Contemplating a diet? Experts rank 32 of them for you

May. 20, 2014 @ 10:40 AM

Break out the shorts, T-shirts and swimsuits, warmer weather's here and some folks are doing their best to figure out how to be both healthy and look their best.

Here's some assistance.

Recently, US News & World Report asked a panel of experts to rank 32 weight-loss diets. Let's start at the bottom with which ones came in last. The Paleo and Dukan diets tied for that position. About the Dukan diet the experts wrote: "It's too restrictive, with lots of rules, and there's no evidence it works." Ouch.

Atkins and the Raw Food diets tied for 29th. US News experts admitted Atkins was the short term weight-loss winner (along with the Biggest Loser diet), but gave it " ... unfavorable marks in other measures -- including long-term weight loss, nutrition, safety and heart health."

The experts gave the Raw Food diet two forks up for short- and long-term weight loss. However, they "considered it all but impossible to follow and its nutritional completeness and safety were concerns." Hmmm.

Nutrisystem and Flat Belly diets tied for middle-of-the pack. US News considered Nutrisystem safe and easier to follow than other diets, but it lost points for not being as heart healthy as others. Flat Belly scored average points across most of the considerations, but scored better-than-average for nutrition and safety.

Let's go to the winners. Third place ribbon went to a three-way tie between Weight Watchers, the Mediterranean Diet and the Mayo Clinic Diet. US News called Weight Watchers diet a "smart, effective diet." It surpassed other commercial diet plans in multiple areas, including short- and long-term weight loss and how easy it is to follow.

US News' panel thought the Mediterranean Diet, "with its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish and other healthy fare was eminently sensible." Mayo's diet earned high marks "for its nutrition and safety and as a tool against diabetes." However, it turned out to be only "moderately" effective for weight loss.

The TLC Diet cleanly took second place. In this instance TLC stands for "Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes." The National Institutes of Health created this well-constructed diet. The panel stated that "it has no major weaknesses, and it's particularly good at promoting cardiovascular health." It's only flaw? No hand-holding; strictly DYI.

For the fourth year in a row, the blue-ribbon winner, according to US News and World Report's panel of experts is the: DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet. DASH was originally created to, as the name clearly implies, reduce hypertension (high blood pressure). Over time, it was discovered that DASH also worked extraordinarily well for weight loss.

A friend of mine who participated in an early DASH study here at Duke University successfully lowered his blood pressure and brought his weight down to normal, which proves to me it works for motivated folks.

But just reading about the top diet will not get those shorts to fit any better. Get up and get moving and get motivated to eat healthier.

My trimmed-down summer bean salad, loaded with fresh vegetables and fiberful beans, is a great place to start. Give it a try.

Five Bean Summer Salad

12 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths

12 ounces fresh wax (yellow) beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths

1 can (14 ounces) dark-red kidney beans (organic preferred), drained and rinsed

1 can (14 ounces) garbanzo beans (organic preferred), drained and rinsed

1 can (14 ounces) black beans (organic preferred), drained and rinsed

2 large shallots, peeled and minced

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish

Dressing

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons mild-flavored honey

1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth thickened with 1 teaspoon cornstarch and cooled

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Fill a 6-quart saucepan two-thirds full with cold water, place over high heat and bring to a boil. Stir in 2 teaspoons kosher salt and add the fresh beans. Cook for 8 minutes, or until tender. Drain and then chill in a bowl of ice water. Drain and set aside.

While the beans cook, make the dressing: To a medium mixing bowl add garlic, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, honey, hot sauce, sea salt, pepper and thickened chicken broth. Whisk together until combined. While whisking, add olive oil; whisking until combined. Set aside. To a large mixing bowl add prepared and cooled green and wax beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, shallots and bell pepper. Using a rubber spatula fold ingredients together until just mixed. Add dressing and using the rubber spatula, fold until the ingredients are coated. Just before serving, top with parsley. May be served immediately or refrigerated and served later. Serves 12.

Cook's note: Canned wax beans may be substituted for fresh. Just drain and carefully mix in at the end; do not cook.

Nutrition values per serving: 168 calories (28 percent from fat), 5.3 g fat (0.6 g saturated), 24.3 g carbohydrates, 7.8 g fiber, 6.8 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 580 mg sodium.

SaltSense: Omitting the added salt reduces sodium per serving to 289 mg.