The green Mediterranean diet is even healthier than the traditional one

The green Mediterranean diet is even healthier than the traditional one

If meat is substituted for vegetable protein, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet multiply, according to research published in the journal Heart.

The green Mediterranean diet is even healthier than the traditional one

The Mediterranean diet has the honor of being considered by many scientists and health authorities as the healthiest in the world. However, we can design a “green Mediterranean diet” that is even healthier and more sustainable.

The idea is very simple. The traditional Mediterranean diet includes a couple of weekly servings of red meat, usually pork or lamb. But today we know that this type of meat is probably carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organization. Therefore, if we replace it with vegetable protein, we will surely be achieving a healthier diet.

And not only healthier, but more sustainable, because the production of vegetables consumes fewer natural resources (water and land) and implies a lower emission of greenhouse gases.

Not only is plant protein not carcinogenic, but it can reduce oxidation and inflammation in the body, which is usually the first step in serious diseases, such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders or cardiovascular diseases that can lead to heart attacks.


The advantages of a green Mediterranean diet have been described in a study led by Dr. Iris Shai, a researcher and professor at Harvard (United States) and Negev (Israel) universities, which has been published in the journal Heart. Researchers conclude that people who consume higher amounts of plant-based protein and less red meat (and even poultry) enjoy better cardiovascular and metabolic health.

The researchers randomized 294 sedentary people with moderate obesity (defined as a BMI of 31) and high cholesterol levels into three dietary groups. A significant majority of the participants were men and their average age was 51 years.

  • The first group carried out physical activity and followed some basic guidelines to have a healthier diet without changing their eating pattern.
  • The second group also exercised but followed a Mediterranean-style, low-calorie diet (1500–1800 kcal / day for men and 1200–1400 kcal / day for women), without red meat, with fish and poultry, and 28 g of walnuts per day.
  • The third group exercised and followed a green Mediterranean diet, without red meat, with fish, poultry and vegetable protein, 28 nuts a day, and also drank 3-4 cups of green tea daily.

The vegetable protein consumed by the third group was 100 g servings of frozen cubes of duckweed (Wolffia globosa, variety Mankai). These cubes were taken in the form of a shake to substitute for poultry at dinners.

Duckweed is an aquatic plant that resembles cornmeal flakes floating on water. It contains around 40% protein, so they have great potential as a protein food for human consumption. In Asia it is collected from water and consumed as a vegetable.


After 6 months, the “green Mediterranean” diet outperformed the other two diet plans in health benefits. The participants who followed it lost more weight, an average of 6.2 kg and 8.6 cm reduction in waist circumference, by 5.4 kg and 6.8 cm those who followed the traditional Mediterranean diet and 1, 5 kg and 4.3 cm for the healthy diet group. The first group also saw their bad LDL cholesterol reduced by 4 percent.

Other benefits were a decrease in diastolic blood pressure, insulin resistance, and an important marker of inflammation, C-reactive protein, which plays a key role in hardening the arteries.

The study authors state in a press release that limiting meat intake and increasing plant protein is beneficial for metabolism and the cardiovascular system. The benefits may be even greater than those known from the traditional Mediterranean diet, they add.

The Mediterranean diet is already known for its potential to reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as stroke, diabetes, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, and certain types of cancer.


The benefits of the Mediterranean diet and especially of the greener version of the study are explained by the abundance of plant foods rich in fiber and polyphenols, compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The Mediterranean diet includes foods such as whole grains, seeds, nuts (especially walnuts) and green tea on a daily basis, while legumes and fish are the main sources of protein.

In the green version proposed in the stage published in Heart magazine , by completely eliminating red meat (and derived meat products, rich in sodium, preservative additives and saturated fat), its inflammatory and probably carcinogenic effects are avoided. The Mediterranean diet also has prebiotic effects on the gut that promote a healthy microbiota.


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