In recent years, the Mediterranean diet has emerged as one of the healthiest eating patterns out there. Now, a new study suggests that a ‘green’ Med diet (which features more plant-based foods) may be better for health than a traditional Mediterranean diet.
This is not a diet in the strict sense – it is more of a set of eating habits inspired by Mediterranean countries like Spain, Italy or Greece. The diet shouldn’t be strict as there is no single ‘Mediterranean’ way of eating – it varies from country to country and even from region to region. Some even argue that it’s not just about What You eat, but also about How You eat.
The general idea, however, is that you should eat lots of plant foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes, legumes, legumes, whole cereals, and whole grains. When or if you eat meat, it’s fish and maybe chicken – red meat doesn’t have a major place in the Mediterranean diet.
Although scientists still debate how good the Mediterranean diet is, most studies seem to show that it is quite healthy. A 2017 review of studies found evidence that practicing a Mediterranean diet can lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, overall cancer incidence, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, and premature death. Another 2018 review echoed findings, reporting that a Mediterranean diet can improve overall health status.
Now, a new study reports that, in terms of weight loss at least, the Mediterranean ‘green sisters’ may have more of a benefit.
Fiber, healthy fats and polyphenols are considered to be the key benefits of the Mediterranean diet. In a new study, researchers wanted to see if a higher intake of this compound (and even a lower intake of red meat) was better. They randomly assigned 294 sedentary and moderately obese people to three diet groups:
- the first group received only guidance on how to achieve a healthy diet and increase their physical activity;
- the second group received the same guidelines, plus advice on following a calorie-restricted Mediterranean diet (1500-1800 kcal / day for men and 1200-1400 kcal / day for women);
- the third group received the same thing as the second group, but featured a green version of the Mediterranean diet (the so-called green Med).
Specifically, the green Med diet includes 28 g / day of walnuts, 3-4 cups / day of green tea, avoiding red meat, and 100 g of frozen cubes of Wolffia globosa (farmed Mankai strain), the high-protein form of the waters. duckweed plant, to replace animal protein.
After six months, the researchers examined the participants. All three groups experienced weight loss, but the results were surprising: participants in the healthy diet (first group) lost 1.5 kg. Participants in the Mediterranean diet lost 5.4 kg. Finally, Green Med participants lost 6.2 kg. Waist circumference also decreased by 4.3 cm, 6.8 cm and 8.6 cm respectively. A similar reduction was observed for cholesterol.
This is still a small-scale study, but the results warrant further investigation, the researchers said.
“Education and encouragement to follow the Green Med diet in conjunction with physical activity are potentially major contributors to public health as it improves the balance of cardiovascular risk factors, ultimately preventing cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” wrote the authors in the study.
The dietary results of the Mediterranean diet are not always clear, as is often the case in nutrition studies. However, this is at least partly due to the wide variety of Mediterranean foods. If many benefits come from a portion of the Mediterranean diet, it is worth exploring a particular variant of the Mediterranean diet.
Ultimately, however, both types of Mediterranean diets appear to offer significant benefits when it comes to weight loss. Reducing calorie intake is definitely one of the first things recommended for losing weight, but some diets make it easier than others – and healthier than others, too.
“Our findings suggest that additional limitation of meat intake with parallel increases in plant-based, protein-rich diets may be more beneficial for cardiometabolic states and reduce cardiovascular risk, beyond the known beneficial effects of a traditional Mediterranean diet,” the study concluded.
The study has been published in the British Medical Journal.