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Top Diets Of 2014 (Hint: It's Probably Not What You Think)

Keep the rice brown and the skin off the chicken for a <a href="">Spanish rice dinner</a> that could qualify for the top-ranked DASH diet. Here's the <a href="">DASH-approved recipe</a>.
Keep the rice brown and the skin off the chicken for a Spanish rice dinner that could qualify for the top-ranked DASH diet. Here's the DASH-approved recipe.

U.S. News has ranked 32 diets, and which one comes out on top?

The DASH diet. It's an acronym for a dreadfully dull name, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet. Haven't heard of it?

True, it doesn't get much buzz.

But it's been around for a long time, and there's solid evidence that it works, not just for weight control but also to lower high blood pressure (a condition that affects 1 in 3 adults in the U.S.).

Unlike diets born of the buzz of best-selling authors, the DASH diet is based on peer-reviewed research studies that were sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

Here's the skinny: It's similar to the Mediterranean diet (which we've reported on a lot recently) in that it emphasizes a pattern of eating rich in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts.

Another key component of DASH is to limit the intake of sodium as well as red meat (and other foods high in saturated fat), sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.

The goal, according to the researchers, is to pack in nutrient-dense foods that are rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium and fiber. As with so many of the findings on the Mediterranean diet, this pattern of eating is thought to limit inflammation and help the body fend off disease. Here's a guide to following the DASH eating plan.

Other top diets, according to the new rankings: Weight Watchers comes out on top for best weight-loss diets, as well as being ranked as the top commercial diet plan. And this makes sense. As we've reported, everyone from millennials to baby boomers has found success with this points-based system.

As for the best plant-based diets, Mediterranean and flexitarian take the top spots.

About midway down the Best Diets list, we find Nutrisystem, Flat Belly Diet and Slim Fast, which the panel of experts convened by U.S. News concluded was a "reasonable approach to dieting."

Top diets that seem to have had their day in the sun include the South Beach Diet, which the reviewers conclude is tough to stick to. Yes, restricting carbs is a great way to shed pounds. But for many dieters, it's difficult to stick with in the long run.

And, despite all the buzz over the paleo diet — including some doctors who have started to embrace it — it's not one that the folks at U.S. News & World Report cottoned to, as it landed at the bottom of the list.

"Experts took issue with the [paleo] diet on every measure. Regardless of the goal — weight loss, heart health, or finding a diet that's easy to follow — most experts concluded that it would be better for dieters to look elsewhere," the rankers concluded.

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Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.