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What is the Green Mediterranean Diet and What Studies Say

What is the Green Mediterranean Diet and What Studies Say
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 7 min read

Diets involve the elimination or restriction of certain food groups to achieve physical or aesthetic body goals. The concept was founded in the mid-1800s and began with the popular Banting Diet. Over the years, the creation of these eating plans has moved leaps and bounds to address specific health issues and promote healing rather than weight loss.

The Green Mediterranean diet is one of those diets that do exactly that. This streamlined eating plan aims to lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. It follows the principle of consuming foods high in beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fats. 

Let's take a deeper look at the Green Mediterranean diet, its benefits, and what science says about its effect on the body: 

The Green Mediterranean Diet Explained 

The Green Mediterranean diet, also known as the Green Med diet, is a version of the traditional Mediterranean diet. Created in 2020 by a research team at the Direct Plus Food Group headquarters, the diet focuses on incorporating plant food into daily consumption rather than focusing on meat proteins. Although the diet encourages plant-based options over meat and poultry, it doesn't extradite meat completely. 

The choice to lower the consumption of animal protein was a choice made to better metabolic and cardiovascular health. The Green Med diet is much lower in sugar/calorie content than the traditional Med diet, giving it a beneficial edge with the diabetic community as well. It also contains high amounts of plant proteins, fiber, specific minerals, and vitamins, which improve overall body function, health, and fat elimination. 

These beneficial effects of the Green Med diet are attributed to the high level of polyphenols in the recommended food list. Polyphenols are compounds in plant foods that protect body tissue against oxidative stress and associated pathologies like coronary heart disease, inflammation, and cancers. Research shows that regular intake of polyphenols regulates metabolism and helps prevent chronic diseases. 

Foods Allowed on The Green Mediterranean Diet

The Green Med diet may sound like a restrictive and bland concept that takes the fun out of mealtime, but it actually is quite the opposite. The diet aims to encourage the consumption of diverse nutrient-rich food from all food groups with restrictions implemented on volume of consumption of a single food group only. The volume restriction, of course, comes in with animal protein. The rest of the food groups can be consumed in healthy portions that match daily dietary needs. 

Below is a list of foods that are allowed on the Green Med diet:

  • Healthy sources of fat 

The green Med diet advises you to consume 28g of walnuts daily. This is a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Olives, olive oil, and other vegetable oils, alongside other nuts and seeds, are also allowed on the diet. 

  • Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables make up a large portion of daily consumption and are the staple of the diet. All fruits and vegetables are allowed, as long as they are fresh, not processed, or high in sugar or salt. 

  • Grains

Whole grains are encouraged over refined grains, as it keeps you fuller for longer while giving you energy. Whole grains include barley, brown rice, whole oats, whole-wheat pasta, bread, and crackers. 

  • Dairy 

Milk, cheese, and yogurt are also allowed in the Green Med diet. However, dairy products should be consumed in moderation. 

  • Protein

Instead of getting protein from red meat, this diet encourages plant proteins or very small amounts of specific lean animal protein. Approved protein sources include poultry, eggs, beans, peas, seafood, nuts, seeds, and duckweed. 

Foods to be Avoided on The Green Mediterranean Diet 

In true diet fashion, there is a list of foods/food groups that should not be consumed while on this diet. These groups are known to worsen or cause health issues, and their consumption isn't outwardly beneficial, so they've been given the red light by the Direct Plus team.

Below is a list of foods that are not allowed on the Green Med diet:

  • Processed and red meats 

While fish and poultry are allowed, the diet recommends you eat these proteins in small amounts. Proteins from beef, pork, lamb, bacon, luncheon meats, and processed meat such as hot dogs are not allowed. 

  • Processed fruits and vegetables

Canned, frozen, or fresh fruits and vegetables without sugar and salt are acceptable; however, you should not have processed vegetables and fruits such as jam, dried fruit with sugar, and frozen vegetable mixes with packet sauces. 

  • Refined grain

Refined grains such as white bread, white flour, rice, pasta, crackers, and boxed cereals with added sugars are not allowed on the diet. 

  • Processed dairy products

Highly processed dairy such as ice cream, processed cheeses, pudding, and fruit yogurt are not allowed as they contain too much sugar. 

  • Fats

The diet encourages plant-based fats such as olive oil and walnuts and discourages fats from fried foods, lard, butter, shortening, and margarine. 

The Green Mediterranean Diet: Evidence Backed

We've looked at the basics of this diet and how it deviates from traditional diet plans and its predecessor, the Mediterranean Diet. The creators of the 'green' concept swear by its effects and claim that the diet amplifies the usual health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. But does science agree and give the diet the green light? 

Let's find out below:

 BMJ Journal study tapped in on 294 individuals with an average age of 51 years old and abdominal obesity to follow one of these three diets:

  • Calorie-restricted traditional Mediterranean diet with less red meat and about 28g of walnuts daily. 

  • Calorie-restricted green Med diet with 28g of walnuts, 3 to 4 cups of green tea, and 100g of Mankai duckweed shake. No red or processed meat, and very little poultry. 

  • Overall healthy eating, as advised by dietary experts

The study went on for 6 months, with results showing that both Mediterranean diets showed more weight loss and a positive effect on metabolism than standard healthy eating plans. 

Participants on the Green Med diet had a reduction in waist size/circumference and presented improvement in cardiovascular health, blood pressure, insulin response, inflammation, and cholesterol, while those on the other diets, including the traditional Med diet, didn't show such significant improvements. 

Another study found that the Green Med diet helped individuals lose organ fat, especially in the liver. This is a rare and beneficial effect that helps with better body function and helps with the prevention of diseases such as liver cirrhosis and failure. 

Evidence from an additional study looked into the possible brain benefits of following this diet, which showed that both Mediterranean diets helped with learning and the ability to remember. The Green diet provided users with better holistic benefits and protection against losing important brain tissue. This contributes to long-term cognitive protection. The evidence gathered from the studies shows that the Green Med diet is effective and promotes weight loss and better health in both body and mind. 

Benefits of the Green Mediterranean Diet

Since the Green Med diet was only conceptualized and released in 2020, an extensive benefit list is in the early stages of being researched and composed. However, clinical trials and studies like the ones we've touched on have given experts a basic outline of this diet's primary benefits. The outline was based on the high-polyphenol content of the diet, which is known to affect gut, brain, and heart health. 

Let's look at the benefits below:

  • Gut health

Since the Green Med diet is mainly comprised of plant-based foods, it positively affects gut health. A 2022 study showed that the polyphenols from foods are broken down in the microbiome, which is the center of all microorganisms in the gut. 

According to the study, the diet positively changed this microbiome's composition and function. Experts suggest that these positive alterations could be the reason why this diet has more cardiovascular benefits compared to the classic Mediterranean diet. 

  • Neuroprotective properties 

The brain's nerves and tissues disintegrate as we age, which plays a significant role in age-related brain changes, such as difficulty learning/remembering new things and memory loss.

Dietitians have found that eating a diet filled with polyphenols may prevent this from happening. A clinical study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the Green Med diet has high neuroprotective properties and may protect against age-related cognitive decline. 

  • Heart health 

PubMed study that investigated the effects of the Green Med diet showed that it has greater cardiometabolic effects than the traditional version. The trial participants showed improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol, which play an integral role in heart health. The diet also reduces unhealthy fat, which also benefits heart health. 

  • Aids in healthy weight loss

The high intake of polyphenols in the Green Med diet induces a high breakdown of fatty acids and expends more energy, positively affecting fat. Experts claim that the diet can help with obesity and promote weight loss. 

study showed that participants who followed the Green Med diet had high levels of polyphenols in their blood due to the daily consumption of plant-based foods, which decreased visceral fat, which is excess weight around the abdomen area. 

Experts say that the diet helps with weight loss by blocking fat absorption after eating, stopping new blood vessels from forming in fat, reducing chronic inflammation, and increasing glucose absorption for energy. 

Downsides to The Green Mediterranean Diet

After looking at the benefits, it's hard to imagine this diet has downsides. But being the ever-changing organisms that we are, the human body can reject or find errors where there is seemingly no issue—allergies. The avoidance of certain foods and the consumption of plant-based foods can be the source of allergies. We are also creatures of habit, so changing consumption patterns and food group consumption can be difficult and seen as a downside.

Below we look deeper at some of these downsides and more: 

  • Food allergies 

Nuts are a common food allergen, which can be an issue as the Green Med diet encourages eating mostly walnuts. Green tea can also be a problem. Although it is fairly safe, it can cause an upset tummy when consumed daily. Green tea can also interact with some medications, which can make them more or less effective. 

  • Limited sources of duckweed 

This high-protein plant is a huge part of the Green Med diet. However, duckweed can be hard to find, as it may not be available at local stores or online. Since it is not readily available, it can be very expensive and break your food budget since you have to eat it every day. 

  • Hard to follow/restrictive 

The Green Med diet aims to eliminate red meat and processed foods and substitute this with plant-based foods. While this is beneficial, these restrictions make the diet hard to follow long-term. Having a list of foods you can eat, and foods you cannot eat may also lead to overeating and cravings. 

The Bottom Line

The Green Mediterranean diet is perfect for most individuals but especially ideal for vegetarians and those who prefer to stay away from meat or need to limit their meat consumption for medical reasons. The diet has a compelling list of benefits that definitely outweigh the downsides, so hopping on the Green Med bandwagon can be fruitful for the body, mind, and overall health. 

However, it may not be a great choice for those who have certain medical conditions, are taking certain medications, or have severe allergies. You should always speak to a registered dietitian or healthcare provider to assist you in finding an eating plan that is the best choice for you and your lifestyle. 



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