- Experts assembled by US News & World Report suggest a raw food diet is the worst way to eat for 2023.
- They said the diet was too restrictive and not evidence-based and may be lacking in essential nutrients.
- Healthy diets are flexible and easy to maintain over time and emphasize whole foods and plants.
US News & World Report’s annual diet rankings identified the Raw Food Diet as the worst overall diet plan for 2023.
The diet includes only foods that have not been cooked, such as fruits and vegetables, sprouted grains and beans, and sometimes animal products like raw fish or unprocessed dairy products. It took last place in several categories of the ketogenic diet, or keto for short, which moved up the rankings slightly.
Each year, US News & World Report brings together health and nutrition experts to rank popular diets based on factors such as their overall health, ease of following, and potential for weight loss and disease prevention. This year, they reviewed 24 diets.
Experts have ranked the raw food diet lowest overall because there is no evidence of the benefits of cutting out cooked foods, it’s extremely limiting, and it can make you hungry, because raw foods have tend to contain fewer calories and protein than prepared foods.
As a result, it is difficult to maintain over time. While short-term diets can lead to temporary results, often for weight loss, healthy long-term diets involve eating strategies you can stick with, said Gretel Schueller, senior health editor at US News. .
“Ultimately it’s about how long can I stay on this, can I do this long-term,” Schueller told Insider. “You may look good for a few months, but eventually you’ll go back to where you started.”
Experts say too many restrictions can make a diet plan fail
Although diets that have strict rules or cut out certain food groups may seem effective, they can be difficult to maintain, and the benefits won’t last if you stop in a few weeks.
“As soon as you’re too restrictive or feel deprived, you’re going to jump in and not stick with it long term,” Schueller said.
The expert panel noted that other lower-ranked diets were also overly strict or difficult to follow long-term, or cut out potentially nutritious food groups.
Commercial diets, including the low-carb Atkins diet, as well as SlimFast and Optavia, which involve highly processed shakes, bars and supplements used to replace whole foods, have also performed poorly.
In contrast, the top Mediterranean diet and other highly rated plans involve variety, don’t exclude food groups, and are easier to adjust to accommodate different lifestyles.
“The top diets are the ones we’ve known for years that use a common sense approach to healthy eating, incorporate whole foods, and are flexible,” Schueller said.
The keto diet ranked slightly higher this year
While for several years it’s been ranked as the worst diet for healthy eating, the high-fat, low-carb keto diet landed the top spot for rapid weight loss and 20th overall this year.
Evidence has emerged over the past few years suggesting that keto and low-carb diets can help people manage weight and blood sugar levels and can be structured to include more nutrient-dense foods and healthy fats.
“We see that it has the potential to be done in a healthy way, when done correctly,” Schueller said. “Ask yourself what people are replacing carbs with. If that’s a healthy answer, it makes all the difference.”
Experts ranked the keto diet last for heart health. They have previously expressed concerns that the diet is high in saturated fat, which some research has linked to heart health issues. Cutting out carbs can also mean cutting out nutrient-dense foods like fruits, some vegetables, and whole grains, which is part of why experts have consistently ranked keto in the bottom five this year.
But it doesn’t have to be the stereotypical “dirty keto” diet full of butter, burgers and cheese, said Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine who studies low-carb diets, at Insider.
He said examples of healthier keto foods include fat sources like olive oil, protein like fish, low-carb fruits like berries, and lots of leafy green vegetables for nutrients.
Correction: January 3, 2023 – An earlier version of this story’s title misrepresented the position of the keto diet in the latest US News & World Report ranking. Although it was passed below where it was in 2022, experts did not rank it the second least healthy diet for 2023.
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