Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets named best overall diets in 2024

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The Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets are the best overall diets in 2024, according to a U.S. News & World Report poll. Anna Ivanova/Stocksy
  • The Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets are the best overall diets, according to a poll conducted by U.S. News & World Report.
  • This is the seventh consecutive year the Mediterranean diet has earned the top spot.
  • The Mediterranean and DASH diets were also named two of the best heart-healthy diets.

The Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets are the best overall diets, according to a poll conducted by U.S. News & World Report.

The Mediterranean diet was named the best diet for seven years in a row.

The DASH diet, used to help lower high blood pressure, was ranked second-best. The MIND diet — a combination of both the Mediterranean and DASH diets plus a focus on foods that improve brain health — was named the third-best diet.

The Mediterranean and DASH diets were also named the top two heart-healthy diets, in that order.

What makes these diets the best for 2024? Medical News Today spoke with three medical experts to learn more.

According to Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, a board certified interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, CA, the Mediterranean diet has received a lot of attention over the past 10 years as people in the Mediterranean region who follow this diet seem to have fewer chronic health problems and increased lifespan.

“I think that’s how it got popular, but it is true,” Dr. Chen explained to MNT. “A lot of the principles in the Mediterranean diet are heart healthy, such as basing it on more plant-based foods, whole grains, nuts, (and) healthy monounsaturated fats, and avoiding saturated fats, too much sugar.”

Previous studies show the Mediterranean diet may help slow age-related cognitive decline, help increase chances for successful in vitro fertilization (IVF), and improve the gut microbiome.

Following the Mediterranean diet has also been linked to lowering a person’s risk for certain diseases, including:

“The Mediterranean diet is not a defined type of ‘diet’ in terms of amounts, specific portions or numerical goals — it is more of a dietary pattern and lifestyle,” Monique Richard, a registered dietitian nutritionist, owner of Nutrition-In-Sight, and national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics told MNT.

“The flexibility and basic tenets fit many individuals’ lives, goals, and needs, and it is sustainable for the long-term, enjoyable, and beneficial — a recipe for long-term success.”

“The Mediterranean dietary pattern is also less restrictive and rigid. It highlights the benefits of wine, of various healthy fats, and really brings together the social and joyous aspects of meals shared, pleasures of the senses in cooking, tasting, and creating nurturing combinations that many individuals feel are taken away ‘on a diet,’” Richard added.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension — or DASH for short — was developed in the 1990s as a way to help lower high blood pressure.

“Hypertension is one of the major risk factors for cardiac disease,” Dr. Chen said. “This particular diet … (is) really set up for patients who have high blood pressure and want to keep that under control.”

“The main difference between this and the other diets is that it not only emphasizes fruits and vegetables but also puts a lot of emphasis on the amount of sodium intake,” he continued. “So they really try to limit the amount of sodium, and we know that excess sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure that’s hard to control.”

A study published in September 2021 found the DASH diet helps lower blood pressure and reduces waist circumference and triglyceride concentration in people with hypertension.

“The DASH diet’s effectiveness in supporting heart health stems from its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, legumes, low fat dairy, whole grains, and nuts,” Catalina Ruz Gatica, registered dietitian nutritionist at Top Nutrition Coaching, told MNT.

Ruz Gatica explained the DASH diet’s composition leads to a dietary pattern high in:

“Most people in the U.S. fall short of the recommended daily intake of potassium and fiber, two critical components for a healthy cardiovascular system. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure as it relaxes artery walls aiding in blood flow, and it assists in eliminating excess sodium. Fiber, specifically soluble fiber, helps trap cholesterol, preventing reabsorption and eliminating it through our digestive system. Overall, the DASH diet effectively incorporates specific foods that bolster our cardiovascular health.”

— Catalina Ruz Gatica, registered dietitian nutritionist

The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets with a focus on foods specifically known to help improve brain health and lower a person’s risk for cognitive decline, such as:

Like the Mediterranean and DASH diets, the MIND diet emphasizes plant-based foods.

The Mediterranean diet food pyramid suggests at least 2 servings of vegetables during main meals daily, while the DASH diet recommends 4 or more. The MIND diet suggests 1 or more than 1 serving of veggies per day but emphasizes 6 or more servings of dark leafy greens each week.

“The MIND diet wonderfully merges some of the guidelines of the Mediterranean and the DASH diet, while providing specific recommendations for brain health,” Ruz Gatica explained. “It simplifies the guidelines of its parent diets, potentially making it more practical for some.”

A study published in September 2015 found those who followed the MIND diet reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 53%.

A study presented in 2018 reported the MIND diet may help slow cognitive decline after a stroke.

These two diets (Mediterranean and DASH) are an ideal marriage of the combination of food groups and nutrients we know are beneficial for health in every system of the body overall. It has the flexibility and variability that allows for long-term enjoyment and consistency but does require effort in creating, making, and understanding how to implement the components.”

— Monique Richard, registered dietitian nutritionist

With so many diets to choose from, the selections can sometimes be overwhelming, making it difficult to decide which is best to follow.

Ruz Gatica said the Mediterranean diet is ideal for those seeking a balanced, nutrient-rich diet for overall health and wellness, with its anti-inflammatory properties offering protection against chronic illnesses.

The DASH diet is particularly beneficial for individuals with high blood pressure or a family history of hypertension, especially in ethnicities with a pronounced genetic predisposition to hypertension.

“The MIND diet is tailored to protect against cognitive decline and dementia,” Ruz Gatica continued. “While it supports cardiovascular health due to its roots in the Mediterranean and DASH diets, it’s especially suitable for individuals with a family history of cognitive impairments or dementia.”

For those looking for other heart-healthy diets, Dr. Chen suggested considering the Ornish diet, which was ranked #3 for heart-healthy diets in U.S. News & World Report’s current list. This diet was named after Dr. Dean Ornish, who created it in 1977.

“It’s not necessarily better than Mediterranean or DASH, but it’s something they can consider,” he explained. “It puts a lot of emphasis on making everything plant-based as much as possible.

Richard noted these diets have many commonalities, with just a different name and slight variations.

“The more important piece is to understand what you, as an individual, need, prefer, have access to, have skills and ability to do, and what fits into your life and works for your goals and health. I would highly recommend finding a registered dietitian nutritionist to really understand what that means and bring clarity (to) the confusion.”

— Monique Richard, registered dietitian nutritionist