Many health experts consider the Mediterranean diet to be one of the most optimal eating patterns for disease prevention and longevity. A typical Mediterranean diet food list includes vegetables, whole grains, fish, some cheeses, nuts, and fruits. However, a recent variation of this diet, called the “Green Mediterranean Diet,” focuses on plant foods commonly eaten in the Mediterranean region, including Italy, Greece, Spain, and Turkey. Results from a recent study indicate that a green Mediterranean diet may be even more effective at improving cholesterol, blood pressure, body weight and inflammation markers than a Mediterranean diet that includes more meat.
What is the Green Mediterranean Diet?
The Green Mediterranean Diet is a predominantly vegan diet that emphasizes whole, unprocessed plant foods. This diet includes very little or no meat and a minimum of animal products. According to an article published by the journal BMJ, the green Mediterranean diet may even be healthier than the traditional Mediterranean diet, which includes more animal foods, such as poultry, cheese and meat.
While the traditional Med diet is known to promote heart and metabolic health, fight obesity and diabetes, and contribute to a better quality of life in old age, the green Mediterranean diet contains more plant foods, as well as green tea and the sea vegetable called Mankai (or duckweed), which are loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants.
How does it work?
A green Mediterranean vegan diet, or close to a vegan/vegetarian diet most of the time, is able to improve health by providing vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, as well as plenty of fibre, phytonutrients and antioxidants. . Recent research published in the journal Heart suggests that this type of Mediterranean diet may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
These effects are believed to be due to high intake of polyphenols from foods and beverages such as vegetables, tea, and seaweed, healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, and seeds, and fiber from vegetables, whole grains and fruits. At the same time, the Green Mediterranean Diet includes less saturated fat from red meat and less added sugar and other chemicals from processed foods.
According to studies, following a green Mediterranean diet plan can support cardiovascular, metabolic, cognitive, gut, and immune health.
Here are some of the benefits of this type of plant-based diet:
– Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
– Protection against obesity and improved waist circumference and BMI (lower waist circumference is linked to metabolic health).
– Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
– Reduced hunger and cravings through increased fiber and nutrient intake.
– Improved cholesterol and blood pressure
– Improved insulin sensitivity
– Reduction of inflammation markers
When researchers from the 2021 Heart study mentioned above sought to determine whether a greener version of the Med diet was even more protective against the development of the disease, they found evidence that it was. Their data showed that a Green Med diet is higher in green plant food sources and even lower in red meat than a normal Med diet, which appears to support weight maintenance and heart health.
Following a green Mediterranean dietary pattern in conjunction with physical activity has the potential to be a major contributor to public health. The results suggest that further restriction of meat consumption with a parallel increase in plant-based, protein-rich foods may be even more beneficial for cardiometabolic status and reduce cardiovascular risk, beyond the beneficial effects. known from the traditional Mediterranean diet.
Here are more details about the study and the key benefits of the Green Mediterranean Diet that were discovered:
The study involved nearly 300 randomly assigned adults who were moderately obese and sedentary (with an average BMI of 31 and an age of 51). Participants were divided into three dietary groups:
– Those who received advice on how to stimulate physical activity and basic guidelines for healthy eating.
– Those who received the same advice on physical activity plus advice on following a traditional calorie-restricted Med diet (1500-1800 kcal/day for men and 1200-1400 kcal/day for women ).
– Those who received advice on physical activity plus advice on following a similar, calorie-restricted, green version of the Mediterranean diet.
– Those following the Med Green diet were instructed to avoid refined carbohydrates, red meat, poultry and processed meat and to favor vegetables and other plants, nuts, several cups of green tea a day and the plant aquatic plant called duckweed (also called Wolffia globosa, which is a cultured, protein-rich Mankai strain).
After six months, the effect of each diet on weight loss and cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors was assessed.
Participants in both types of Mediterranean diets lost weight. Those who followed the Green Med diet lost around 6.2 kg on average, and those who followed the traditional Med diet lost around 5 kg. People following the “healthy diet” lost about 1.5 kg.
Waist circumference decreased by an average of 8.6 centimeters in people on the Green Med diet, compared to 6.8 centimeters in those on the classic Med diet and 4.3 centimeters in those on the healthy diet.
The group following the Med Green diet experienced, by far, the greatest improvements in “bad” LDL cholesterol. Other cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors also improved significantly in people following the Med Green diet, including blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and markers of inflammation (such as C-reactive protein, which plays a key role in hardening the arteries).
Foods and Meal Plan
What are the foods in the green Mediterranean diet?
– High-fiber foods, including vegetables, fruits, seaweed, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and whole grains.
– Plant-based proteins, such as legumes, beans, vegan protein powders, and seaweed (including duckweed, which is high in omega-3s and protein).
– Foods high in antioxidants, such as all kinds of vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, as well as teas.
– Olive oil and nuts (especially walnuts) or seeds, such as hemp, chia, or flax, for healthy fats.
– Dairy products, such as yogurt, eggs and fish, in small quantities.
Is tea part of the Mediterranean diet? Yes !
Green tea is highly encouraged due to its high antioxidant content. Participants in the Heart study drank three to four cups of green tea a day. A little red wine, in moderation, and coffee can also be included.
What foods are prohibited in the Mediterranean diet?
– Processed meats (such as salami, hot dogs, deli meats, etc.)
– Red meats
– Poultry and fish (only in very small quantities)
– Cheeses and dairy products in large quantities
– Processed foods
– Added sugar
Can you eat packaged foods?
For example, is oatmeal acceptable as part of the Mediterranean diet? As much as possible, eat fresh foods and limit processed products. Read ingredient labels and choose foods with as few additives as possible. If you buy rolled oats, buy products that contain only whole oats, rather than refined oats with added sugar and flavorings.
How to do the green Mediterranean diet?
The key is to eat plenty of plant foods, fiber and healthy fats.
Here is a sample Green Mediterranean Diet meal plan for one day:
Breakfast: Smoothie made with vegan protein powder, chia seeds, fruit and spinach. Also have a cup of green tea or coffee.
Lunch: Salad with beans, nuts, diced vegetables and olive oil dressing. Also drink plenty of water and a cup of green tea.
Dinner: Bean and vegetable soup, salad and wholemeal bread.
Risks and side effects
When following a plant-based diet, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough protein. To avoid fatigue, weakness, and increased hunger, include plenty of plant-based protein in your meals, such as beans, legumes, and vegan protein powder. Remember that even if you find it hard to eat entirely plant-based (or follow a vegan diet), you have everything to gain by including lots of plant-based foods in your diet and cutting out processed meats.
As always, if you have any medical conditions and are on medication, talk to your doctor before drastically changing your diet.
Recent studies suggest that a green Mediterranean diet may be even healthier than the traditional Med diet, which includes more animal foods, such as poultry, cheese and meat. A Med Green diet can promote heart and metabolic health, fight obesity and diabetes, and contribute to the quality of life of older adults. Following this type of diet requires consuming more plant-based foods, as well as green tea and seaweed, to get plenty of antioxidants and disease-fighting fiber.
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