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A Plant-Friendly Atkins Diet Gets High Marks On List Of 2017's Best Diets

Which eating plan will work with your lifestyle and help you lose weight? U.S.News & World Report has plenty of advice with its latest diet rankings.
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Which eating plan will work with your lifestyle and help you lose weight? U.S.News & World Report has plenty of advice with its latest diet rankings.

If you're looking for a diet plan that suits your lifestyle, a new list of rankings from U.S. News & World Report has you covered.

Most dieters are familiar with commercial plans such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig — both of which continue to make the magazine's list for top diets. But a range of options offer fresh approaches, including the MIND diet, the Eco-Atkins diet (a plant-based, Atkins-style diet) and the Ornishdiet — which is ranked top for heart health.

The annual rankings list includes 38 different diets, all of which have been evaluated by a panel of doctors, nutritionists and other health professionals. "Each profile is an exhaustive look at what it's like to be on each plan," says Angela Haupt, assistant managing editor for health at U.S. News.

The diets are ranked in categories, from "easiest diets to follow" to "best diets overall" to "fastest weight loss."

The Eco-Atkins diet makes the cut in the fastest weight-loss category. The diet was developed by a nutrition scientist at the University of Toronto. "It's a plant-based spin on the Atkins diet. It calls for 31 percent of daily calories to come from plant proteins, 43 percent from plant fats and 26 percent from carbs," explains Haupt.

The claim is that dieters can lose 8 pounds a month, while improving blood levels of triglycerides, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. "Our experts say it's superior to Atkins and good for fast weight loss, but it can be tough to follow, since guidance is scarce. You're largely on your own, which can deter some dieters," Haupt tells us.

Other plant-centered diets that rank high include the Ornish diet, based on the plan developed by Dr. Dean Ornish. This diet approach is touted as a way to reverse diabetes and heart disease. The diet moved up a notch from the 2016 list. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nonfat dairy, as well as some "good fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids," according to a description on the diet's website.

The Mediterranean diet retains a top spot as well. As the reviewers explain in the diet's profile: "There isn't 'a' Mediterranean diet. Greeks eat differently from Italians, who eat differently from the French and Spanish. But they share many common understandings."

A consumer-friendly Mediterranean diet pyramidwas developed by Oldways, a nonprofit in Boston, working with researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health. The U.S News reviewers point out: "The not-so-surprising secret [of a Mediterranean diet] is an active lifestyle, weight control, and a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods." Another bonus: A little red wine with meals is not frowned upon.

If keeping your noggin sharp is a high priority, the MIND diet — which is ranked No. 3 on the list of Best Diets Overall — combines the DASH diet approach (which was originally designed to help people control high blood pressure) and the Mediterranean diet.

According to the U.S. News reviewers, MIND — which was developed by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago — focuses on foods that influence brain health.

So what are some changes from last year's rankings of Best Diets? The vegandiet moved up to No. 16 on the Best Diets Overall List. (Last year it was No. 21.) And SlimFast dropped from No. 15 on the list of Best Diets Overall down to No. 20. Two other diets that slipped in the rankings: Atkins fell on the Best Weight-Loss Diets list, and Biggest Loser also slipped in the Best Diets for Healthy Eating category.

The paleo diet hangs on. It's ranked 36th out of 38 in the Best Diets Overall category. The main knocks against it: Reviewers say the produce aisle and meat counter tend to be expensive, and the diet can be hard to follow while dining out. Reviewers note that dieters will need to get accustomed to ordering breadless sandwiches and skipping many other menu items that contain grains and dairy. Also noted: Alcohol is not part of a true paleo diet.

Why the changes in rankings? "Our expert panelists reviewed and rescored each diet, and their scores vary each year based on program changes, new research and general evolution of thinking in the diet and nutrition space," Haupt tells us.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.

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