More good news for the vegan and vegan-ish set! In a new study titled “The effect of green Mediterranean diet on cardiometabolic risk; a randomized controlled trial” of 294 sedentary and moderately obese individuals, published in the journal Heart, researchers found that a modified “greener” version of the Mediterranean diet resulted in both weight loss and also improved cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors.
In the study, the so-called “green” version of the Mediterranean diet —which emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats like nuts and olive oil —reduced meat and poultry consumption and “supplemented [the diet] with walnuts, green tea and Mankai [a plant-based protein source from duckweed],” was found to be even better for the participants’ health than the standard Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet, based on higher consumption of plant-based foods, has been proved to be better than the previously widely recommended low-fat diet for a reduction in cardiometabolic risk and prevention of cardiovascular diseases,” said study author Dr. Gal Tsaban, a researcher at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center, and her colleagues, per Sci – News.
“Our findings suggest that additional restriction of meat intake with a parallel increase in plant-based, protein-rich foods, may further benefit the cardiometabolic state and reduce cardiovascular risk, beyond the known beneficial effects of the traditional Mediterranean diet,” the researchers concluded, reminding us to encourage the part-time plant-based eaters in our life to consider further reducing their meat intake to improve their health.
More simply put, as The Nutrition Twins Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D.N., C.D.N., C.F.T., C.L.T., and Lyssie Lakatos, R.D.N., C.D.N., C.F.T., C.L.T., summarize the study findings: “We already know that following a Mediterranean-style diet is healthier than most other diets,” they say. “But this study shows that we may be able to step up our health game, our heart health and lose more weight when we cut out red meat, and possibly even more so when we cut out chicken and fish and amp up the vegetables and vegetarian protein.”
Mediterranean Diet Becomes Healthier When Focused Heavily on Plants
To recap, the green Mediterranean diet is a riff on the traditional Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, spices, herbs, and olive oil, and minimizes animal protein sources.“It encourages plant-based protein to take the place of animal-based protein, by focusing on legumes, nuts, and seeds,” The Nutrition Twins add.
Of course, the positive health benefits of going vegan are well researched (here are just a few!) and this style of plant-based eating seems particularly promising for its impact on cardiovascular health and weight loss. “This vegan way of eating ‘green’ Mediterranean can prove especially beneficial when it comes to weight loss because it boosts fiber intake, which can greatly increase satiety and reduce hunger and calorie intake,” explain The Nutrition Twins, adding that a serving of steak, fish, or chicken, contains virtually no fiber, “but a ¾ -cup of protein-rich beans has the filling combination of protein and 22 grams of fiber or more,” they continue, citing this study from Food Nutrition Research which found that meals based on vegetable protein sources are more satiating than those with animal protein sources.
“Also, fiber promotes good bacteria which also is helpful when it comes to weight loss,” the duo points out. (Just check out this 2019 research presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes that found a vegan diet can boost gut microbes involved in body weight, weight body consumption, and blood sugar control.)
So how can you make the green Mediterranean diet work for you? The Nutrition Twins break down a day’s worth of sample meals:
A Sample Day of Eating the Green Mediterranean Diet
Breakfast: One cup whole-grain oats with cinnamon, blueberries, shredded almonds, hemp seeds, and honey.
Lunch: One cup quinoa with chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant, olives, toasted sunflower seeds, oregano, and thyme, or a kale, cucumber and tomato salad with olive oil and lemon.
Snack: A small serving of nuts and grapes.
Dinner: Oven-roasted tempeh, carrots, artichoke, sweet potato, eggplant, and carrot (pre-marinated in oil and heavy herbs) with one cup of wild rice.
Snack: One piece of avocado toast topped with slivered almonds.
Pretty doable-sounding, if you ask us. Just add a square of dark chocolate or two, and we’re in heaven. Who’s ready to get started?