Green Mediterranean Diet: What Changed? Is this Better than the Original?

by Marixie Ann Obsioma
Published on June 1, 2022 and last updated for accuracy on June 14, 2022

According to the study’s authors, individuals who had a diet higher in plant-based proteins and lower in red and poultry meat had improved metabolic and cardiovascular health.

Some evidence suggests that the “green” Mediterranean diet may be even better for your health than the traditional Mediterranean diet (1). 

More than two-thirds of the 294 people who participated in the study were judged to have a weight considered to be overweight (defined as a BMI of more than 31) (1).

The vast majority of those who took part in the event were male. Most of the people in the group were 51 years old on average.

Those in the first group received guidance on becoming more physically active and understood the fundamentals of good eating (1).

In addition, in the second group, they were given instructions on maintaining a conventional Mediterranean diet while adhering to a calorie restriction plan.

They eliminated red meat from their diet and replaced it with chicken and fish as their primary protein sources.

The third group also received supplementary green tea and walnuts (28 grams daily).

A high-protein variety of the aquatic plant known as duckweed known as Wolffia globosa (cultivated Mankai strain) cubes was also a standard component of their diets (1).

The green plant-based protein smoothie, including the cubes, was consumed as a partial replacement for the consumption of animal protein.

According to a press release issued by the study’s authors, it is possible that the participants’ cardiovascular and metabolic health could improve even further if they reduced their consumption of meat and increased the proportion of their diet that consisted of plant-based, protein-rich foods (1).

In addition, there may be additional benefits to cardiovascular health associated with the Mediterranean diet.

The findings are heartening and point to opportunities for the foreseeable future.

After six months, it was clear that the “green Med” diet had a considerable advantage regarding its health benefits (1).

Both variations of the Mediterranean diet led to a reduction in overall body weight. Overall, those who followed the green Mediterranean diet lost 6.2 kilograms, those who followed the traditional Mediterranean diet lost 5.4 kilograms, and those who followed the healthy diet lost 1.5 kilograms (1).

People who followed the green Mediterranean diet lost more weight than those who followed the Mediterranean diet (6.7 cm on average) or even the healthy diet (an average of 8.6 centimeters) (4.3 centimeters) (1).

Of course we always want healthy fats. However, this is quite difficult to achieve in most diet plans. Luckily, with this new green med diet, it has been found that the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels of those in the control group dropped by around 4 percent. This group also experienced the most significant reduction overall.

The equivalent values were around one percent for those who followed the Mediterranean diet and much lower for those who followed the healthy diet.

Those who followed diets typical of the Mediterranean region experienced several additional health benefits, including a reduction in diastolic blood pressure, improved insulin sensitivity, and a significant decrease in C-reactive protein levels, an important indicator of inflammation involved in the process of arterial hardening (1).

The proportion of “good” HDL cholesterol to “bad” LDL cholesterol likewise rose over time.

Nutrition experts weigh in

The healthy eating habits of the Mediterranean diet can help reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and stroke, diabetes, obesity, and various types of cancer (2).

Polyphenols, which are chemical components that you may find in plants, are the key to everything.

“Polyphenols are widely known for their potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities,” said a registered dietitian with a Master of Public Health Nutrition. Recent research suggests that ‘prebiotic’ effects in our gut, whereby they act as a source of sustenance for our healthy gut bacteria, may also exist as told by the dietitian added. 

They explained it this way: In other words, you want plenty of items in your diet that contain polyphenols. The experts recommend modifying how you take in protein to maximize its benefits (2).

De Santis, a researcher at the University of Naples, fish, and seafood are the principal sources of animal protein in the Mediterranean diet. According to De Santis, poultry and dairy products play a minor part, while red meat plays an even smaller role.

As he put it, “the green Mediterranean diet tries to exclude red meat completely and encourages other animal protein sources as well as plant-based proteins as the core of the diet.” Moreover, the green Mediterranean diet looks to ban red meat completely (2).

Salami and sausage are only two examples of the many processed meat products that, due to the high levels of sodium, preservatives, and saturated fat they contain, are associated with various adverse health effects (2).

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian, agrees with this interpretation of the data. Kirkpatrick is also the author of the book “Skinny Liver.”

According to what she shared with Healthline, the original version allows for chicken and fish, whereas this one seems to be staying with the basic components of the Mediterranean diet while selecting a more rigorous vegetarian approach (2).

An increase in interest in plant-based protein sources

“One of the most effective things a person can do to improve their health is to diversify their protein intake,” De Santis added.

He added that there are distinct benefits not seen in animal meals provided by plant protein sources such as legumes and soy-based foods (3).

Nuts have a considerable impact.

As a result of the health benefits derived from a nut, seed, and legume consumption, De Santis argues, Those who eat more nuts, seeds, and legumes enjoy major health benefits, thanks to the good fats, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and vast array of vitamins/minerals  (3).

That said, he pointed out that no one was advocating completely eliminating animal protein from one’s diet to be healthy. A good rule of thumb is: As you progress through your life, consider how much plants and animal protein you consume (3).

Meat has several health advantages.

According to De Santis: “For the vast majority of people, some balancing work is required there.” “But animal protein has nutritional value, particularly concerning its iron, protein, and B12 content, aside from being widely enjoyed.”

“Fish, in particular, is an excellent source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids,” he continued.

What to eat to stay healthy

Kirkpatrick advises them “not to overthink their meals when she works with clients.”

There are numerous options if you don’t already consume enough polyphenols and plant-based proteins regularly.

According to Dr. De Santis, the polyphenols revealed in this study are found in various foods and beverages, including tea, wine, and whole grains like wheat and rye.

Kirkpatrick recommends that people consume more soy products like tempeh and tofu, beans and lentils, nutritional yeast, almonds, and spirulina (a nutrient-dense, nontoxic, blue-green algae).

According to her, protein is necessary to maintain muscular mass, provide energy, and maintain the essential building elements of all cells.

Kirkpatrick included hummus, whole wheat pita, falafel, bean-based spaghetti with vegan pesto or simple tomato sauce, and tahini with roasted vegetables and quinoa as examples of what a vegan lunch looks like.

There is some evidence that a Mediterranean diet can lower inflammation.

Microbes of all kinds are found in the digestive tracts of humans. The “gut microbiota” is the collective name for this collection of bacteria (4).

Helping to break down food, bolstering gut integrity, and preventing disease are just a few of the roles that microbes play in human health.

Researchers at UEG Week 2019, which is taking place in Chicago, have found that consuming a Mediterranean-style diet high in plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and fish, may help friendly bacteria flourish in the stomach (4).

Researchers studying more than 1,400 volunteers from Groningen University Medical Center in the Netherlands discovered a relationship between a Mediterranean-style diet and a better gut microbiome. In addition, decreased levels of inflammatory markers in the stool were linked to it (4).

As this finding indicates (IBD), a plant-rich diet may help protect against intestinal disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, as this finding indicates (IBD).

Dietitian Laura Bolte, the study’s primary investigator and a Ph.D. student in nutrition, stated that connecting the diet to the gut flora provides us with greater insight into the relationship between food and intestinal disease (4).

When it comes to treating or managing gut ailments, “the data imply that nutrition may become an important and serious line of treatment or disease management,” she said.

Patients with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis (UC), and irritable bowel syndrome were some of the people who took part in the research that Bolte conducted. Other participants included members of the general community (IBS) (4).

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) are inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) types that include persistent inflammation in the intestines. Inflammation may also play a role in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), another digestive disorder.

The researchers gave each participant a meal frequency questionnaire and obtained a stool sample from them to investigate the possibility of connections between dietary habits, the microbiota in the gut, and intestinal inflammation (4).

They discovered several connections between the dietary patterns of the subjects, the microbiota in their guts, and signs of intestinal inflammation (4).

The consumption of a diet modeled after the Mediterranean high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and fish was associated with a higher abundance of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria assist in the synthesis of essential nutrients, the production of fuel for cells in the colon, and the reduction of inflammation. This eating pattern focused on consuming a lot of plants and was also associated with reduced levels of inflammatory markers in the stool (4).

They connected a diet high in meat, refined sugar, or fast food to lower levels of friendly gut flora and more great inflammatory markers than a diet low in these things (4).

Julie Stefanski, MEd, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Healthline that it is not surprising that a diet pattern has been connected to a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Increased longevity is also associated with beneficial digestive effects. It’s not surprising that a diet pattern that has been connected to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and increased longevity is also associated with beneficial digestive effects (4).

She went on to say that “this study reinforces a growing body of data demonstrating that having a healthy intestine and pinpointing the right mix of bacteria needed for health may be the key to tackling several chronic diseases.” This study reinforces a growing body of data demonstrating that having a healthy intestine and pinpointing the right mix of bacteria (4).

There is a need for additional research. As this study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting diets inspired by the Mediterranean and other eating patterns that emphasize the consumption of plant-based foods is beneficial to human health (4).

A diet high in plants has been linked in certain studies to a lower risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), in addition to the benefits for the cardiovascular system and the risk reduction of cancer. This new study may help explain the reason for that (4).

The researcher continued by saying, “I think the interesting addition here is that we didn’t know why that was true or understand what the mechanism of that was,” and “the microbiome seems to be at least one of the ways that this association exists. ” “I think the interesting addition here is that we didn’t know why that was true or understand what the mechanism of that was,” he said.

More research is required so that we may learn more about the potential relationship that exists between nutrition, the microbiota in the gut, and intestinal health. In particular, clinical trials are required to test this cross-sectional investigation’s connections between the variables (4).

Swaminath, “Food frequency questionnaires can include hundreds of variables, and microbiota data can have the same.” It can be challenging to determine whether there is indeed a relevant signal or if it is just part of the statistical noise (4).

Researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen plan to conduct a trial to test the effects of a Mediterranean-style plant-rich eating pattern on people who have Crohn’s disease. This is a follow-up study to their previous investigation conducted to investigate the same topic (4).

A study of a similar nature is currently being conducted in the United States, where researchers are contrasting the effects of an eating pattern known as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet with those of a Mediterranean-style diet in people who have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease (4).

Expert insight may help

While more research is being done on the relationship between diet and the microbiota in the gut, Swaminath and Stefanski recommend that individuals with inflammatory bowel disease engage with trained medical providers to design diet programs that are appropriate for them (5).

However, patients who do not have intestinal strictures may benefit from increasing their fiber consumption because it may improve their gut health. They might benefit from learning from a licensed dietitian nutritionist which foods might be the healthiest for them (5).

Some food items and techniques of preparing them are better tolerated than others. It is essential to collaborate with a registered dietitian nutritionist to personalize specific food choices when aiming to reach more plant-based diets. Your health may be even better if you follow a new “green” Mediterranean diet (5).

New “green” Mediterranean diets may be even better for you than the classic Mediterranean diet, according to new research. The green med diet compared to regular Mediterranean diet replaces the small allowable quantity of red meat with plant based protein. The anti-inflammatory properties of these plant proteins are among the additional health benefits attributed by experts to this green version (5).

References: 

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/green-mediterranean-diet-better-than-the-original#
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/new-green-mediterranean-diet-may-be-even-healthier-for-you
  3. https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/green-mediterranean-green-med-diet-may-be-even-better-for-health/
  4. https://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/nutrition/is-the-green-mediterranean-diet-even-better-than-the-original/news-story/2e394802ad27b9bca3a52904876130fe
  5. http://www.sci-news.com/medicine/green-mediterranean-diet-09110.html
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