Plant-forward diets have come out on top in the latest release of the annual Best Diets rankings by US News & World Report, becoming the top-performing diets across various categories—signaling a significant shift in dietary preferences.
Known as a global authority in health rankings and consumer advice, US News & World Report, in collaboration with The Harris Poll, evaluated and ranked 30 diets based on various criteria, from their healthiness to the likelihood of their helping you lose weight.
The rankings’ 43 expert panelists—who include medical doctors, registered dietitian nutritionists, and nutritional epidemiologists—consistently emphasize well-balanced diets that are not restrictive and remain sustainable over the long term, teaching dieters lifelong positive eating habits.
“Choosing a diet can be tough. Each person has unique health considerations and goals, and there are many diets out there to choose from—and it’s hard to know which ones will actually work best for you,” Gretel Schueller, managing editor of health at US News, said in a statement.
The best diets are plant-forward
This year, most of the top-performing diets are plant-forward. For the seventh consecutive year, the Mediterranean diet maintains its stronghold as the No. 1 Best Diet Overall. Emphasizing diet quality over individual nutrients or food groups, the Mediterranean diet champions a daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, herbs, and spices.
This plant-forward approach contributed to its top rankings in Best Diets for Diabetes, Best Heart-Healthy Diets, Easiest Diets to Follow, Best Diets for Bone and Joint Health, Best Family-Friendly Diets, and Best Diets for Healthy Eating.
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Following closely behind, the DASH diet, renowned for combating high blood pressure, claimed the No. 2 spot for Best Diet Overall, earning praise for its nutritional completeness, safety, diabetes prevention or control, and heart health support. This diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, but can also include fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts.
The MIND diet, combining elements from DASH and Mediterranean diets with a focus on brain health, secured the No. 3 spot. The recommended guidelines focus on plant-based foods that are minimally processed and limit animal-based foods that are high in saturated fats and foods with added sugars.
Is a vegan diet healthier?
In a notable development, the vegan diet—one of six newly evaluated diets—cracked the top 10 in all categories except for Best Diet Programs, signaling its growing popularity and mainstream acceptance. The vegan diet’s rise to the top is reflective of broader trends in the industry, the US News & World Report rankings noted, with plant-based diets like Mediterranean, flexitarian, DASH, volumetrics, and Mayo Clinic also dominating the top ranks.
“US News does the legwork for its users, gathering input from nationally recognized medical and nutrition experts to determine which diets rise to the top for nutritional completeness, ease of following, and promoting a healthy lifestyle for the long term,” Schueller said.
These new diet rankings, along with the general industry trend, point toward the continued growth and mainstream acceptance of plant-based meals, with vegan and vegetarian diets gaining traction. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, three-fifths of US households now incorporate vegetarian meals into their diets on occasion.
The inclusion of the vegan diet in the 2024 rankings reflects its departure from the fringes, becoming more accessible and recognized in today’s diverse dietary landscape.
“Adding the vegan diet to our list of ranked diets for 2024 is a recognition that eating vegan is no longer confined to the fringes of organic coops and that vegan foods and meals are becoming easier to find than ever,” the rankings said.
In addition to health, environmental, and ethical reasons, the rankings note that the growth in veganism and vegetarianism can be attributed to the increasing visibility of plant-based lifestyles in popular culture. Industry reports agree that plant-based foods will continue to gain favor with consumers.
In recent years, an increasing number of scientific studies have confirmed the health benefits of a plant-based diet, including reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
As science continues to support the benefits of plant-based diets and their positive impact on the environment, ethical considerations, and increasing visibility in popular culture, the surge in veganism and vegetarianism is expected to persist, with plant-based foods continuing to gain consumer favor.