Given all the extra salt Americans consume—on average, more than 1,100 milligrams above the recommended daily limit—it’s no wonder the DASH diet, which aims to lower high blood pressure, took the top spot overall in this year’s Best Diets list compiled by U.S. News & World Report.
DASH is the brainchild of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It’s pretty simple to follow: just eat more of the foods you know you should be eating (whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean meats), go easy to the sweets and high-fat foods, and break your salt habit. While not specifically aimed at trimming your waistline, the diet’s guidelines help you determine your daily caloric needs from the get-go, so if you stick to the plan, weight loss will likely follow.
In the weight-loss diet category, Weight Watchers came in first place; it also topped the Best Commercial Diet Plans list. Experts liked that it’s relatively easy to follow and that it’s effective for both short- and long-term weight loss.
What’s interesting about the list is that several off-the-beaten-path diets—ones that are less mainstream than, say, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig—actually rank pretty high. Take the TLC diet for example, which came in second overall behind DASH; it aims to cut high cholesterol. And then there’s the low-fat Ornish diet, which was named the best diet for heart health because it’s been shown to actually reverse heart disease.
It’s worth noting which diets came in at the bottom of the pack. I know a lot of you won’t like this (see: comments here), but in dead last is the Paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, which advocates eating the way our hunter/gatherer ancestors did, mainly plants and animal protein. It received low marks from the expert advisory panel for being restrictive and possibly dangerous, since adherents shut out entire food groups like grains and dairy. The Atkins diet ranked poorly, too, for being difficult to maintain over the long haul.