Looking to lose weight or get back on the road to good health? According to a panel of 22 recognized health experts, following the Dash Diet program is your best bet. 

The panel, formed as part of an assessment by U.S. News & World Report of the 20 most popular diets, critiqued each program for its effectiveness, ease of compliance, nutritional smarts and overall health risk. In the Best Diets Overall category, the Dash came in first, with three tying for second: the Mediterranean Diet, the TLC Diet and Weight Watchers.

You've often heard me praise the merits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in dairy and meat — exactly what Dash (which stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) promotes. According to WebMD, a group of patients who followed this plan reduced their blood pressure within two weeks. Another study found that it also boosted mental activity by an incredible 30 percent in overweight adults.

"This study has significant implications for slowing down or even reversing age-related cognitive deficits, which may even have greater impact among people vulnerable to develop dementia or Alzheimer's disease," Dr. James Blumenthal, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said in a news release. 

The book, "The Dash Diet Action Plan," is currently number one across a number of food and health-related categories on Amazon. "Although the actual diet suggestions are complex, the book is straight forward and helpful," wrote one reviewer. "It does become clear that if people ate this way they would have many less health concerns including help with their blood pressure."

For those purely seeking to lose weight, U.S. News & World Report found the commercial Weight Watchers program was the best, with a tie for second between Jenny Craig and the Raw Food Diet. 

Fans of the vegan scene will be happy to know that their diet scored a three-way tie for second in the Best Diabetes Diets category. Full rankings in each category are available at the official site here

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Dash Diet named best overall
U.S. News & World Report cuts through the hype with its first-ever assessment of 20 popular diet programs.