The results are in. U.S. News ranked 24 diets based on input from a panel of health experts and identified those that are best for people concerned about heart health — from helping control blood pressure to reducing cholesterol. Here are the top five:
- The DASH Diet – The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension program (DASH) was created to help control high blood pressure – and its effects on that marker of cardiovascular health have been extensively studied. If you adopt the diet, you’ll focus on eating the heart-healthy foods we all recognize – fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy, while avoiding those more tempting foods like calorie-rich sweets and fat-laden red meat.
- The Mediterranean Diet – It’s all the rage and what’s not to love? The Mediterranean Diet has been associated with a decreased risk for heart disease, and it’s also been shown to reduce blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol. Since the Mediterranean approach largely avoids saturated fat (which contributes to high cholesterol) and includes healthier mono- and polyunsaturated fats in moderation (which can reduce cholesterol), your heart will thank you.
- The Flexitarian Diet – With a flexitarian diet, also known as a semi-vegetarian diet, you don’t have to eliminate meat to reap the health benefits associated with vegetarianism. Instead, you can be a vegetarian most of the time, but still enjoy a burger or steak on special occasions. By eating more plants and less meat, studies show that people who follow the diet may not only lose weight but can improve their overall health by lowering their rate of heart disease and diabetes. A large 2020 study of nearly 11,000 people found that low-meat diets – including vegetarian, pescatarian and flexitarian – reduced cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as well as BMI.
- The Ornish Diet – Tied for third is this strict plan. Dieters adhere to a very strict regimen: Only 10 percent of calories can come from fat, very little of it saturated, and most foods with any cholesterol or refined carbohydrates, oils, excessive caffeine and nearly all animal products are forbidden. Research suggests the Ornish diet in conjunction with stress-management techniques, exercise, and social support, could reverse heart disease.
- The MIND Diet – The MIND diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, takes two proven diets – DASH and Mediterranean – and zeroes in on the foods in each that specifically improve brain health to potentially lower your risk of mental decline. In a long-term 2022 study that started with nearly 2,900 participants who were free of heart disease, their usual diet was evaluated and scored for adherence to MIND. Over the 10-year study period, those whose diets had higher MIND scores were less likely to develop heart disease, suffer a stroke or die from cardiovascular causes.