Try a ‘Green Mediterranean Diet’ for Bigger Benefits, Including Weight Loss

John Egan - The Upside Blog

by | Updated: February 7th, 2023 | Read time: 4 minutes

A  2022 survey by YouGov indicates about half of American adults are engaged in a longtime struggle: trying to shed pounds.

There may be some new hope for those of the millions of us fighting the battle of the bulge. A recently published study shows the green Mediterranean diet, a twist on the original Mediterranean diet, might help you achieve your weight-loss resolutions.

Green Mediterranean Diet Salad With Colorful Vegetables, Grains and Chickpeas on White Surface

The study, conducted by German, Italian, Israeli and U.S. researchers, found that the green Mediterranean diet significantly reduced visceral adipose tissue, a type of fat that surrounds internal organs. In side-by-side comparisons as part of a clinical trial, the green Mediterranean diet decreased visceral fat by 14%, the Mediterranean diet by 7% and a standard healthy diet by 4.5%.

In a news release, the researchers stress that reducing visceral fat is the No. 1 goal of weight loss because it’s a more critical health indicator than a person’s weight or waist size. Visceral fat generates hormones and poisons connected to heart disease, diabetes, dementia and premature death, the researchers say.

What is the Green Mediterranean diet?

The research team developed the green Mediterranean diet. The diet is enriched with more dietary polyphenols than the original Mediterranean diet and is lower in red and processed meats, the researchers say.

Dietary polyphenols come mostly from plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, coffee, tea and nuts, according to the National Library of Medicine. Among the benefits of polyphenols are their antioxidant properties, and their potential protection against certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and neurodegenerative conditions, Colorado State University says.

In the diet study, followers of the green Mediterranean diet consumed this food each day: 28 grams of walnuts and three to four cups of green tea, as well as 100 grams of duckweed blended into a green shake. The aquatic green plant duckweed is chock-full of protein, iron, B12, vitamins, minerals and polyphenols. Duckweed is a substitute for animal protein.

In all, 294 people participated in the 18-month DIRECT-PLUS clinical trial, which delivered eye-opening results. The findings were published in the journal BMC Medicine.

The 14% reduction in visceral fat notched as a result of the green Mediterranean diet “is a dramatic achievement for making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. Weight loss is an important goal only if it is accompanied by impressive results in reducing adipose tissue,” says one of the researchers, Hila Zelicha, a registered dietitian who is a postdoctoral student at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Research published in 2020 suggests that the green Mediterranean diet — supplemented by walnuts, green tea and duckweed and low in consumption of meat and poultry — may enhance the cardiometabolic benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

An estimated 47 million Americans have cardiometabolic disorders, putting them at greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the American College of Cardiology. Risk factors associated with these disorders include abdominal obesity and high blood pressure.

In the 2020 study, researchers wrote that “education and encouragement to follow a [green Mediterranean diet] in conjunction with physical activity has the potential to be a major contributor to public health, as it may improve balancing of cardiovascular risk factors, eventually preventing cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.”

How can you follow the Green Mediterranean diet?

If you’re familiar with the Mediterranean diet, then it’s not a stretch to adopt the green Mediterranean diet.

The diets are similar in their emphasis on plant-based eating. However, the green Mediterranean diet features more plant-based food and even less red meat and poultry than the original version does.

And, of course, the green Mediterranean diet highlights the daily consumption of 28 grams of walnuts (about six or seven nuts), three to four cups of green tea and 100 milligrams of duckweed.

As you probably know, the traditional Mediterranean diet focuses primarily on vegetables, fruits and whole grains, along with healthy fat, the Cleveland Clinic explains. The key source of healthy fat is olive oil.

While the green Mediterranean diet may trump the regular Mediterranean diet in terms of health benefits, the regular diet still is highly recommended.

A study released in 2023 led by researchers at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health showed sticking to the Mediterranean diet or one of three other healthy eating plans could reduce the likelihood of early death by as much as 20%. All four diets rely heavily on consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains.

For the sixth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report recently named the Mediterranean diet the best diet among 26 eating plans.

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