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  • The raw food diet was ranked the worst way to eat overall for the second year in a row.
  • Other diets deemed unhealthy include the low-carb Dukan diet, and plans like Slimfast and Herbalife.
  • Experts say red flags of a bad diet include too much restriction and cutting out whole food groups. 
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I can’t believe we need to say this, but please cook your food (and season it too, while you’re at it).

The raw food diet— made up of unheated, unprocessed food —has been named the worst plan for healthy eating for the second time in a row, according to annual rankings from US News & World Report.

Every year, they assemble a panel of experts, from doctors to weight-loss researchers, to assess popular diets and determine the healthiest way to eat.

In the process, they also identify diets you should avoid due to excessive restriction, potential side effects, and slim chances of long-term success.

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Why is the raw food diet unhealthy?

The raw food diet received the lowest score overall out of 30 different diets based on factors such as nutritional completeness, how easy it is to follow, and long-term sustainability.

The diet includes fruit, raw vegetables, sprouted or soaked raw grains and legumes, cold-pressed olive or coconut oil, and often involves lots of juicing. It’s also primarily plant-based (although some people opt to include raw fish or raw meat, despite health risks).

Some advocates of the diet claim that raw food is more nutritious, but cooking some vegetables, grains, and other ingredients can actually increase our ability to absorb nutrients, a dietitian previously told Business Insider.

A major downside of the raw food diet is that it eliminates foods that can be healthy, including bread, prepared veggies, and cooked beans. It can also be tricky to get all the required nutrients such as protein.

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Another concern about the raw food diet is that it can be very low in calories since raw foods are typically less calorie-dense, which can lead to unhealthy weight loss that includes loss of muscle mass or bone density.

Finally, a raw food diet can be difficult to follow long-term, making it tough to dine out or enjoy food-related social events, according to the expert panel. Tennis superstar Venus Williams followed a raw food diet for her health, but previously told Business Insider it wasn’t sustainable for her.

What are the red flags that a diet is unhealthy or won’t work?

The raw food diet also came in last place in 2023, bumping the keto diet from the bottom spot.

Previously, experts ranked keto as the worst diet to follow for several years. The low-carb, high-fat plan has been criticized for potentially including unhealthy processed foods and too much saturated fat, and eliminating healthy foods including fruit, whole grains, and some vegetables.

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This year, keto climbed to the 25th spot overall on the rankings and took first place for fast weight loss. Recent research suggests that a keto diet can include nutritious foods like leafy greens and healthy fats, and may help with diabetes and weight management.

However, another low-carb diet still made the bottom three. The Dukan diet — ranked 28 out of 30 diets — is a high-protein plan with rumored celebrity fans and involves different phases from eating only protein-rich foods to gradually reintroducing some veggies. There are a lot of complex rules, leading experts to conclude that it’s extremely restrictive and may even be unsafe for some people. Plus, there’s little evidence it works.

Rounding out the five worst diets in the rankings were commercial plans like Slimfast and Herbalife (ranked 27 and 29, respectively), which are based on supplements such as shakes or bars. The expert panel said these programs don’t teach healthy habits, rely too much on processed food products, and could leave you hungry.

While supplements like protein shakes can have a place in a healthy diet, they aren’t necessary to build muscle or lose weight.