The 7 Best Diets that Actually Work

Wouldn’t you like to be able to sift through all the “fake news” about diets and discover which ones actually get the job done? It seems like every tabloid has its weekly “miracle diet” that makes glowing promises about fast pound-shedding, no more cellulite, killer abs and more.

Sadly, the worthless hype about too-good-to-be-true diets drowns out serious reporting on diets that work. But realistic diets that offer sensible weight reduction for disciplined, patient people don’t make great headlines for tabloids.

I mean, who would read an article entitled “Smaller Portions and Less Salt Can Help Dieters Shed One Pound a Week” or “Calorie-counting, Regular Exercise and Asparagus Spell Diet Success.”?

The Truth About 99 Percent of Diets

When I started hunting for a realistic, practical diet that could help me shed 10 pounds, the truth hit me in the face pretty quickly: None of the fad diets offer long-term weight loss, and most of them are medically unsound or downright dangerous. Fortunately, a U.S. News-sponsored study ranked the 38 best diets based on objective facts and long-term success rates. That’s just what I was looking for: no gimmicks, no wild promises, and no weird fasting programs.

Below is a summary of the top 7 diets on the U.S. News list, followed by a short description of each. And don’t forget, whether you’re trying to lose a few pounds or much more, always check with your doctor before starting a weight loss plan.

Seven Diets That Work

The researchers at U.S. News categorized the diets in the study according to categories like “weight-loss”, “good for diabetics,” “overall weight loss,” “plant-based,” and several others. The seven listed below were the top entries in the “overall best diet” category. Here’s a summary of the 7 best overall diets, listed from the top. Note: there was a statistical four-way tie for fourth place:

DASH Diet: Ranked Number 1 Overall: DASH has been around for a long time but is only now catching on in the mainstream weight loss community. The letters stand for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The U.S. National Institutes of Health has been promoting it for more than a decade as a way for people to reduce and/or prevent hypertension. There are several versions of the program depending on how much, if any, weight a person wants to lose. The beauty of DASH, as many of its users note, is its simplicity and emphasis on vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, beans, nuts, whole grains, poultry, fish and meat. The plan includes very little added fats, red meat and sugar-containing beverages and foods.

Mediterranean Diet: Ranked Number Two Overall: Boasting a science-backed claim of promoting longevity and preventing heart disease, the Med diet, as its users call it, is not a restrictive program by most diet standards. It includes moderate amounts of dairy, fish, and wine. The Med diet emphasizes consumption of fruits, vegetables, unrefined cereals, legumes and olive oil. In general terms, the Mediterranean diet is based on cultural eating patterns in Southern Italy, Spain, Greece and France.

MIND Diet: Ranked Number Three Overall: MIND is a combo of the above two diets, so it should be no surprise that it ranked in the top three on the U.S. News list. The letters stand for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (thank goodness for acronyms). The main goal of the diet is to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The cleverness of MIND is the combination of the delicious foods from the Mediterranean diet with the healthful philosophy behind the DASH program.

Flexitarian Diet: Tied for fourth: Flexitarian eating is simply a modified version of vegetarianism that includes very small amounts of meat on an infrequent basis.

Mayo Clinic Diet:  Tied for fourth: After a two-week introduction period where bad eating habits are replaced by smart ones, the Mayo Clinic Diet emphasizes moderate exercise and portion control. Very sensible and easy to follow, the fact that the Mayo Clinic endorses the program has given it most of its credibility with the public. In fact, it is not much different from another, better-known diet that tied for fourth place, the Weight Watchers plan.

TLC Diet: Tied for fourth: The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet focuses on reducing saturated fats and cholesterol. There is also an emphasis on portion control and physical activity.

Weight Watchers Diet: Tied for fourth: A lifestyle eating program that emphasizes eating smart, being physically active and learning how to select foods that are both nutritious and filling. WW has been around for more than a half-century, and its peer-support meetings are a key to its success.

Diet Books Worthy of Shelf Space

If you’ve tried losing weight in the past and have a trunk full of weighty weight-loss books that turned out to be useful mostly as doorstops, the three selections below will likely change the way you look at diet books.

The Dash Diet Weight Loss Solution, by Marla Heller

Heller’s best-seller gets rave reviews from readers, critics and the medical community. Her common sense diet program (see above) is outlined in the book but the big surprise is the detailed menu plans that are both simple and delicious. Early on, the diet had a reputation for being boring and bland. This book puts that myth to rest with hundreds of meal variations and helpful advice on how to personalize the program for special tastes, yet still maintain the essence of the Dash philosophy.

The Complete Mediterranean Diet, by Michael Ozner, MD

One of the top U.S. News diets, Ozner’s program book contains more than 500 recipes and a full explanation of the science behind the diet. He explains how the diet improves overall health and can add years to anyone’s life. Whether you have diabetes, want to drop some poundage, or are just searching for a sensible way to eat better, Dr. Ozner’s book is just what the doctor ordered.

The MIND Diet: A Scientific Approach to Enhancing Brain Function and Helping Prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia, by Maggie Moon

This helpful, easy-to-understand book offers the reasons behind the success of the MIND diet and contains a full listing of recipes. For a diet that claims to reduce the risk of dementia and enhance brain health, the MIND diet is amazingly simple and easy to follow.

Dieting is Personal

Of course the best diets aren’t just a bunch of interchangeable meal plans; dieting is highly personal and certain ones obviously work better for one person than another. After speaking to your healthcare professional and discussing your options, make sure you choose a diet that is a good match for what you want to achieve.

Forget about “quick” weight loss and be ready to bring patience and a self discipline to the table. That way, whether your goal is to reduce hypertension, decrease overall body weight, or just have better-fitting clothes, you’ll be up to the challenge. As soon as we get rid of the “one diet fits all” attitude, we can begin to lose weight the slow, safe way. With summer coming up, smart dieting is definitely on the menu.

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