Is the Green Mediterranean Diet Healthier?

A flatlay of a plate of whole shelled walnuts and a glass cup of green tea.

Muhammad Asim/Getty

Key Takeaways

  • Research shows the Mediterranean diet is linked to many health benefits.
  • The new “green” Mediterranean diet adds Mankai duckweed, walnuts, and green tea to boost the eating pattern’s health benefits.
  • Following the green Mediterranean diet may not be for everyone, depending on their individual needs, cultural dietary practices, and access to foods included in the diet.

Eating plenty of olive oil, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables is a common pattern of eating among people living on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The so-called Mediterranean diet has become popular around the world and is not only delicious, but also offers health benefits like a lower risk of heart disease, cognitive decline, and type 2 diabetes.

According to new research, adding a few new steps to the core principles of the Mediterranean diet to create a new version—the green Mediterranean diet—may offer even more health benefits than the original version of the diet, including helping with weight loss.

Here’s what you need to know about the green Mediterranean diet, including some tips on how to try it.

Going Green

The Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle recommendation than just an eating pattern, though the foods are a key part of what makes it beneficial to your health.

The foods emphasized in the diet are full of fiber, antioxidants, and important micronutrients that support your overall health. The diet also limits less nutritious processed foods, fried foods, and added sugars.

People who follow the Mediterranean diet are also encouraged to participate in physical activity and enjoy their meals with friends and/or family.

Recently, researchers have found that adding a few new components to the Mediterranean diet may enhance its health benefits.

Sarah Garone, an Arizona-based diet technician, told Verywell that the green Mediterranean diet “takes a traditional Mediterranean diet and shifts it in a more plant-based direction.”

While animal products are still allowed with this version of the diet, Garone said that “plant sources of protein—such as beans, legumes, quinoa, and tofu—are more strongly encouraged,” while red and processed meats are limited.

The 3 Foods Added to the Green Mediterranean Diet

There are three more daily requirements for people following the green Mediterranean diet:

  • Consuming 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of Mankai duckweed (a newly cultivated, tiny aquatic vegetable)
  • Drinking 3–4 cups of green tea
  • Eating 1 ounce of walnuts

These items were selected to be part of the diet because of the unique health benefits they offer:

  • Mankai duckweed has all essential amino acids, iron, vitamin B12, dietary fibers, omega-3s, antioxidants, and plenty of other minerals, vitamins, and essential nutrients. It has a neutral taste and can easily be added to smoothies, sauces, and other recipes.
  • Green tea is an excellent dietary source of an important plant compound called flavan-3-ols. Recently, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stated that consuming between 400 and 600 milligrams of flavan-3-ols a day (which you’ll get from drinking 2 cups of green tea) is linked to heart health benefits.
  • Walnuts are the only tree nut that is very high in plant-based ALA omega-3 fatty acids. The nuts are also a source of plant-based proteins, fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants. Research has also shown that adding 1 ounce (28.35 g) of walnuts to the diet of people who do not regularly eat nuts can improve their diet quality and intake of under-consumed nutrients.

Is The Green Mediterranean Diet Healthier?

Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, a Connecticut-based Nutrition Writer and Owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition, told Verywell that the green Mediterranean diet “has become increasingly popular due to the benefits seen from both Mediterranean-style and plant-forward ways of eating.”

Basically, Mitri said that the Green version of the diet is “taking all of the essential tenets of a healthy Mediterranean diet, with an emphasis on plant foods.”

Nutrition research has long shown that eating more nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, and seeds offers health benefits.

On top of emphasizing good-for-you food groups, the green Mediterranean diet also recommends that people eat a specific quantity of three superfoods (Mankai, green tea, and walnuts) to get, at minimum, the nutrients provided by these nutritional powerhouses.

Can The Green Mediterranean Diet Help Me Lose Weight?

In 2020, researchers did a trial where participants were assigned to either follow generally healthy dietary guidelines, the Mediterranean diet, or the green Mediterranean diet. All the participants also took part in physical activity during the study. Over 18 months, the researchers looked at how much abdominal fat (visceral fat) the participants lost.

The people who followed the green Mediterranean diet had double the visceral fat loss than the other participants. Specifically, the people who followed the green version of the diet reduced their visceral fat by 14%—more than twice as much as the people following the classic Mediterranean diet (6%).

Other research data has shown that a higher intake of Mankai, green tea, and walnut and a lower intake of red and processed meat is linked to protective benefits for brain health. The diet may also help reduce fat in the liver, which is closely linked with diabetes risk.  

Is the Green Mediterranean Right for You?

The green Mediterranean diet is not for everyone. Even people who may benefit from it can still have challenges making it happen. For example, Garone pointed out that some people will find it hard to find Mankai duckweed, “which can be cost-prohibitive and difficult to find.”

Whether the green Mediterranean diet will work for someone also depends on their dietary needs and cultural dietary practices (the diet does not include foods that are traditional to cultures beyond those surrounding the Mediterranean Sea).

That said, it might be worth exploring the diet to find out if there are ways you could adapt it to meet your needs and preferences. According to Mitri, “many aspects of it can be applied across all cultures, such as the encouragement of more fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and tea.”

Easing Into the Green Mediterranean Diet

If you’re new to a green Mediterranean diet, Garone said it’s best to ease into it since drastic changes are not only difficult to make, but rarely sustainable in the long-term.

You don’t have to make a complete shift to a new way of eating. If you want to try, Garone suggested that incorporating a new element of the green Mediterranean diet every week.

A small step you can take as a starting point is swapping animal proteins for plant-based ones—for example, cooking up black bean burgers instead of beef or making lentil stew for dinner on a chilly evening instead of one with sausage.

Your beverage choices are another place to make some greener swaps—literally.

“If you’re an afternoon coffee drinker, you might try green tea a few days a week instead,” Garone said.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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