The Mediterranean Diet Is Going Green
"GREEN" IS A buzzword.
And the Mediterranean Diet is one of the most highly touted eating plans around these days. So, what happens when you mash these two concepts together?
Presenting the Green Mediterranean Diet.
The Mediterranean Diet was inspired by the eating habits of Mediterranean cultures. It is known to support heart health, per the Mayo Clinic. To make the diet "green" you then remove animal products.
As dietitians attest, the Green Mediterranean Diet might do some pretty amazing things for both your body and the environment. Barbara Kovalenko, R.D., and nutrition consultant at Lasta, recommends the Green Mediterranean Diet for its health benefits and sustainability.
“This dietary pattern has been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer,” she says. It's even associated with a reduced environmental impact, because it promotes the use of sustainable food production, and minimizes food waste.
Plus, with a peanut butter, banana, and kale smoothie for breakfast and chocolate hummus for dessert, it's pretty tasty.
Ahead, a deeper exploration of the Green Mediterranean Diet.
What Is the Green Mediterranean Diet?
It may be a trending new diet, but it’s has age-old roots.
“The origin of the Green Mediterranean Diet can be traced back to the Blue Zones,” areas in the world where people live the longest and healthiest lives, says Kathryn Piper, R.D.N,, The Age-Defying Dietitian. These regions all have a strong tradition of plant-based eating.
The Green Mediterranean Diet is a "dietary pattern that combines the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on plant-based foods,” she says. It is built on a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and olive oil as the main source of dietary fat.
“It also includes moderate amounts of fish and seafood. Dairy products are encouraged in smaller quantities than in the traditional Mediterranean diet,” she adds. Unlike the Mediterranean Diet (more on this eating plan here), red meat and chicken isn’t a part of the Green Mediterranean Diet.
“While the Mediterranean Diet includes red meat on occasion, the Green Mediterranean diet eliminates red and processed meats altogether,” says Laura Isaacson, R.D., Director of Clinical Dietetics for Vida Health.
While both diets emphasize plant-based foods, Isaacson says that the Green Mediterranean Diet specifically includes 100 grams of Mankai duckweed shake (a high-protein aquatic plant), three to four cups of green tea, and one ounce of walnuts daily.
“These recommendations are very specific, so one might wonder why these foods are specifically highlighted. It turns out that these foods are high in polyphenols, which are found in plants and work as antioxidants in the body,” she says, noting that polyphenols may offer protection against several chronic diseases including certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. More on that below.
That said, who the heck has all the Mankai duckweed just sitting around?
What Are Some Benefits of the Green Mediterranean Diet?
We've mentioned a few, but there are more.
“The Green Mediterranean Diet has numerous potential health benefits, including a lower risk of chronic disease, weight loss, improved gut health, and improved overall health,” says Kovalenko. Research has found that people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet rich in plant-based foods and healthy fats had a 30 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who ate a low-fat diet.
A different study found that eating a plant-based Mediterranean diet could cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in half, she says. Plant-based diets have also been linked reduction in inflammation, which is a factor in the development of chronic diseases.
A Green Mediterranean Diet is also rich in a type of good-for-you plant compounds called polyphenols. “Previous studies suggest that a diet high in polyphenols, similar to the green Mediterranean diet, may help with weight loss, prevent weight gain and even offer health benefits such as improved blood glucose and lipid profiles," says Isaacson.
Those looking to lose weight may also want to look into this eating plan. One study shows the diet having the ability to reduce twice as much visceral fat as the Mediterranean Diet. Visceral fat is abdominal fat that surrounds your organs, which makes it more dangerous.
“The high amount of polyphenols in a green Mediterranean diet are likely contributing to reduced visceral fat through several mechanisms, including the blocking of fat absorption after eating, increased uptake of glucose into the muscles, stopping of new blood vessels forming in fat tissue, and reduction in chronic inflammation,” she says.
Isaacson says that it’s best to get polyphenols through food rather than supplements. Foods high in polyphenols include as berries, artichokes, red onion, spinach, flaxseed, tea, cocoa, herbs and spices, olives, and nuts, she says.
Are There Downsides to the Green Mediterranean Diet?
It seems like there's nothing this diet can't do. Right?
Not quite. While the benefits sound appealing, this diet is not for everyone.
First and foremost, if you don’t like or can’t eat nuts, this isn’t the diet for you. “Because nuts are a key component of the diet, the Green Mediterranean Diet may not be suitable for people who have specific dietary restrictions, such as those who are allergic to nuts,” says Kovalenko.
The same is true for people who are allergic or have an intolerance to legumes, like beans and lentils. It may also be too light on calories and protein for those aiming to gain muscle, she says.
Another potential downside of the Green Mediterranean Diet, Piper says, is that it may be low in certain nutrients that are typically found in animal products, such as vitamin B12 and iron. “However, these nutrients can be obtained through fortified plant-based foods or supplements,” she says.
It's also expensive. The diet can get costly due to the amount of whole foods and fresh produce (not to mention sourcing and paying for all that duckweed) required to adhere to this nutrition plan, says Piper.
Before beginning this diet (or any, for that matter), Kovalenko suggests people with kidney disease or other medical conditions that necessitate strict dietary restrictions must consult with a healthcare professional.
Should You Try the Green Mediterranean Diet?
The short answer: Depends?
The longer answer: “This diet is well-suited for those who want to follow a plant-based diet while still enjoying moderate amounts of fish and dairy products,” says Piper. “It can be especially beneficial for those who want to reduce their risk of chronic diseases and age healthfully.”
If living a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly lifestyle is also on your to-do list, this might be a diet plan for you to consider.
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