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The keto diet is the worst diet for healthy eating, according to new rankings

  • The lists, created annually by a panel of nutrition experts and health specialists, also ranked keto poorly for heart health and sustainability, and second-to-last overall out of 35 diets. 
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Every year, US News & World Report ranks the best (and worst) diets for the year ahead. This year, the ketogenic diet was once again ranked among the worst in several categories, despite its continuing popularity.

The high-fat, low-carb plan has been steadily trending in the popular nutrition world, with advocates saying it can help with weight loss, energy, and overall well-being by transitioning the body into a state of ketosis, where it burns fat for energy instead of sugar.

But US News’s panel of nutritionists and specialists in diabetes, heart health, and weight loss ranked keto the worst for healthy eating, and second-to-last overall.

The rankings were based on seven categories in which each diet was rated on a scale from one to five. Categories included nutritional completeness, how easy the diet is to follow, the potential for long- and short-term weight loss, the safety and possible side effects, and the potential to help prevent illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.

Keto also scored poorly on the list of heart-healthy diets, given that many forms of keto rely heavily on saturated fats like butter and red meat, which can contribute to the risk of heart disease.

It also ranked low on sustainability, as the keto diet requires strict limitations on consuming any kind of carbohydrates. This makes keto notoriously difficult to follow, especially long-term, since that rules out even some healthy foods like fruits, whole grains, and starchy veggies. 

The only category in which the keto diet excelled was for fast weight loss, in which it was ranked third, tied with Atkins, Weight Watchers, and Jenny Craig.

But that doesn’t make it healthy, experts cautioned. According to press materials from US News, expert panelists said that while keto and Atkins almost guarantee short-term weight-loss, “long-term adherence to the [diets] is nearly impossible.” Experts consider these nutritionally unbalanced eating plans.

The Mediterranean diet came out on top, again

Meanwhile, for the third year in a row, US News ranked the Mediterranean diet the overall best diet. It was also named the easiest diet to follow, the best at preventing diabetes, and the best plant-based diet. 

The concept of the Mediterranean diet comes from the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, many of which are part of the so-called blue zones, regions of the world where people tend to live the longest, healthiest lives.

The Mediterranean diet relies heavily on seafood, fresh produce, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. People on the plan can also enjoy wine in moderation.

These foods are rich in vitamins as well as important nutrients like fiber and polyphenols, plant-based compounds that help protect against disease. As such, the diet has been found to help reduce the risk of diabetes and may protect against certain types of cancers as well as cognitive decline.

It can even help with weight loss by cutting out high-calorie processed foods and refined sugars in exchange for more nutrient-dense alternatives like veggies and fish.

It may be possible to combine the best aspects of the Mediterranean diet with the appeal of the keto, though. Some have tried to mitigate some of its drawbacks (like high amounts of saturated fats) by combining it with other nutritional trends, like vegan or vegetarian eating.

Keto has even been combined with the Mediterranean diet, to make a hybrid keto Mediterranean plan that incorporates healthy fats and less red meat.

Read more:

The keto diet is becoming more popular for kids, but nutritionists warn it can be ‘incredibly risky’ for them

The biggest diet fads of the decade, from high-fat keto to intermittent fasting

Keto dieters who fuel up on bacon and butter are ‘irresponsible’ stewards of the planet, a Harvard nutrition expert says

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