In its seventh consecutive year, the Mediterranean diet has once again secured the top spot as the world's best overall diet for 2024, surpassing 29 other popular eating plans, according to U.S. News & World Report. Known for its extensive best and worst lists across various domains, the digital media company has been ranking diets since 2010, relying on a panel of 43 experts, including medical doctors, registered dietitians, nutritional epidemiologists, and weight loss researchers.
The Mediterranean diet's consistent high ranking is attributed to its variety and flexibility, setting it apart as a lifestyle and cultural choice rather than a restrictive eating program. The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, advocated by the Spain-based Mediterranean Diet Foundation, encourages daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and some dairy, with extra virgin olive oil as the primary fat source. Unlike diets that ban certain food groups, the Mediterranean approach recommends moderate weekly consumption of red meat, processed foods, eggs, sweets, and alcohol.
The diet's effectiveness is underlined by its emphasis on regular physical activity, sufficient rest, proper hydration, seasonal eating habits, and social connection during meals. The expert panel also highlighted substantial scientific evidence linking adherence to the Mediterranean diet with a lower risk of dementia, reduced cardiovascular disease risk, and a lower incidence of various cancers, including bladder, breast, and colorectal cancers.
Additional research has unveiled a diverse range of benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet, such as preventing obesity and other cardiometabolic diseases, alleviating depression symptoms, and improving oral health, among others.
The influence of the Mediterranean diet is evident throughout the U.S. News & World Report list, with the DASH diet securing the second spot and the MIND diet claiming the third spot—both diets draw inspiration from the Mediterranean approach. While the DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, it distinguishes itself with more regimented portion recommendations. On the other hand, the MIND diet combines elements of both the DASH and Mediterranean diets.
In addition to topping the overall list for the best diets of 2024, the Mediterranean diet received recognition in several subcategories, including the best diet for diabetes, bone and joint health, healthy eating, family-friendly diet, heart-healthy diet, and the easiest diet to follow. The expert panel also acknowledged it as the second-best weight loss diet (following the WeightWatchers diet) and the second-best plant-based diet (trailing the flexitarian diet).