for themselves by avoiding processed foods and additives, and eating more fresh, natural, whole foods sourced from their own local environments.

Note: The Nordic Diet tied for 10th place with the Ornish Diet, which is very low in fat, refined carbohydrates, and animal protein. Dr. Dean Ornish designed this diet in 1977, in an effort to reverse heart disease and help people lose weight, get healthier, and live longer.

You can search any of these diets online for more information, menu planning ideas, and recipes. You can also search U.S. News & World Report online for the complete lists of rankings.

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