- Experts called by US News & World Report suggest the raw food diet is the worst way to eat for 2023.
- They say the diet is too restrictive and not evidence-based and may lack important nutrients.
- A healthy diet is flexible and easy to maintain over time and emphasizes whole foods and plants.
The annual diet rankings from US News & World Report identified the raw food diet as the worst overall diet plan for 2023.
The diet includes only uncooked foods, such as fruits and vegetables, sprouted grains and legumes, and sometimes animal products such as raw fish or unprocessed dairy. It took over the bottom spot in several categories from the ketogenic diet, or keto for short, which rose slightly in the rankings.
Each year, US News & World Report gathers experts in health and nutrition to rank popular diets based on factors such as their overall health, how easy they are to follow, and their potential for weight loss and disease prevention. This year they reviewed 24 diets.
Experts rank the raw food diet the lowest overall because there is no evidence of benefits of cutting out cooked foods, it is very restrictive, and it may make you hungry, since raw foods tend to be lower in calories and protein than prepared foods.
As a result, it is difficult to maintain over time. While short-term diets can lead to temporary results, often for weight loss, long-term healthy diets involve eating strategies you can stick with, says Gretel Schueller, managing editor for health at US News.
“At the end of the day, it’s about how long can I stay in this, can I do this long term,” Schueller told Insider. “You might look good for a few months but eventually you’ll be back to where you started.”
Experts say too many restrictions can make diet plans backfire
Although diets that have strict rules or cut out certain food groups may seem effective, they may be difficult to maintain and the benefits will not last if you stop within a few weeks.
“When you restrict too much or feel deprived, you jump and don’t stick with it for the long term,” says Schueller.
The expert panel noted that other low-ranking diets were also too restrictive or difficult to follow long-term, or cut out potentially nutritious food groups.
Other underperformers are commercial diets including the low-carb Atkins diet as well as SlimFast and Optavia, which involve highly processed shakes, bars and supplements used to replace whole foods.
In contrast, the top-ranked Mediterranean diet and other highly rated plans involve variety, don’t exclude food groups, and are easier to adapt to fit different lifestyles.
“The step-up diet is one we’ve known for years using a common-sense approach to healthy eating, incorporating whole foods, and being flexible,” says Schueller.
The keto diet ranks a little higher this year
Although for several years it was ranked as the worst diet for healthy eating, the high-fat, low-carb keto diet took first place for rapid weight loss and 20th overall this year.
Evidence has emerged in recent years showing that keto and low-carb diets can help people manage their weight and blood sugar and can be structured in a way that includes more nutrient-dense foods and healthy fats.
“We see that it has the potential to be done in a healthy way, when it’s done right,” Schueller said. “Ask yourself what people are replacing carbs with. If it’s a healthy answer, that makes all the difference.”
Experts put the keto diet last for heart health. They had previously expressed concern that the diet was high in saturated fat, which some studies have linked to heart health concerns. Cutting carbs can also mean eliminating nutrient-dense foods like fruits, some vegetables, and whole grains — part of the reason experts still put keto in the bottom five this year.
But it doesn’t have to be the stereotypical “dirty keto” diet full of butter, burgers, and cheese, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine who studies low-carb diets, previously told Insider.
He says examples of healthier keto-friendly foods include fat sources like olive oil, protein like fish, low-carb fruits like berries, and lots of leafy greens for nutrients.
Correction: January 3, 2023 — An earlier version of this story’s headline misstated where the keto diet ranked in the latest US News & World Report rankings. Although it rose from the bottom, which was in 2022, experts did not rank it as the second-unhealthiest diet for 2023.