Have you wondered if there really is a “perfect” weight-loss diet? It turns out, going green might be the new weight-loss secret weapon! The Green Mediterranean Diet is about as good as it gets. Based on the traditional Mediterranean diet comprised of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, healthy proteins, and unsaturated plant-based oils like extra virgin olive oil — this diet has long been praised as a wonderful way to eat to promote health and also enjoy great flavor.
The health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet have been researched and well documented for decades. Building on these benefits, researchers in Israel recently designed and tested the “next generation” of the Mediterranean Diet, called the Green Mediterranean Diet. This green upgrade is an even more plant-focused way of eating and was designed to assess what, if any, additional health benefits could come from eating a diet that included foods like walnuts, green tea, and Mankai, the world’s smallest green leafy vegetable. Why these specific plant foods? Walnuts, green tea, and Mankai are all excellent sources of polyphenol phytonutrients, which are plant compounds that confer a number of health benefits for humans.
This Israeli study, called DIRECT-PLUS1, included nearly 300 overweight men and women, all with accumulated abdominal fat (i.e., apple shaped versus pear shaped people) and high cholesterol, divided into three groups: Healthy Diet Group, Mediterranean Diet Group, or the The Green Mediterranean Diet Group.
The results were compelling, as the study results showed that the Green Mediterranean Diet has more benefits than many thought possible. Here’s a summary of what this research uncovered.
MORE WEIGHT LOSS: Women and men in both the Mediterranean and Green Mediterranean Diet groups lost similar amounts of weight, and participants in both Mediterranean Diet groups lost more weight than the Healthy Diet group participants.
SHRINKING WAIST SIZE: Women and men in the Green Mediterranean Diet group also lost significantly more inches in their waist measurements compared to participants in the other two groups. That’s correct! – Participants’ pants fit better after six months in this study, and the men and women eating the walnuts, drinking the green tea, and adding Mankai to their daily Mediterranean Diet most likely had to buy smaller pants after the study versus just tightening their belts a bit. There is some “secret sauce” about the Green Mediterranean Diet that causes people to lose more weight in their belly region compared to other healthful dietary patterns. You can read more about these findings here.
- One of the biggest benefits of reducing the amount of fat around your midsection and shrinking your waist size is that it significantly reduces your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
LOWERED BLOOD PRESSURE: The Green Mediterranean Diet participants, both women and men again, saw the greatest drops in blood pressure as well.
IMPROVED BLOOD CHOLESTEROL: Participants in all three groups saw drops in their LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, and the men and women in the Green Mediterranean Diet group saw the greatest drops in LDL cholesterol, likely due to the decreases in central body adiposity. (Having more fat around your liver tends to encourage it to make more cholesterol from the saturated fat in your diet, and conversely, when you lose some of that fat, your liver doesn’t work as hard making cholesterol.)
IMPROVED INSULIN SENSITIVITY: Insulin sensitivity is like the previous three findings; it is another measure of metabolic health. As with waist circumference, blood pressure, and cholesterol, the biggest benefits came to men and women in the Green Mediterranean Diet group, who lost weight and lost the most fat in their mid-section.
- Improving your insulin sensitivity through weight loss and increased physical activity is another great way to reduce your risk of developing diabetes. For people who already have diabetes, improving insulin sensitivity makes controlling your blood sugar levels a bit easier.
HUNGER HORMONES: This finding is the BIG news in the latest publication from the DIRECT-PLUS study. Men in the Green Mediterranean Diet group saw the greatest increases in fasting ghrelin levels. (Ghrelin is a hunger hormone that interacts with other hormones to help regulate hunger and satiety.) Ghrelin improves insulin sensitivity, which is important for weight loss and weight management. Insulin resistance causes the pancreas to secrete more insulin, which increases hunger and can lead to weight gain. This vicious cycle is difficult to overcome, and it looks like adopting a Green Mediterranean Diet can help stop part of the hormone cascade that makes weight loss challenging for many people.
It is also important to note that many research groups around the world have demonstrated significant health benefits from the Mediterranean Diet even for overweight people who don’t lose weight, as the foods in this dietary pattern promote better health for many people for many reasons.
- You can turn your Mediterranean Diet into a Green Mediterranean Diet by adding a ¼ cup of walnuts, 3 to 4 cups of green tea, and 3 to 4 cubes (85 to 113 grams) of Mankai to your daily diet. Doing so may help lead to looser pants and better overall health!
- Yaskolka Meir A, Rinott E, Tsaban G, Zelicha H, Kaplan A, Rosen P, Shelef I, Youngster I, Shalev A, Blüher M, Ceglarek U, Stumvoll M, Tuohy K, Diotallevi C, Vrhovsek U, Hu F, Stampfer M, Shai I. Effect of green-Mediterranean diet on intrahepatic fat: the DIRECT PLUS randomised controlled trial. Gut. 2021 Nov;70(11):2085-2095. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2020-323106. Epub 2021 Jan 18. PMID: 33461965; PMCID: PMC8515100.