If you’ve been thinking about giving the green Mediterranean diet a try, you’re probably wondering what, exactly, it involves. The green Mediterranean diet shares plenty of similarities with the traditional Mediterranean diet, but the two are quite different. In fact, you could say the green version has more “rules” to follow – but sticking with these can be well worth it for your long-term health.
Here’s what you need to know in order to decide if this diet is right for you.
The green Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based proteins
At the heart of the green Mediterranean diet is, you guessed it, green foods. This way of eating centers on plants first – plant-based proteins and plants in the form of fruits and veggies.
Researchers came up with the idea for the green Mediterranean diet because they wanted to increase the health benefits of the original. They hypothesized that tweaking certain aspects of the Mediterranean diet would help enhance its effect on everything from weight loss to heart health.
The green Mediterranean diet eliminates red meat and processed meats from your plate. Lean animal proteins, like chicken and turkey, are okay in moderation. However, they aren’t the central focus. Instead, you’ll want to fill up on fresh produce and plant-based proteins. Greens like kale, broccoli and green beans will take up more space on your plate. Other plants, like cauliflower, tomatoes and all kinds of fruits are also highlighted by the green Med approach to eating.
By cutting back on meat and increasing your consumption of plants, you’ll be taking in far more polyphenols. Found naturally in plants of all kinds including fruits and vegetables, polyphenols act like antioxidants and work to combat or reduce your risk for conditions like inflammation, cellular damage, diabetes and even cancer.
So, your first step in “going green” is to stop eating red meat or processed meat and instead choose more plants and plant-based proteins.
You can stick with traditional Mediterranean diet foods
As you focus on making your meals more plant-centric, you can also incorporate many of foods you’d eat on the traditional Mediterranean diet.
Almost all of the foods that you can eat on the Mediterranean diet are in line with the green version too. The green Mediterranean diet simply puts the spotlight on plants. You can incorporate Mediterranean staples like whole grains, nuts, beans, chickpeas and olive oil. You’re even fine to add lean proteins like fish, seafood and chicken to your plate. Eggs and dairy products like yogurt and cheese are also perfectly fine, in moderation.
You can approach the green Mediterranean diet as taking the traditional Med diet a step farther. You’ll still have a wide variety of foods to choose from, but you’ll be reaching for certain foods more frequently than others.
What you’ll eat when you go green
Sticking with the green Med approach does come with a few daily requirements. You’ll be eating a lot of fruits and veggies, but you’ll also round out your nutrition with three specific foods.
The green Mediterranean diet centers around eating these foods daily:
- 28 grams of walnuts
- Three to four cups of green tea
- 100 grams of wolffia globosa (or three frozen cubes), blended into a shake.
Because the green Mediterranean diet is low in calories, researchers added these foods to ensure nutrients are properly balanced. While green tea is loaded with antioxidants, the walnuts and wolffia globosa are meant to help substitute the protein lost when reducing the amount of animal protein you’re eating.
Wolffia globosa was chosen because it’s very high in protein, but if you can’t get this ingredient locally, you can give other plant-based protein sources a try. Foods like chickpeas, tofu, and nuts – including more walnuts – can also fill any gaps in your diet. You can even try a plant-based protein powder, if you’d like.
In addition to walnuts, green tea, and wolffia globosa, you’ll also want to eat foods like the following:
- Leafy green vegetables, like kale and spinach
- Non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli and green beans
- Fruit of any kind
- Protein-rich nuts, like almonds and cashews
- Beans of any kind
- Whole grains, like quinoa and oatmeal.
Herbs, spices, olive oil and other flavorful additions are welcome on the green Med diet too. And, with many classic Mediterranean foods like fish and poultry incorporated into your meals every so often, you’ll have plenty of variety.
Both short- and long-term benefits are possible
The big draw of the green Mediterranean diet is its health benefits. We already know the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest you can embrace, offering advantages like an improved mood and reduced inflammation. However, the green Mediterranean diet can potentially offer even more when it comes to your health.
The changes were external and internal. For example, researchers found that those following the green Mediterranean diet lost an average of 14 pounds. A noticeable loss of belly fat also occurred in men. Participants also saw positive changes in long-term health. Blood pressure rates, cholesterol levels and the risk of artery hardening all decreased. Those improved indicators can lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and related complications, like heart attacks and strokes. The risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes can also decrease thanks to the green Mediterranean diet.
And all of these health benefits happened within six months. Some, like weight loss, happened within the first months of following the green Med approach.
These benefits can help you stay in better health for years to come. If you’re already at risk for concerns like heart disease or prediabetes, going green could potentially help you lower or eliminate that risk.
Don’t forget to be flexible
If you’re thinking about giving the green Med way of eating a try, it’s easy to get started. In fact, if you’re already familiar with the Mediterranean diet, you’re part of the way there!
The green Mediterranean diet does have some key food staples; it asks you to consume set amounts of walnuts, green tea and wolffia globosa. However, the diet is otherwise quite flexible. You can pick and choose the plant foods you like best, and you can even work in fish, dairy, poultry and other items from the Mediterranean diet to change your meals up.
There’s no need to take an all-or-nothing approach as you change your diet. You can flex as needed, adding in foods and forgoing them as your tastes change. As long as you’re sticking with the basics – a lot of plants over animal proteins and the three hallmark foods of green Med – you’ll be able to reap the potential benefits for your health and well-being.
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