It’s hard to beat the heart-healthy benefits of the Mediterranean diet plan, which emphasizes whole foods like fruit, veggies, legumes, seafood, and lean meats.
But the new “green” Mediterranean diet plan has been getting a lot of buzz lately — and it may offer even greater benefits than the original diet.
The green Mediterranean diet plan follows many of the same basic principles as the original.
However, the green version incorporates more plants and fewer animal products (though it’s still not 100 percent vegetarian or vegan).
Here’s what you need to know about the latest plant-based diet plan.
What Foods Are Allowed on the Green Mediterranean Diet?
The green Mediterranean diet is based around many of the same foods as the original version, including:
- fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- nuts and seeds
- olive oil
- lean proteins like fish, eggs, and dairy
However, there are a few tweaks.
The green Mediterranean diet is rooted in a recent study on the effects of a Mediterranean diet that incorporates more plant-based foods and fewer animal products.
Researchers placed participants into three groups. Over a period of six months, one group followed healthy dietary guidance; one followed the original Mediterranean diet, and one followed a “green” Mediterranean diet, which made the following changes to the original:
- Add 1 ounce of walnuts and 3 to 4 cups of green tea per day.
- Replace animal protein at dinner each day with a plant-based protein shake containing 100 grams of frozen cubed Wolffia globosa (a.k.a. duckweed).
- Limit poultry.
- Avoid red meat and processed meats (such as hot dogs and salami).
What Are the Benefits of the Green Mediterranean Diet Plan?
The green Mediterranean diet seemed to amplify some of those health benefits.
In the study above, participants who followed the green Mediterranean diet plan experienced greater improvement in their Framingham Risk Score (which assesses cardiovascular risk) than the other groups.
The green Mediterranean diet group also experienced greater decreases in “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) compared to those on the traditional Mediterranean diet (who also saw these vitals improve).
Certain components of the green Mediterranean diet may contribute to these additional benefits.
- Researchers believe the compounds in plants called polyphenols — as well as the fiber, plant protein, and unsaturated fats — may help to promote heart health.
- Fiber is an important part of a healthy diets and helps to support digestive health.
- Research suggests Wolffia globosa, a.k.a. duckweed, is a high-quality source of protein that contains nine essential amino acids and provides fiber.
Plus, research suggests red meat consumption (which is banned on the green version of the diet) may be linked with an increased risk of certain cardiovascular risks, says Shannon Henry, RD, of EZCare Clinic.
Can You Lose Weight on the Green Mediterranean Diet?
“The green Mediterranean can be effective for weight loss, so long as you do not go over your daily caloric needs on a normal basis,” says Trista Best, M.P.H., R.D., L.D.
In the study, participants on the green Mediterranean diet lost an average of 13.66 pounds in six months.
The group that followed the original Mediterranean diet lost an average of 11.9 pounds, while the healthy dietary guidance group lost an average of 3.3 pounds.
(Both the green and original Mediterranean diet groups were on calorie-restricted diets, and all diets were combined with physical activity.)
Participants who followed the green Mediterranean diet also experience a greater reduction in waist circumference than the other groups.
“Because of the satiating nature of higher-fiber foods present in the diet, some people may lose weight as they transition to the green Mediterranean eating style,” says Jen Bruning, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The Bottom Line
While the results of this study are promising, so far this is the only published peer-review study on the green Mediterranean diet, and the study participants were predominantly men (88 percent).
More research is necessary to confirm the results of this study.
With that said, “the components of green Mediterranean that are different — less red meat, more veggies, green tea — have their own evidence as being health-promoting,” Bruning says. “The combination would be likely to have those benefits as well, though more evidence is needed to look at the whole diet.”