The green Mediterranean diet: is it worth it?
The VITL Nutrition Team
The Green Mediterranean diet has been the centre of attention for the last few years in an attempt to push the benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet even further. What are the current evidence, benefits and risks?
Why the Mediterranean diet?
In 1950, scientists from all over the world were brought together to investigate the risk of cardiovascular disease amongst populations with varied socio-cultural backgrounds. This pioneering endeavour showed that the citizens of the Greek island of Crete had a greater lifespan due to decreased cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. Further researchers, intrigued by these results, later revealed that there was a lower frequency of heart disease in countries by the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Spain and Italy, in contrast to those of Northern Europe and America [World Health Organization, 1993]. This was attributed to the common nutritional habits of the Mediterranean countries, known as “The Mediterranean Diet”.
What is the green Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains, and allows the monitored consumption of meat and dairy. New research suggests that a green Mediterranean diet, containing even more plant matter and very few animal products, may be the new gold standard for cardiovascular and metabolic health protection.
Further to cardio-metabolic benefits, the green Mediterannean diet has also been found to promote a more significant change to our gut microflora - probably due to a higher fibre content. A healthy, variable intestinal microflora plays a key role in our overall wellness, by supporting digestion, immunity, as well as cognitive function and behaviour.
What If I’m vegan?
Although an exclusively vegan Mediterranean diet has yet to be established (as oily fish and dairy are the main constituents of this diet responsible for its cardio-metabolic benefits), an elimination and food-swap process may be a successful approach for those who prefer to stick to solely plant based resources, but still want to get the cardio-metabolic benefits of this traditional diet.
Potentially, the omega-3 found in oily fish can be partially compensated by increased consumption of plant based sources of omega-3, such as flax seeds and chia seeds, walnuts and vegetable oils. Additionally, the probiotics found in dairy can be obtained from vegan alternatives, such as sauerkraut, kimchi and miso.
Are there any risks?
Vegans and vegetarians should be generally mindful of their omega-3 and omega-6 intake, as plant based diets are high in linolenic acid (omega-6), found in flaxseed, walnuts, chia, hemp, and many common vegetable oils. It is of crucial importance to keep the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 intake balanced, as omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation and thrombosis, while omega-3 have anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic properties. People following the traditional Mediterannean diet are less likely to disrupt this balance, as they get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish, without the load of omega-6 derived from plant based sources. If you still want to stick to a strictly vegan approach, supplementation with algae oil (a great source of omega-3) is recommended.
Our green Mediterannean inspired supplements (found in your Personalised Pack):
Co-enzyme Q10 (Ubiquinol): Ubiquinol is the body's active form of co-enzyme Q10, a powerful antioxidant found in the traditional Mediterannean diet, involved in heart support.
Probiotic (and our Daily Biotic): A broad spectrum of high potency, 'gut-friendly', live microflora, shown to improve the gastrointestinal microflora and support the reduction of serum cholesterol.
Supergreens: A unique blend of 15 antioxidant-rich phytonutrients from natural superfoods including grape seed extract (resveratrol), broccoli and citrus bioflavonoids.
Vegan omega-3: Natural, vegan omega-3 derived from algae to support healthy heart and brain function.
Inspired by these supplements? Find your Personalised Pack here.