Dietician Digest: Best and Worst Diets for 2022

Every January, the U.S. News and World Report releases a list of diets ranked from best to worst. This list is determined by a panel of 27 individuals that make up a vast group of medical experts in the field of nutrition, heart health, diabetes, and weight management. The criteria used to determine this diet list is as follows:

  • Ease of following

  • Ability to produce short-term and/or long-term weight loss

  • Well-rounded in terms of nutritional value and content

  • Safe to follow

  • Potential for preventing and/or managing heart disease or diabetes

So how did the diets this year rank? For the fifth consecutive year, the Mediterranean Diet was given the title of “Best Overall Diet,” with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet and Flexitarian Diet tying for second place. Let’s take a closer look at these three diets.


1st Place: Mediterranean Diet – Supported by several organizations such as the American Diabetes Association, Arthritis Foundation, American Heart Association, and Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, this diet is recommended for managing conditions such as:

  • Diabetes

  • Hypercholesterolemia

  • Hypertension

  • Arthritis

  • Crohn’s Disease and other Irritable Bowel Diseases

This diet focuses on:

  • Consuming unsalted, raw nuts at least 3 times weekly (although daily is encouraged)

  • Including at least 3 weekly servings of legumes

  • Striving for 7 or more daily servings of fruits/vegetables

  • Using extra virgin olive oil in place of other fats when preparing food

  • Aiming for fatty fish consumption at least twice weekly (salmon, herring, mackerel, etc.)

2nd Place (tied): DASH Diet – Recommended by the American Heart Association and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for those focused on weight management, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia. This diet’s main principles include:

  • Keep daily sodium intake between 1500-2300mg

  • Aim for 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables

  • Include 3 daily servings of low-fat dairy

  • Stick to products made with whole wheat/grain flour vs. white flour

  • Focus on lean protein consumption (chicken, fish, nuts, beans, etc.)

2nd Place (tied): Flexitarian Diet – Created by a Registered Dietitian, this diet was designed with the intent to encourage consumption of plant-based foods first. In addition, this diet supports:

  • Limiting consumption of foods high in added sugars

  • Focusing food intake on fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains

  • Allowing room for inclusion of animal-based products, but in smaller quantities

  • Choosing more wholesome foods vs. more processed foods

  • Leaving room for flexibility by not focusing on establishing a maximum or minimum amount for daily consumption of food groups and total calories

In summary, these diets all incorporate 3 main principles:

  • Include more plant-based foods

  • Eat from all of the food groups

  • Choose lean proteins and heart-healthy fats

As you move forward this year, keep these principles in mind to help support you in achieving your individualized health goals.


- Collette Romstedt, MA, RDN, LDN, ACSM EP

Registered Dietician and Certified Exercise Physiologist

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