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A Greener Mediterranean Diet May Yield More Heart Health Benefits

A version of the popular diet that serves up more plants and very little red meat or poultry could be better for cardiovascular health than the original.

Have you heard of the green Mediterranean diet, aka green Med diet? It turns out that this version that serves up more plants and very little red meat or poultry could be better for cardiovascular health than the original—at least in men.

Researchers separated 294 sedentary and moderately obese people (BMI of 31) with an average age of 51 into three dietary groups: Group 1 received basic guidelines for achieving a healthy diet; Group 2 received advice on following a calorie-restricted (1500-1800 kcal/day for men and 1200-1400 kcal/ day for women) traditional Mediterranean diet; and Group 3 received advice on following a similar calorie-restricted green version of the Mediterranean diet (‘green Med’). In addition, all groups received guidance on increasing physical activity.

The green Med diet the participants ate was low in simple carbohydrates and rich in vegetables, with poultry and fish replacing red meat. In addition, it included 28 grams per day of walnuts. It also had three to four cups per day of green tea and 100 grams of Wolffia globosa (a form of duckweed), which was taken as a partial substitute for animal protein.

How the Green Mediterranean Diet Affects Weight Loss and Heart Health

After six months, the researchers found that Green Med participants lost 13.64 pounds; traditional Med participants lost 11.88 pounds, while participants on the healthy diet lost 3.3 pounds. Weight loss also translated into decreases in waist circumference.

Cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors improved more among those on the green Med diet, with a nearly 4% reduction in ‘bad’ low-density cholesterol and decreases in diastolic blood pressure, insulin resistance, and C-reactive protein.

Be aware that there were only 35 women in the study. Nevertheless, the researchers write in the journal Heart: “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.”

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