Doctors and nutritionists have strong opinions about diets. Why don’t we listen to them?

The experts agree—the more whole foods, the better.
The experts agree—the more whole foods, the better.
Image: Jose Luis Gonzalez
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Americans really want to lose weight. And we want it gone now. That’s why so many turn to the latest fad diet promising a shortcut to weight loss—even though those claims are often built upon complicated logic and dodgy science.

Meanwhile research shows what doctors and nutritionists have said for decades: that simply eating minimally processed whole foods is far more effective than any fad diet. This was the conclusion once again when US News consulted a panel of doctors and nutritionists to determine the 40 best diets, based on efficacy and safety. The top performers, like the Mediterranean and DASH diets, feature lots of fruits and vegetables and very few processed foods, and they emphasize moderation.

And yet that isn’t a recipe for popularity among the dieting populace. Data on the number of Google searches for each diet reveal far more interest in trendy diets such as the ketogenic diet and Whole30. With the sole exception of Weight Watchers and its Oprah and doctor-approved approach, judging by search trends, Americans are most interested in the diets that experts are most skeptical of.

These comparisons are not one-to-one, of course. It’s very difficult to put a number on a fickle concept like “interest in a diet.” The Google searches are a rough approximation of the popularity of each diet, but there’s no way to know how many of those who googled these diets actually tried them. The scale of 100 comes from the most popular of these diet search terms over the past year—Weight Watchers—and the other diets’ scores are in comparison to that.

US News assigned scores from 1-40, based on its panel of experts’ opinions, which are converted in the chart above to a score out of 100, for comparison purposes.

This story has been updated to clarify the methodology.