When the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve, more than 20% of Americans pledged to lose weight this year—the most popular resolution by far. But there's a reason nearly half these people will give up on their commitment by February: Of the countless diets and detoxes to choose from, only a select few actually work.
If narrowing it down seems daunting, take comfort in the fact that a panel of esteemed experts has already done that work for you. Every year, U.S. News and World Report releases a power ranking of the best eating plans not just for weight loss, but overall wellness, too—taking factors like nutrition, convenience, longevity, and (of course) effectiveness into account. The 2017 list has officially arrived—and frankly, the results kind of took us by surprise.
We figured that the Mediterranean diet would be the clear winner in the "overall" category, since experts constantly extol the eating plan for its array of delicious, nutrition-packed options: Heart-healthy fish, fresh produce, olive oil, and red wine are all encouraged (in balance, of course), making it an ideal choice if you want to avoid feeling deprived. (And from a beauty perspective, consuming all those healthy fats does wonders for your skin and hair.) All this considered, we were a little floored when we saw that, in fact, U.S. News ranked the Mediterranean diet as the runner-up, rather than the winner. So who took first place?
Have you heard of the DASH diet? To be honest, it's kind of new to us, too—which is interesting, since it's stealthily received high marks from nutrition pros for a few years now. The reason it's flown relatively under the radar might be that the eating plan wasn't specifically designed for weight loss; rather, the focus is nutritionally balanced meals that help lower blood pressure and keep the body healthy for years to come. (While it's not necessarily the priority, shedding pounds is a very frequent side effect—and you're more likely to sustain it with this very reasonable regimen than you would with, say, a five-day soup cleanse.)
Developed by scientists at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet promotes fresh, unprocessed foods that are naturally packed with nutrients. Red meat, sweets, and salt are all discouraged. The best part is that it's pretty flexible—as long as you're trying to embrace the good and cut out the bad as much as possible, the details are up to you.
In this laissez-faire approach, it's actually pretty similar to the Mediterranean diet, so it's no coincidence that they're both ranked so highly. A gradual lifestyle change is much more sustainable than, for example, suddenly cutting your calorie intake in half—meaning that while it requires a little more patience, you'll actually keep the pounds off. Better yet, you won't be an irritable mess as you clutch your green juice "lunch" at your desk.
Want more wellness inspiration for the New Year? These self-care tips are easy but totally effective.