WASHINGTON — The Mediterranean Diet extended its dynasty, claiming the top spot for the fourth straight year as best overall diet in rankings of best diets for 2021 released Jan. 4 by US News & World Report. The Mediterranean Diet also ranked No. 1 in easiest diet to follow and best plant-based diet, and it tied for No. 1 in best diets for healthy eating, best diets for diabetes and best heart-healthy diets.

In best overall diets, the DASH Diet and the Flexitarian Diet tied for second place.

“As people stay home more and move their bodies less — and grapple with the ‘quarantine 15’ — it’s important to maintain a healthy diet and stay active,” said Angela Haupt, managing editor of health at US News. “What that looks like will be different for each person. The 2021 Best Diets rankings arm consumers with up-to-date information and data to help choose the right diet based on their unique health needs or weight.”

The Mediterranean Diet is rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil and fish. Last year two studies linked the diet to healthy aging. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School found olive oil activates a pathway in cells to increase lifespan and prevent aging-related diseases. A five-country study in Gut found the Mediterranean Diet may promote healthy aging by curbing frailty and cognitive decline.

In the US News rankings, 24 panelists, including nutritionists and specialists in diabetes, heart health and weight loss, scored 39 diets in the following areas: ease of compliance, likelihood of losing significant weight in both the short and long term, and effectiveness against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The Noom Diet, the AIP Diet, the GAPS Diet and the Modified Keto Diet joined the rankings this year. The Noom Diet, which focuses on behavioral change, was praised for its built-in support network, both on an individual and group level.

WW (Weight Watchers) claimed the top spot in best commercial diets while the HMR Diet was No. 1 in best fast weight-loss diet. Ties were abundant in this year’s rankings. The Flexitarian Diet and WW tied for first place in best weight-loss diets. The DASH diet tied the Mediterranean Diet for best diets for healthy eating. The best diets for diabetes was a tie between the Flexitarian Diet and the Mediterranean Diet. Tying for the best heart-healthy diets were the DASH Diet, the Mediterranean Diet and the Ornish diet.

“COVID has been our overriding health concern for this past year and potentially distracted us from others, but the reality is, diet is more important than ever,” said David Katz, MD, president of True Health Initiative. “Diet not only influences everything about our health over a lifetime, but it acutely affects the function of our immune system and exerts an outsized influence on risk factors related to COVID.”