When it comes to the Mediterranean Diet, Greener is Better

A study published last month in the BMJ Journal Heart confirms what we’ve known for a long time, that the Mediterranean diet is excellent for heart health and weight loss.  It also determined that the benefits are even greater when you make the diet greener.

The traditional Mediterranean diet is based on eating vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans, and whole grains.  It allows moderate amounts of dairy, poultry, eggs, and seafood, while only eating red meat occasionally.  The green Mediterranean diet cuts out all red meat and processed meat; it includes 28 g (1/4 cup) of walnuts, 3 – 4 cups of green tea, and 100 g of green, plant-based protein per day*.

The participants in the study were 294 sedentary and moderately obese people of an average age of 51 who were divided into three groups.  The first group was given basic guidance on increasing physical activity and following a healthy diet.  The second group ate a traditional Mediterranean diet, but calorie-restricted (1500 – 1800 kcal/day for men and 1200 – 1400 kcal/day for women).  The third group followed the same physical activity and calorie restrictions but ate a green Mediterranean diet.  After 6 months, those on the healthy diet had lost about 3 lbs., took 1.7″ off their waist, and their LDL “bad” cholesterol dropped by 0.2mg/dl.  Those on the Mediterranean diet lost 12 lbs., took 2.7″ from their waist, and their LDL dropped 2.3 mg/dl.  The group on the green Mediterranean diet lost 14 lbs., took 3.4″ off their waist, and their LDL dropped by 6.1 mg/dl.  In addition, those on the green Mediterranean diet had the greatest drops in other cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors like blood pressure, insulin resistance, and the C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation.

This study provides further support for the benefits of an all or mostly plant-based diet which restricts meat intake and instead substitutes plant proteins.  (*Note:  this study gave the green Mediterranean diet group a daily shake made with Wolffia globosa, also known as duckweed, which has been eaten for centuries in places like Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand, and is known as “meat for the poor” because of its high protein content).

Transitioning to a green Mediterranean diet can be gradual, easing out animal proteins and replacing them with plant-based options as often or as seldom as you choose.  The foods you eat should include the following:

  • All fruits and vegetables, with fresh and unprocessed being best
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Bean, peas, and lentils
  • Unsaturated fats like olive oil
  • Herbs and spices
  • Tea and wine
  • Seafood and lean protein like chicken or turkey
  • Tofu, tempeh, or duckweed

Avoid fast food and processed foods as well as deli meats, bacon, or sausage.  Eat whole, plant-based foods as close to their natural state as possible and go green!

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