At the beginning of each January, the U.S. News and World Report ranks the best and worst diets based on how easy the plans are to stick to, how likely you are to lose weight on them, and how effective they are at preventing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
But there’s one problem with these lists: They suck.
For the past several years, we’ve had to argue that the list’s “worst” diet isn’t as bad as it seems (see: Whole30, Paleo), and we’d make that case again this year—U.S. News named keto the worst overall diet, and, once again, we disagree.
The list is created by an expert panel, but it ignores one key factor: There’s no one way to be healthy, nor are diets one size fits all. A diet that’s hard to stick to for one person might be easy for someone else. And counting calories on the No. 1-ranked DASH diet might be triggering for some people, making bottom-of-the-pile Whole30 and Paleo healthier for them.
Ranking diets best to worst (and almost always stacking trendy diets at the bottom) seems more about being controversial just for the sake of it and less about communicating actually useful information. The list doesn’t account for people’s goals, body types, general health, or dietary restrictions, so by default, it’ll be inaccurate for a vast majority of people.
On top of that, ranking diets like this discourages people from learning about and experimenting with different eating plans. No, the high-fat, low-carb keto diet won’t be healthy or sustainable for everyone. But that doesn’t mean it won’t work for anyone. Plus, short-term experiments with restrictive diets can help you build healthier, sustainable habits as well as teach you about how your body responds to certain foods.
We know the rankings won’t stop. Next year there will be another diet pulling up in last place, whether or not it deserves to be there. But instead of assuming one diet is inherently better than another, take lists like this with a grain of salt and do your own research. Better yet, talk to your doctor about your body’s needs and consider trying a new program for yourself. You won’t know if something works for you unless you give it a chance.