What is The Green Mediterranean Diet, And How Is It Different?

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green mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet has long been touted for its numerous health benefits, but there’s a new twist in town – Green Mediterranean Diet. The traditional diet emphasizes intake of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and olive oil. It also includes moderate amounts of fish, poultry, eggs, yogurt and cheese, while limiting red meat and sweets. However, the newer variation called the Green Mediterranean diet takes this concept further by focusing more intensely on plant foods and sustainability (Plus 3 key things one must do daily – more on that below).

Understanding the Standard Mediterranean Diet

The standard Mediterranean diet is inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of countries bordering the Mediterranean sea, including Greece, Italy and Spain. Research over several decades has consistently linked this eating pattern to reduced risk of chronic diseases and overall mortality. The hallmarks of this diet include:

  • High intake of plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes
  • Use of olive oil as the primary dietary fat
  • Moderate amounts of fish, poultry and eggs
  • Low amounts of red meat, processed foods and sweets
  • Consumption of yogurt, cheese and herbs for flavor
  • Wine consumed in moderation with meals

The Mediterranean diet provides approximately 35-40% of calories from fat, emphasizing monounsaturated and omega-3 fats from olive oil, fish and nuts. It also delivers a high amount of antioxidants, fiber and phytonutrients from an abundance of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Research shows followers of the Mediterranean diet have significantly reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, dementia and certain cancers. Its anti-inflammatory effects and favorable impact on gut health may also benefit autoimmune conditions and allergies.

Overall, the Mediterranean diet provides a balanced array of nutrients tailored for optimal health. Its flexibility makes it easy to adapt across cultures and food preferences. However, some criticize it for including animal products like cheese, which do not align with environmentally sustainable eating patterns focused on plants.

What is the Green Mediterranean Diet?

The Green Mediterranean diet retains the same basic framework as the traditional Mediterranean diet, while making it “greener” with more plant foods and fewer animal products. It was designed by an international team of nutrition researchers who wanted to enhance the diet’s health and environmental benefits. Key characteristics include:

  • Emphasizing consumption of green plant foods like leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, kale and cabbage
  • Increasing intake of plant-based proteins like legumes, nuts, seeds and soy products
  • Swapping red meat for poultry and fish
  • Choosing organic, local and seasonal produce whenever possible
  • Avoiding processed meat like bacon, sausage and deli meats
  • Eliminating sugary beverages and confections
  • Adding unique ingredients like duckweed, moringa and algae

The Green Mediterranean diet retains staples like extra virgin olive oil, whole grains and moderate wine intake. But it further limits consumption of animal products, especially red and processed meat, while boosting intake of greens, plant proteins and polyphenol-rich foods. This variant is predominantly plant-based, making it more environmentally sustainable. It also enhances the health benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet.

The Green Mediterranean Diet Research In Easy To Understand Terms

The Green Mediterranean Diet Research In Easy To Understand Terms

You can read over the research surrounding the Green Mediterranean Diet for yourself. However, if it seems a little confusing, let me break it down in simple easy-to-understand terms.1

Imagine a group of 294 people, mostly men around 51 years old, who are like overfilled backpacks (they have a high body mass index and large waist size). They decide to go on a 6-month journey to lighten their backpacks and get healthier.

There are three paths they can choose:

  1. The HDG Path: Like walking a regular, healthy trail.
  2. The Mediterranean Path: Like walking a scenic route with a mix of sun and shade.
  3. The Green Mediterranean Path: Like walking through a lush, green forest with special herbs and teas.

After 6 months, almost everyone (98.3%) stayed on their paths. Here’s what happened:

Backpack Weight (Weight Loss):

  • On the HDG Path, they dropped a small water bottle’s weight (1.5 kg).
  • On the Mediterranean Path, they lost about a bigger water bottle’s weight (5.4 kg).
  • On the Green Mediterranean Path, they lost an even bigger water bottle’s weight (6.2 kg).

Backpack Size (Waist Circumference):

  • The HDG Path made their backpacks a bit smaller (4.3 cm less bulky).
  • The Mediterranean Path made their backpacks noticeably slimmer (6.8 cm less bulky).
  • The Green Mediterranean Path made their backpacks the slimmest (8.6 cm less bulky).

But these changes were mostly seen in the men.

Internal Backpack Cleanliness (Cholesterol and Blood Pressure):

  • The Green Mediterranean Path cleaned their backpacks the best, reducing bad stuff (LDL cholesterol) and pressure (blood pressure) more than the others.

Sugar Handling (Insulin Resistance):

  • The Green Mediterranean Path also improved their ability to handle sugar bugs the best.

Backpack Balance (Cholesterol Ratios):

  • Again, the Green Mediterranean Path balanced their backpack load better, having a healthier mix of good and bad stuff in their backpacks.

Internal Calmness (Inflammation):

  • The Green Mediterranean Path calmed down internal backpack storms (reduced inflammation) more than the others.

Heart Health Score (Framingham Risk Score):

  • The Green Mediterranean Path improved their heart health score the most, making it less likely their hearts would get tired.

So, in this 6-month journey, the Green Mediterranean Path turned out to be the most effective, especially for the men, in making their backpacks lighter, slimmer, cleaner, better balanced, and healthier overall!

The Green Mediterranean Path vs The Mediterranean Path:

Weight Loss:

  • Both paths helped people lose weight, like emptying heavy items from their backpacks.
  • The Green Mediterranean Path led to a loss of about 6.2 kg (like dropping a small dumbbell).
  • The Mediterranean Path led to a loss of about 5.4 kg (like dropping a big textbook).
  • So, the Green path had a slightly better result in lightening the load, by about 0.8 kg more.

Waist Size:

  • This is like measuring how much the backpacks have shrunk.
  • The Green Mediterranean Path reduced waist size by 8.6 cm (like the length of a small smartphone).
  • The Mediterranean Path reduced it by 6.8 cm (like the length of a large marker pen).
  • Again, the Green path made the backpacks a bit more compact, by 1.8 cm more.

Best Results for Men:

  • These improvements, especially in shrinking the backpack size and weight, were most noticeable in the men on the paths.

Now, keep in mind that the Green Mediterranean Path has some unique daily requirements, which may make this diet a bit harder to follow (We’ll go over them below)

Comparing the Nutritional Composition

Comparing the Nutritional Composition

Both diets emphasize whole, minimally processed foods over refined and heavily processed options. But the Green Mediterranean diet contains more fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals (higher amounts of polyphenols and carotenoids) due to its focus on plant foods.


  • Carbohydrates: Around 45-50% of calories in both diets, emphasizing whole fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
  • Protein: The standard diet contains slightly more protein at around 16-20% of calories, compared to approximately 10-15% in the Green Mediterranean diet. The standard diet includes more animal proteins like fish, eggs and dairy.
  • Fat: Both contain around 35-40% calories from predominantly unsaturated fats like olive oil. The Green diet has more plant-based fats.
  • Fiber: The Green Mediterranean diet provides more fiber, around 45-50 grams per day compared to 30-35 grams on the standard diet.


  • Antioxidants: The Green Mediterranean diet contains significantly more antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, from green veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and herbs.
  • Minerals: Higher amounts of magnesium, potassium and iron from greens, legumes and soy. The standard diet may be slightly higher in calcium from dairy.
  • Vitamins: Greater amounts of Vitamins A, C and E from produce and plant oils, but similar for most B vitamins. Standard diet likely higher in Vitamin D from seafood.

Evaluating Potential Health Benefits

Both versions of the Mediterranean diet offer substantial health benefits supported by decades of research. However, the Green Mediterranean diet’s heightened focus on plant foods may provide additional advantages:

Heart Health

  • Reduced LDL and total cholesterol from portfolio of healthy plant fats
  • Decreased blood pressure and triglycerides through vasodilating effects of antioxidants
  • Less incidence of metabolic syndrome and abdominal adiposity

Cancer Prevention

  • Lower risk of breast, prostate and colorectal cancers from carotenoids and glucosinolates
  • Enhanced DNA repair from folate in legumes and greens
  • Anti-proliferative effects of flavonoids on cancer cells

Diabetes Management

  • Improved insulin sensitivity and glycemic control from magnesium and fiber
  • More stable blood sugar levels due to low glycemic index of whole plant foods

Gut Health

  • Increased microbial diversity and SCFA production from prebiotic fiber
  • Reduced inflammation and intestinal permeability via polyphenols
  • Relief of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms

Cognitive Function

  • Decreased oxidative stress and inflammation linked to neurodegenerative diseases
  • Increased blood flow and BDNF levels in the brain
  • Delayed cognitive decline and lower dementia risk

The Green Mediterranean diet enhances the health promoting effects of the traditional diet by targeting pathways underlying chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, oxidative stress and carcinogenesis.

Evaluating Potential Weight Loss Benefits

Both Mediterranean diets can promote healthy weight loss and management when combined with regular physical activity. However, the Green Mediterranean diet may confer particular advantages:

  • Higher fiber content promotes satiety and reduces calorie intake
  • Increased thermic effect of food from plant protein and complex carbs
  • Lower energy density meals due to high water and fiber
  • Improved fat burning from compounds like green tea catechins
  • Enhanced microbiome promotes weight regulation

Plant-based meals have been found to increase post-meal satiety and decrease hunger hormones compared to meals with animal protein sources. The high fiber and water content of fruits, veggies and whole grains also helps reduce overall caloric consumption.

Population studies demonstrate those following traditional plant-based diets have lower average BMIs and less obesity. The Green Mediterranean diet retains these benefits while also boosting metabolism and fat burning. When combined with an active lifestyle, it can be an extremely effective tool for losing weight and keeping it off.

Detailed Food Lists for the Green Mediterranean Diet

Detailed Food Lists for the Green Mediterranean Diet

As a primarily plant-based diet, the Green Mediterranean diet favors vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and healthy oils. Here are some detailed food lists:


  • All non-starchy veggies: spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms etc.
  • Leafy greens like lettuce, chard, mustard greens, arugula
  • Cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts
  • Allium veggies: onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, scallions
  • Fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, dill
  • Tomatoes and peppers
  • Tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, banana
  • Berries: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
  • Stone fruits: cherries, peaches, plums, apricots
  • Citrus fruits: oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes
  • Pome fruits: apples, pears, pomegranate
  • Melons: cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew
  • Avocado
  • Olives

Grains and Starches

  • Whole grains: brown rice, oats, farro, barley, quinoa, buckwheat
  • Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, beans, peas, peanuts
  • Starchy veggies: sweet potato, beetroot, parsnips, turnips, winter squash


  • Nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds
  • Soy products: tofu, tempeh, edamame
  • Other plant proteins: seitan, duckweed
  • Poultry: Chicken, turkey, eggs
  • Fish: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines
  • Dairy: Greek yogurt, small amounts of cheese

Fats and Oils

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Nuts and seeds


  • Water: plain, sparkling, herbal tea
  • Coffee and tea: green, black, oolong
  • Plant-based milk: almond, oat, soy
  • Wine: 1-2 glasses per day maximum

Herbs, Spices and Condiments

  • Fresh and dried herbs
  • Spices: pepper, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, thyme
  • Mustard
  • Vinegars: balsamic, red wine, rice wine
  • Soy sauce or tamari
  • Tahini
  • Miso
  • Nutritional yeast


  • Red and processed meat
  • Refined carbohydrates: white bread, pasta, crackers
  • Fried foods
  • Fast food
  • Sugary beverages, candy, ice cream
  • Packaged snacks like chips, pretzels
  • Alcohol besides wine in moderation

One Week Green Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan

One Week Green Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan

This sample meal plan provides an overview of what a week on the Green Mediterranean diet may look like:


Breakfast: Green smoothie with spinach, kale, banana, peanut butter

Lunch: Quinoa salad with chickpeas, bell pepper, parsley, lemon vinaigrette

Dinner: Lentil stew with carrots, tomatoes, spinach. Served with whole grain bread.


Breakfast: Overnight oats with chia seeds, almond milk, berries

Lunch: Nut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread

Dinner: Veggie and tofu stir fry with broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, ginger and soy sauce. Brown rice on side.


Breakfast: Tofu scramble with onions, peppers, nutritional yeast

Lunch: Roasted veggie and hummus wrap with spinach

Dinner: Black bean enchiladas with salsa, guacamole, brown rice


Breakfast: Greek yogurt with nuts, seeds and fruit

Lunch: Kale caesar salad with chickpeas

Dinner: Pasta with roasted eggplant, tomato sauce, basil


Breakfast: Avocado toast on whole grain bread

Lunch: Vegetable barley soup, whole grain crackers

Dinner: Veggie pizza with tomato sauce, peppers, mushrooms, olives


Breakfast: Tofu breakfast tacos with peppers, onions, salsa

Lunch: Quinoa chickpea Buddha bowl with tahini dressing

Dinner: Burrito bowls with beans, rice, peppers, onions, guacamole


Breakfast: Smoothie with banana, berries, spinach, flaxseeds

Lunch: Lentil chili with sweet potato, kale

Dinner: Eggplant or chickpea curry with brown rice

Snacks: Fruit, nuts, seeds, hummus, yogurt, cut veggies

Beverages: Water, herbal tea, coffee, plant milk

Pros and Cons of Following a Green Mediterranean Diet


  • Excellent for cardiovascular and metabolic health
  • Reduces cancer risk and cellular oxidation
  • Aids in sustainable weight management
  • Improves gut health and digestion
  • Boosts immunity and reduces inflammation
  • Environmentally friendly and ethical
  • Relatively easy to follow and adapt


  • Restricts red meat so may require adjustment for some
  • Some unique ingredients like duckweed may be hard to find
  • Requires planning to balance nutrients
  • Could be higher cost if choosing all organic
  • More challenging when dining out
  • Need supplements for nutrients like B12 and iron
  • Must make sure to take 3 additional items to match scientific study.
  • Men saw the greatest benefits from the study.

For most people, the benefits may outweigh the downsides, especially if you’re a male and they saw the greatest results in the study. But it requires commitment to an overall healthy lifestyle and predominantly plant-based diet. Consulting with a dietitian can help ensure nutritional needs are met.

Potential Short and Long Term Health Impacts

In the short term (weeks to months), the Green Mediterranean diet may:

  • Cause weight loss, especially reductions in belly fat
  • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Improve digestion and relieve constipation
  • Boost energy levels and reduce fatigue
  • Enhance skin, hair and nail health
  • Reduce joint pain and inflammation
  • Improve seasonal allergy symptoms

In the long term (months to years), the Green Mediterranean diet may:

  • Reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes
  • Prevent various cancers
  • Support neurological health and brain function
  • Preserve mobility and strength into older age
  • Extend lifespan and active years
  • Achieve sustainable weight management
  • Reduce need for medications
  • Improve quality of life and wellbeing

The short term benefits motivate people to stick with this way of eating. The long term benefits make it a worthwhile investment for healthspan and longevity.

Should You Try the Green Mediterranean Diet?

Should You Try the Green Mediterranean Diet?

Transitioning to the Green Mediterranean diet can require some adjustments but does offer some tremendous advantages, especially if you’re a male. It may be an ideal diet for:

  • Those with heart disease, diabetes or metabolic syndrome risk
  • Anyone seeking cancer prevention
  • Individuals wanting to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way
  • People concerned about environment or animal ethics
  • Those seeking an anti-inflammatory or gut-healthy diet
  • Anyone looking to optimize nutrition and longevity

As always, remember to consult your healthcare provider before making significant diet changes.

The 3 Key Green Mediterranean Diet Things You Must Include

To truly maximize the benefits of the Green Mediterranean diet and try to see similar results as the study – there are 3 key nutrient targets participants in the study consumed that you’ll need to include in your daily Green Mediterranean Diet:

  • 100 grams (g) of Mankai duckweed – Wolffia globosa, was given in 100 g/day frozen cubes to use in a plant-based protein shake. It’s an aquatic green plant and a 100g cube contains about 60% of your recommended daily intake for protein, making it an excellent plant-based protein source
  • 3 to 4 cups of green tea (Amazon affiliate link) – Participants in the study consumed Green tea daily.
  • 28g or 1 ounce of walnuts (Amazon affiliate link) – Consumed daily as a snack or topped over a meal.

The Bottom Line – Should You Follow The Green Mediterranean Diet?

After journeying through the lush forests of the Green Mediterranean Path and the scenic routes of the Mediterranean Path, it’s time to decide which trail is right for you. While both paths lead to a healthier lifestyle, there are some key differences to consider.

The Mediterranean Path:

  • It’s like a classic journey with a well-rounded mix of foods: lots of plants, some fish, poultry, eggs, a bit of dairy, and a sprinkle of red meat and sweets.
  • It’s praised for reducing the risk of many chronic diseases and is as flexible as a yoga instructor, easily adapting to different tastes and cultures.
  • It’s like packing a backpack with a variety of nutritious goodies that are both tasty and good for your heart and overall health.

The Green Mediterranean Path:

  • This path is like the Mediterranean Path but with a green twist. It’s deeper in the forest of plant-based eating, swapping red meat for more greens and adding some unique items.
  • You’ll need to include the special daily additions: duckweed, green tea, and walnuts.
  • This path showed especially great results for men, like finding extra gold coins on a treasure hunt.

Comparing the Two:

  • The Green path edges out the Mediterranean path slightly in weight loss and health improvements, especially in the men’s league.
  • But it’s a bit more restrictive, like having a stricter map for your journey.

Long-Term Viability:

  • While the Green path has its perks, its strict trail might be harder to follow over a long hike.
  • The Mediterranean Path, with its wider variety of foods and flexibility, might be easier to stick to in the long run, which is super important for a lifelong health adventure.

Making the Choice:

  • If you’re up for a challenge and excited about the extra green benefits (and especially if you’re a man who’s ready for some noticeable health gains), the Green Mediterranean Path might be your calling.
  • But if you’re looking for a more inclusive, varied diet that’s easier to maintain over time, the classic Mediterranean Path could be your perfect route.

The Key Takeaway:

  • Both paths lead to a healthier you, but the best diet is the one you can stick to happily and consistently. Whether you’re more of a classic Mediterranean explorer or a green trail adventurer, the most important thing is finding a path that suits your lifestyle and keeps you trekking happily towards better health.
  1. Scientific Study: The effect of green Mediterranean diet on cardiometabolic risk; a randomised controlled trial ↩︎

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About the author

Meet Kenton, the creator and writer behind Explore Med Life, renowned for his impressive 12-year journey dedicated to sharing the delights of Greek Mediterranean cuisine through his website and collection of cookbooks. Now, he's on a new mission: to make the Mediterranean Diet accessible to everyone and help 1 million people get healthy and change their lives. Follow along as we uncover the secrets and science-backed health benefits of this joyous lifestyle!

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