At this point you must already be familiar with one of the world’s most popular healthy diets – the Mediterranean diet. But did you know there’s a new rising trend that came from it? It’s called the Green Mediterranean Diet.
The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, and healthy fats like nuts and olive oil, and which even allows some dark chocolate and red wine. The best thing about this diet is that it limits red meat, processed foods, and foods that have artificial sweeteners. This means that when you follow this eating pattern, you ensure that you’ll mostly consume healthy food. The Mediterranean diet is so good that a lot of registered dietitians praise it for its amazing health benefits.
The Green Mediterranean Diet: A New Fad or is it the Real Deal?
But is the Mediterranean diet the pinnacle of healthy food or could it get even better? According to a new study published in November 2020 in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) the Green Mediterranean Diet has greater health benefits than the traditional Mediterranean diet. Researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial that consisted of 2 groups. One group was asked to follow the traditional Mediterranean diet, while the other group was recommended to follow the Green Mediterranean Diet for the better part of 6 months. They found that the Green Mediterranean Diet group scored higher than the first group in terms of the reduction of “bad” LDL cholesterol, diastolic blood pressure (the second number on a blood pressure reading), and inflammatory markers.
When it came to losing weight, the figures were nearly identical with the standard Mediterranean diet group losing 12 lbs., while the Green Mediterranean Diet group lost about 14 lbs. However, there was a big difference between the 2 diets when it came to the reduction in waist circumference in men (the men following the Green Mediterranean Diet saw more inches reduced from their waist than those of the traditional Mediterranean diet).
But what is the Green Mediterranean Diet, and how does it differ from the standard Mediterranean diet?
The Green Mediterranean Diet vs. the Standard Mediterranean Diet
As you may already know by now, the traditional Mediterranean diet follows the eating patterns of Mediterranean cultures – particularly those of the Cretans and Southern Italians. This diet is plant-based and discourages people from eating red meat, processed foods and sugars. It emphasizes choosing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts, and olive oil.
You can find out more from this blog post: Benefits of a Healthy Mediterranean Lifestyle
These food selections are also supplemented with fish or seafood about 2 times a week on average, plus small amounts of dairy, eggs, and poultry. This diet also suggest that you drink up to a glass of red wine daily, but you can skip this part if you prefer no alcoholic drinks in your diet.
The Green Mediterranean Diet differs from the traditional Mediterranean diet, because it encourages people to give up red and processed meat completely, while it emphasizes on the consumption of “all green” foods like fruits and vegetables which goes above and beyond that of the Mediterranean diet. Not to worry though, because you still get to enjoy most of the Mediterranean-style foods that you love (i.e. whole grains and fresh produce). Plus, researchers of the Heart Study thought it best to include these 3 daily components to the diet.
- Mankai duckweed shake (100 grams)
- 3 – 4 cups of Green Tea
- 30 ml (1 ounce) of Walnuts
Meir Stampfer, MD, DrPH, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and an author on the Heart research says that by adding more foods rich in polyphenols and excluding red meat from the standard Mediterranean diet will further boost its health benefits.
How Does the Green Mediterranean Diet Work Exactly?
The Green Mediterranean Diet is setup in a way that it contains more protein than other diets, but is low in calories and carbohydrates. This means that there’s lesser carbs to store up in your body as fats and more nutrients for it to absorb. According to the authors of the Heart study, a typical Green Mediterranean Diet meal may require a person to eat 1,500 calories per day for men and 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day for women, of which 100 grams are protein while 40 grams are carbs. The researchers then increase carbohydrate intake for the participants to 80 grams per day and they also encourage them to do workouts up to 5 days a week.
From what scientists gathered on previous clinical trials, they found out the reason why other diets were especially healthy – and that’s due to the fact that they contain antioxidant-rich plant compounds called polyphenols. This is what Iris Shai said, a PhD, adjunct professor of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and author of the Heart Study. This is the basis for their creation of the Green Mediterranean Diet. They intended it to include several high-polyphenol foods, including Mankai (duckweed), green tea, olive oil, almonds, red onion, and broccoli. For instance, duckweed which is rich in protein, iron, and vitamin B12 can be an ideal replacement for red meat that’s why all sorts of meat are negligible in the Green Mediterranean Diet.
What Are the Potential Benefits of a Green Mediterranean Diet?
The Heart Study proved that any person who will adhere to the strict rules of the Green Mediterranean Diet will see their “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, diastolic blood pressure, and inflammatory markers improved at slightly higher levels compared to those who follow the traditional Mediterranean diet. The Framingham risk scores is a way to measure the expected cardiovascular disease risk after 10 years is commonly used by medical doctors and other health experts. The researchers of the Heart Study used it to measure how well the participants faired and they found that of the 3 diet patterns, the Green Mediterranean Diet saw the greatest risk reduction.
- Green Mediterranean Diet scored 3.7%
- The traditional Mediterranean diet 2.3%
- Controlled diet 1.4%
However, there are more benefits to mention from this new diet pattern, as it turns out, Dr. Stampfer said that they also noticed a significant decrease in the level of fat in the liver. Too much fat in the liver is associated with a number of diseases including diabetes, so the Green Mediterranean Diet is good for the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Although the Mediterranean diet has always been considered by health professionals as one of the healthiest diet patterns known to man, it still leaves some room for improvement. For example, you can incorporate other elements that are known to have health benefits also – even though they are not part of the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet like green tea.
It’s true that both the traditional and Green Mediterranean Diet stresses that people should have a plant-based diet, but the Green Mediterranean Diet takes things a notch higher by replacing the source of protein from animals to plants in the form of a duckweed shake. It’s also a fact that both the traditional Mediterranean diet and its derivative are very beneficial for heart and metabolic health, but with the findings from this new Heart Study, it may be possible to get more health benefits if you add more plants to your current diet plan. But historically, the traditional Mediterranean diet has more proven positive health benefits and should not be dismissed as easily in favor of the newly created Green Mediterranean Diet says health experts. It may be prudent to hold our breath until scientists can ascertain the long-term health benefits of the Green Mediterranean Diet.