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4 things the best diets of 2024 have in common — and where Ozempic and Wegovy fit in

Losing weight is one of the top New Year’s resolutions that people make year after year, and with good reason. Roughly two in three U.S. adults (69%) are overweight or obese, and the diet industry tipped the scales at $76 billion last year, the Wall Street Journal reported. So before putting your money where your mouth is, shouldn’t you know whether that new diet you’re trying to stick with is actually the best investment? 

The Mediterranean diet — which loads your plate primarily with plant-based foods, fish, healthy fats, whole grains and some lean poultry — has been named the best eating pattern overall for the seventh consecutive year. The US News diet rankings also sorted diets into categories based on people’s specific needs. The Mediterranean diet came in at No. 1 for several, including: the best family-friendly diets; the easiest diets to follow; the best heart-healthy diets; and the best diets for healthy eating. It’s even No. 2 for best weight-loss diets.

But nipping at its heels are the DASH diet at No. 2 and the MIND diet at No. 3, which both take the Mediterranean diet’s blueprint and tweak it. DASH, aka Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, zeroes in on limiting salt and trans fats to lower blood pressure or prevent high blood pressure in the first place. And the MIND diet combines the first two plans — its name stands for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay — and focuses on ingredients that improve brain health to hopefully lower the risks of dementia and cognitive decline.

The Mediterranean diet has been named the best overall diet for the seventh year in a row – and its recipe for success is found in most of the other healthy diets.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

“The top-ranked diets all have a lot of things in common,” Gretel H. Schueller, the managing editor of health at US News, told MarketWatch. “They’re safe. They’re sustainable for the long term. They’re backed by a tremendous amount of science. They’re not overly restrictive or punitive. They don’t forbid entire food groups or specific foods. And they can be easily adapted for different people’s food budgets, dietary requirements and cultural preferences.” 

But before starting on any diet or weight-loss plan, it’s important to check with doctors to ensure that personal medical needs are met.

Here’s the list of top 10 best diets overall for 2024, according to U.S. News and World Report: 

1. Mediterranean



4. Mayo Clinic

5. Flexitarian

6. WeightWatchers

7. Volumetrics

8. Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory

9. TLC 

10. Vegan

WeightWatchers, now WW WW, -1.94%, also climbed a couple of spots to No. 6 on the list by adopting many of the same healthy habits, as it has evolved a more holistic weight-loss approach that goes beyond just counting points. “It’s been really nimble in pivoting depending on the changing science and nutrition and diet-related disease,” said Schueller, such as incorporating exercise and behavior modification into its program, as well as offering GLP-1 weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy to eligible members. 

Related: What’s the best way to lose weight? ‘It’s everything,’ Oprah says — including medication

But if this is overwhelming, rest assured that the best diets follow the same several tips. And making these tweaks to your diet, no matter how you’ve been raised to eat, has been scientifically proven to provide health benefits. 

They choose whole foods over ultraprocessed ones 

None of the healthiest diets involve a specific meal-replacement product, such as a bar, a shake or a microwavable meal. Most encourage replacing highly processed foods with whole foods that are self-prepared, to control the salt and sugar amounts. And that’s because research has linked ultraprocessed foods such as sodas, microwaveable meals and salty snacks to an array of cancers, among other health concerns, such as an increased risk for dementia

That doesn’t mean that anything in a bag, box or can is bad; the ingredients will explain if there are problems. Minimally processed foods, such as canned or frozen fruits and vegetables without added salt and sugar, are still great additions to a healthy diet. 

They focus on plant-based foods and fish — not red meats

Most of these diets (veganism being the exception) aren’t saying you can never eat meat again. Rather, the goal is to emphasize plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, olive oil, nuts and legumes filled with healthy fats. And when you do add meat into the mix, prioritize fish (for more of those brain and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids) and lean poultry like chicken and turkey. Only make red meat the centerpiece occasionally.

They cut added sugar and salt

Professor Christopher Gardner, a nutrition scientist at Stanford and chairman of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee, presented a heat map of dietary patterns last year –– and found the ”kumbaya” moment that every diet from Mediterranean to keto has in common is cutting sugar. “The one thing everyone agrees on is: don’t eat added sugar,” he told MarketWatch. 

Research has shown that eating more than six teaspoons of sugar a day may be linked to cancer, stroke, diabetes, early death and dozens of other health problems. 

To be clear, this isn’t counting the natural sugars found in fruit, as the healthiest diets want a plate filled with fruits and veggies, after all. Rather, the problem is the added sweeteners in processed foods, desserts, pastries and snacks.  

And many also tackle sodium intake, since many adults are getting well over the recommended 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day thanks to the salts hidden in processed foods, fast food and snacks. Plus, consuming too much salt can raise your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. 

They don’t suggest cutting an entire food group

With the exception of the vegan diet removing meat, the top overall diets don’t suggest nixing an entire food group — think dairy or carbs — which helps make them not only healthier, but also more realistic and more sustainable. 

“Diets that cut out whole groups of food can lead to health problems like nutrient deficiencies, and they can also lead to disordered eating,” said Schueller. 

What’s more, while fat and carbohydrates have been demonized in the past, it’s important to note that good fats and good carbs are essential in a well-balanced diet. 

Stay away from the trans fats found in many fried, packaged or processed foods, as well as margarine and shortening, and commercially baked pastries. Limit saturated fats found in red meat, cheese and butter, which can raise the risk of heart disease.

Similarly, not all carbs are created equal. Simple, refined carbs — such as white bread, pastries, white rice and enriched or refined doughs and pasta — can lack most of their nutrients. These foods make up a huge portion of many American diets. Complex carbohydrates — from whole grains, brown rice and legumes — are much better.

“Forty percent of our diet is crappy carbs – sugar and sweeteners, and refined grains and doughnuts and pizza crust,” said Gardner. “Imagine if 20% of the 40% was more oils and nuts and fatty fish, and more legumes, beans, whole grains and fruits? It would be delicious and more fun, and less restrictive and more realistic than many low-carb diets.” 

So where do Ozempic and Wegovy come in? 

GLP-1 drugs to treat diabetes and obesity, such as Novo Nordisk’s NVO, -1.30% Ozempic and Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s LLY, +1.59% Zepbound, have become game changers in the weight-loss market. Schueller noted that while no diets on last year’s list incorporated weight-loss drug, this year four of them — WeightWatchers, Noom, Mayo Clinic and OPTAVIA — offer these obesity medications to specific users.

But don’t expect to see a “Best Obesity Drugs” list replace the “Best Diets” list anytime soon, the experts say. “The weight-loss drugs do play an important role, especially for people who have struggled with weight loss, who have obesity and nothing seems to work,” she said. “But you still have to eat healthy [while taking these drugs], you still have to watch your portions and you still have to be exercising. These drugs are not make healthy eating go away, there’s no doubt about that.”

Which diets are the worst? 

Among the lowest-ranking diets on the US News list are newcomers Dukan and Herbalife, along with Slimfast and the raw-food diet. The Dukan diet (No. 28 out of 30 on the list) is an extremely restrictive low-carb and high-protein plan that promises major weight loss, but US News notes that there is little evidence it works. Both Slimfast and Herballife are also low on the list — ranked No. 27 and No. 28, respectively — with experts expressing concern about the expense of buying the meal-replacement shakes and products, and their long-term sustainability.

The raw-food diet is at the very bottom of the list at No. 30. The extremely restrictive plan, which limits meals to food that hasn’t been cooked, processed, microwaved, irradiated, genetically engineered or exposed to pesticides or herbicides, raises concerns for being pricey, difficult to follow, and restrictive to the point that it may lack calories and nutrients.

“Diets that eliminate a lot of food, that have really complicated rules, that require reliance on processed meal replacements and shakes … diets that make you feel hungry or deprived … these are not diets that you are going to be able to follow for the long term,” said Schueller. “And diets that cut out whole groups of food can lead to health problems like nutrient deficiencies, and they can also lead to disordered eating.”  

The bottom line: The healthiest meal plans are less of a “diet” and more of a healthy lifestyle approach. “Many of the top-ranking diets are really more a lifestyle approach than a diet,” said Schueller. “They’re teaching you healthy patterns.” 

And because different folks have different diet goals for the New Year, here’s a look at some of of the other “best” diets in different categories on the US News list. 

Best Weight-Loss Diets 

1. WeightWatchers (WW) diet 

2. Mediterranean diet 

3. Volumetrics diet

Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets 

1. Keto diet 

2. Atkins diet 

3. HMR Program

Best Diet Programs

1. Weight Watchers (WW) diet

2. Mayo Clinic diet

3. Noom diet

Best Family-Friendly Diets

1. Mediterranean diet

2. Flexitarian diet

3. DASH diet

Best Plant-Based Diets 

1. Flexitarian diet 

2. Mediterranean diet 

3. Vegan diet

Easiest Diets to Follow 

1. Mediterranean diet 

2. Flexitarian diet 

3. DASH diet

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