- Experts convened by US News & World Report suggest a raw-food diet is the worst way to eat for 2023.
- They said the diet was overly restrictive and not evidence-based and could lack essential nutrients.
- Healthy diets are flexible and easy to maintain over time and emphasize whole foods and plants.
The annual diet rankings from US News & World Report identified the raw-food diet as the worst overall eating plan for 2023.
The diet includes only foods that haven’t been cooked, such as fruits and veggies, sprouted grains and beans, and sometimes animal products like raw fish or unprocessed dairy. It took over the bottom spot in several categories from the ketogenic dietor keto for short, which moved up slightly in the rankings.
Every year, US News & World Report convenes experts in health and nutrition to rank popular diets based on factors like their overall healthiness, how easy they are to follow, and their potential for weight loss and disease prevention. This year they reviewed 24 diets.
The experts ranked the raw-food diet lowest overall because there’s no evidence of benefits of cutting out cooked foods, it’s extremely limitingand it may make you hungry, since raw foods tend to be lower in calories and protein than prepared food.
As a result, it’s tough to maintain over time. While short-term diets may lead to temporary results, often for weight loss, healthy diets in the long term involve eating strategies you can maintain, said Gretel Schueller, the managing editor for health at US News.
“At the end of the day, it’s about how long can I stay on this, can I do this in the long term,” Schueller told Insider. “You may look good for a few months but will eventually return right back to where you started.”
Experts say too much restriction can make a diet plan backfire
While diets that have strict rules or cut out certain food groups may seem effective, they can be hard to maintain, and the benefits won’t last if you quit within a few weeks.
“The moment you’re overly restrictive or feeling deprived, you’ll jump off and not stick to it long term,” Schueller said.
The panel of experts noted that other low-ranking diets were also excessively strict or hard to follow in the long term, or cut out potentially nutritious food groups.
Other poor performers were 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.
In contrast, the top-ranking Mediterranean diet and other highly rated plans involve variety, do not exclude food groups, and are easier to adjust to fit different lifestyles.
“The diets that rise to the top are ones we’ve known for years 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 was ranked the worst diet for healthy eating, the high-fat, low-carb keto diet snagged first place for quick weight loss and 20th overall this year.
Evidence has emerged in the past few years suggesting that keto and low-carb diets can help people manage their weight and blood sugar and can be structured in a way that includes more nutrient-dense foods and healthy fats.
“We’re seeing it that it has the potential to be done in a healthy manner, when it’s done properly,” Schueller said. “Ask yourself what people are replacing carbs with. If it’s a healthy answer, that makes all the difference.”
The experts ranked the keto diet last for heart health. They’ve previously expressed concerns that the diet is high in saturated fat, which some research has linked to heart-health concerns. Cutting out carbs can also mean eliminating nutrient-rich foods like fruit, some veggies, and whole grains — part of why the experts still ranked keto in the bottom five this year.
But it doesn’t have to be the stereotypicaldirty keto“diet full of butter, burgers, and cheese, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a professor at West Virginia University’s School of Medicine who studies low-carb diets, previously told Insider.
He said examples of healthier keto-friendly foods include fat sources like olive oil, proteins like fish, low-carb fruit like berries, and plenty of leafy greens for nutrients.
Correction: January 3, 2023 — An earlier version of this story’s headline misstated the keto diet’s position in the latest US News & World Report ranking. While it was bumped up from the bottom spot, where it was in 2022, the experts did not rank it the second-least-healthy diet for 2023.