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The best way to lose weight?

Common sense takes first prize in the annual rating of popular diets that U.S. News & World Reports published this month. Established, balanced plans came out ahead of gimmicky insta-lose programs.

The overall winner was the DASH diet , which, as its full name – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – suggests, is designed to lower a person’s blood pressure. But the diet, it turns out, had the highest rating on a five-point scale measuring short – and long-term weight loss, ease of compliance, safety and nutrition. Here’s the basic idea of DASH, as described by a panel of experts:

“Emphasize the foods you’ve always been told to eat (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy), while shunning those we’ve grown to love (calorie- and fat-laden sweets and red meat). Top it all off by cutting back on salt, and voilà!”

Second-best overall was the low-fat TLC Diet. Tied for third place were the well-known Weight Watchers program and the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, olive oil and fish.

Tied for last place were two high-protein diets – the Paleo “cave-man” diet, which was the most Google-searched plan of the year, and the Dukan, named for its founder, a French physician.

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