The Green Mediterranean Diet Plan + Complete Guide

The Mediterranean Diet is one of the most popular, well-researched healthy diets.

But, what exactly is the Green Mediterranean Diet, and what can you eat on it? What is the difference between the Mediterranean Diet and the Green Mediterranean Diet?

In this guide, we will discuss what the Green Mediterranean Diet entails, the key differences between the Green vs the traditional Mediterranean Diet, and provide a comprehensive Green Mediterranean diet plan food list to help guide you as to what you can eat.

We will look at: 

  • What Is the Green Mediterranean Diet?
  • Benefits of the Green Mediterranean Diet
  • How to Follow the Green Mediterranean Diet Plan
  • Green Mediterranean Diet Plan Food List

Let’s get started!

A bowl of greens, grains and seeds.

What Is the Green Mediterranean Diet?

The Green Mediterranean Diet is a newer variation of the traditional Mediterranean Diet that focuses on the plant-based Mediterranean Diet foods.

The primary difference between the Green Mediterranean Diet vs the standard Mediterranean Diet is that the standard Mediterranean Diet food list does include certain healthy animal-based foods that are part of the traditional dietary habits of those residing in Greece, Italy, and the Mediterranean region at large.

Thus, a regular Mediterranean Diet food list would include foods like eggs, fish, seafood, poultry, and healthy dairy products in small amounts.

Some people even include very occasional red meat on a Mediterranean Diet meal plan.

However, the Green Mediterranean Diet food list largely excludes these animal-based Mediterranean Diet foods, leaving only plant-based options.

In this way, the Green Mediterranean Diet can be likened to a vegan Mediterranean Diet, though some animal products may be consumed.

A pan of roasted vegetables.

It’s important to note that the Green Mediterranean Diet is a very new addition to the Mediterranean Diet eating style, so the exact stipulations of the Green Mediterranean Diet vs standard Mediterranean Diet are still being fleshed out.

One recent study investigating the effect of the Green Mediterranean Diet vs the regular Mediterranean Diet had more changes than just following a basic vegan Mediterranean Diet.

In addition to eliminating red meat and minimizing eggs, fish, and the other non-vegan Mediterranean Diet foods, the Green Mediterranean Diet in this study also added three specific stipulations not present in the regular Mediterranean Diet plan:

  • Eating 100 grams of a Mankai duckweed shake. Duckweed is a high-protein aquatic plant that is sort of like seaweed.
  • Drinking 3 to 4 cups of green tea per day.
  • Eating 1 ounce of walnuts per day.
A cup of green tea.

Benefits of the Green Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is one of the most well-researched and universally-accepted dietary patterns for ongoing health support, disease reduction, and weight management.

There are potential additional health benefits to following a diet high in antioxidants and polyphenols found in plant-based foods and completely eliminating red meat.

Therefore, some nutritionists and researchers believed that a vegan Mediterranean Diet that fully emphasized whole, unprocessed vegetables, legumes, whole grains, natural fruits, olive oil, nuts, and seeds, would further enhance the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.

Early study results on the Green Mediterranean Diet seem to confirm this hypothesis, as researchers found that when comparing the traditional vs Green Mediterranean Diet, those who followed the Green Mediterranean Diet for six months saw even greater improvements in overall health and the reduction of disease risk factors.

For example, participants in the Green Mediterranean Diet group experienced a greater decrease in diastolic blood pressure (the number on the bottom of a blood pressure reading), LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and various inflammatory markers.

Colorful legumes.

The Green Mediterranean Diet weight loss was also slightly superior to the weight loss in the traditional Mediterranean Diet group.

Those following the Green Mediterranean Diet lost an average of 14 pounds over the six months, whereas the standard Mediterranean Diet food group lost 12 pounds. 

Although this weight loss difference was not statistically significant, it goes well for the benefits of the Green Mediterranean Diet over the standard Mediterranean Diet. 

Plus, those in the Green Mediterranean Diet plan did see a statistically significant decrease in waist circumference, a measure of abdominal obesity, compared to the regular Mediterranean Diet group. 

This is important because waist circumference is seen as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, heart disease and stroke, all-cause mortality, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, and is one of the five criteria for metabolic syndrome.

Individuals following the Green Mediterranean Diet saw a more significant reduction in overall disease risk scores, which are an aggregate of relative risk of cardiovascular disease or other lifestyle diseases based on the presence of certain disease risk factors. 

Nuts and seeds.

In the study, those on the Green Mediterranean Diet saw a reduction in disease risk scores by 3.7%, while the traditional Mediterranean Diet reduced disease risk scores by just 2.3%. 

Of note, the control group, which was told to just follow a healthy diet but not necessarily a Mediterranean Diet meal plan, only saw a 1.4% reduction in disease risk scores. 

This is further evidence of the fact that any Mediterranean Diet meal plan can help lower disease risk.

Other positive benefits found in those following the Green Mediterranean Diet plan included a significant decrease in the levels of fat in the liver, which is otherwise associated with an elevated risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

It is important to note that the Green Mediterranean Diet in the study did include duckweed and green tea, both of which contain particularly potent antioxidants and flavonols, which may be one of the main reasons that the Green Mediterranean Diet plan seemed particularly healthy compared to the traditional Mediterranean Diet. 

Plus, swapping in the duckweed shake in place of a Mediterranean Diet meat meal likely further reduced caloric intake on the Green Mediterranean Diet meal plan in this study. 

Wine being poured.

This is to say that just following a vegan Mediterranean Diet without adding these plant foods may not elicit the same magnitude of health benefits and disease reduction.

As the Green Mediterranean Diet reduces your consumption of animal products, another benefit is that it lowers the environmental impact of your diet, making the Green Mediterranean Diet more sustainable. 

Plus, a vegan Mediterranean Diet alternative will appeal to those who want to follow a plant-based diet (for ethical reasons or otherwise) but were previously concerned that if they did not eat the animal products on the regular Mediterranean Diet, they would not derive the health benefits of the diet.

How to Follow the Green Mediterranean Diet Plan

As mentioned, the Green Mediterranean Diet is still being formed.

However, the specific iteration of the Green Mediterranean Diet used in the research study can be considered a low-calorie, high-protein diet.

Daily caloric intake was about 1500 calories for men and 1200 to 1400 calories per day for women.

In the early phases of the diet, the Green Mediterranean Diet meal plan consisted of only about 40 grams of carbohydrates per day, but this was increased to 80 grams of carbohydrates per day after two months. 

The Green Mediterranean Diet food list provided about 100 grams of protein per day over the course of the study.

Avocados on a cutting board.

Green Mediterranean Diet Plan Food List

Like the regular Mediterranean Diet, this Green Mediterranean Diet plan is free from all processed foods, and you are encouraged to exercise five days per week.

Both of these factors will support overall health and weight loss no matter what dietary pattern you are following.

Here is a fairly comprehensive Green Mediterranean Diet food list to help you develop a Green Mediterranean Diet plan that works for you:

  • Dark leafy green vegetables
  • Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, onions, bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Fresh fruit such as lemons, oranges, berries, figs
  • Avocados and avocado oil
  • Olives and extra-virgin olive oil
  • Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
  • Seeds such as sesame seeds, flax seeds, and Chia seeds
  • Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas
  • Tahini, which is sesame paste, and other natural seed butters
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Green tea
  • Whole grains
  • Red wine
  • Mankai (duckweed) or other protein-rich aquatic plants
A box of berries.

Note that the Green Mediterranean Diet does not necessarily have to be a vegan Mediterranean Diet. 

In fact, foods like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, goat cheese, and feta cheese, along with eggs, are actually encouraged if you are not opposed to eating animal-based products.

Researchers noted that you can even eat small amounts of fish and poultry if you prefer, but you should avoid all red meat and processed meats such as deli meat. 

You also cannot eat processed foods like chips, breakfast cereals, pastries, ice cream, crackers, etc., and must eliminate all sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and fruit juice.

So, which do you feel works better for your dietary needs? For a complete food list for the traditional Mediterranean diet, click here.

A food pyramid of the Mediterranean diet food plan and foods surrounding it.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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