Is the Green Mediterranean Diet Worth the Hype? A PhD Weighs In

“So, what’s the best diet for gut health?” I’ve been asked this question countless times, and although I do my best to avoid diet dogma, the Mediterranean diet is my top recommendation across the board. It’s great for more than just gut health; this dietary pattern boasts a number of health benefits. 

Credit: Chatham172 / Shutterstock

The green Mediterranean diet — which contains more greens and less meat than the standard version — may be even better for heart health compared to its predecessor. That’s saying a lot, so read on to learn more about this intriguing new take on an already impressive approach to food.

What Is the Green Mediterranean Diet?

The green Mediterranean diet was developed by a research group in 2020, and the general idea is to simply eat more greens and less meat — especially red meat — compared to the traditional Mediterranean diet, but this group did make some specific modifications. (1)(2)(3)

In addition to reducing meat intake, they replaced beef and lamb with poultry and fish and added some specific plant-based foods. In general, this is thought to be a healthy diet in large part because it limits heavily processed foods.

[Read More: Best Vegan Protein Powders, Tested by Our Experts]

Because of the reduced carbon emissions needed to procure plant-based proteins compared to animal protein, the “green” part of the name can apply to both the food itself and the methods of getting them to your plate.

Foods to Eat 

To follow the green version of the Mediterranean diet, you’ll want to add to following to your daily intake:

Three to four cups of green tea

One ounce (28 grams) of walnuts

100 grams of Wolffia globosa, or Mankai, a type of high-protein aquatic plant in the duckweed family

Otherwise, the green Mediterranean diet follows the same guidelines as the standard Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of:

Polyphenol-rich vegetables (ex. artichokes and red onions)


Whole grains



[Read More: The Best Greens Powders, Tested, Chosen, and Approved by a Dietitian]

Seafood and lean poultry are the main protein sources, and limited amounts of low-fat dairy and plant-based oils are also included. Plant-based proteins like lentils also feature more prominently in the green version of this diet than the traditional version, which may feature more animal products.

While it might not be a good idea to start drinking if you don’t already, small amounts of red wine are also a part of the standard Mediterranean diet. (4)

Credit: InkheartX / Shutterstock

These foods weren’t the only unique characteristics of the green Mediterranean diet plan. The researchers also designed the diet to be calorie-controlled and very low in carbohydrates. 

Cisgender men in the research ate 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day while cisgender women ate 1,200 to 1,400 calories, and the diets included a maximum of just 80 grams of carbohydrates per day. Participants met these intakes, in part, by replacing their dinner with the green duckweed shake. (1)(2)(3)

Foods to Avoid

Both the green and standard Mediterranean diets recommend limiting or avoiding highly processed, packaged foods and sweets. These are often high in sodium and refined sugars while offering little to no fiber or micronutrients. Red and processed meats, butter, and full-fat dairy are also limited and replaced with fish, poultry, olive oil, and low-fat dairy products. (1)(2)(3)(4)

Green Mediterranean Diet Vs. Standard Mediterranean Diet

Both the green and standard Mediterranean diets could be considered largely plant-based diets (though not always vegan), and current research suggests that both diets can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They’ve both been shown to improve markers of cardiometabolic health, including cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and insulin resistance. (1)(2)(3)(4)

There are some key differences, too. 

The green version includes more green plant-based foods and replaces all red meat and lamb with poultry and fish.

The green version includes the specific additions of green tea, walnuts, and Mankai.

The green Mediterranean diet is also calorie-controlled and very low in carbohydrates, which doesn’t necessarily apply to the standard version. (1)(2)(3)(4)

[Read More: The Best Supplements for Weight Loss]

Because the green Mediterranean diet is so new, relatively little research exists compared to the decades of research supporting the standard version. That being said, emerging evidence suggests that the green version could reduce the risk of heart disease and improve metabolic health more than the standard version, even when caloric intake and weight loss are matched. 

In other words, there could be more to the effect of the green Mediterranean diet than just the reduction in carbohydrates or calories. (1)(2)(3)

Potential Benefits of the Green Mediterranean Diet

The green Mediterranean diet boasts many of the same health benefits as the standard version, making it a great choice to support cardiometabolic and overall health. While both diets reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases, the green version performs better in certain areas, leading to a greater risk reduction compared to the standard version. 

Reduces Abdominal Fat

Compared to a standard Mediterranean diet, the green version may lead to greater reductions in visceral fat and liver fat, both of which are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes risk — and larger losses in waist circumference. These improvements over the standard diet may be explained, at least in part, by the removal of red meat and the addition of Mankai. (1)(2)(3)

Lowers Blood Pressure & Cholesterol

The green Mediterranean diet also improved other markers of cardiometabolic health to a greater extent than the standard version. Although both versions can lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol, the green diet may result in greater reductions in both blood pressure and LDL cholesterol after six months. (1)

Improves Insulin Sensitivity

Reductions in visceral and liver fat were also associated with better insulin sensitivity, likely because these types of fat play a role in insulin resistance. The effects were greater in the green versus standard Mediterranean diet group. (1)

Could Support Gut Health

Like the standard Mediterranean diet, the green version is rich in prebiotic foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes. These all contain types of dietary fiber that feed several beneficial gut microbes to support your microbiome, and dietary patterns like these are also linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. (5)

Potential Risks of the Green Mediterranean Diet

The green Mediterranean diet poses no obvious health risks and has few drawbacks, but may pose a few more risks than the standard version due to its low calorie and carbohydrate intake, and could be a little harder to follow. That might be especially true for people with a history of or tendency toward disordered eating habits for whom counting calories may be dangerous or triggering.

May Not Provide Adequate Energy

The standard Mediterranean diet has been studied at a wide range of calorie ranges, but so far, the green version is prescribed as a weight-loss diet in clinical trials. At 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day for cis men and 1,200 to 1,400 calories for cis women, weight loss is likely for most people.

But these intakes could be hazardously low, especially for active individuals or athletes who regularly participate in intense physical activity. Chronic underfueling can put an athlete’s mental and physical health at risk while impeding their exercise performance. (6)

Credit: pundapanda / Shutterstock

[Read More: The Best Meal Replacements, Everything You Need to Know]

Mental and physical performance and health can also be impacted severely by the act of counting calories for athletes who are disposed to or have a history of disordered eating habits. These athletes may want to avoid the green Mediterranean diet, or simply adapt it to eliminate the restrictive elements.

Could Be Too Low in Carbohydrates

In addition to being low in calories, the green Mediterranean diet limits carbohydrates to just 80 grams per day. While a low-carbohydrate diet can still support exercise and athletic performance in many cases, it isn’t a great fit for endurance sports or long resistance training sessions. When paired with a diet that’s already too low in calories, a low-carb diet is more likely to hamper performance. (6)(7)(8)

Might Be Hard to Follow

Any calorie- or carb-restricted diet can be hard to follow long-term, which is one of the main obstacles people face when pursuing weight loss maintenance. (9) An eating plan that includes specific, rare ingredients or costly supplements can be even more challenging and exclusionary.

In the same vein, this kind of diet might be logistically unsustainable for many athletes. It’s estimated that about 10 percent of the US population lives in a food desert, or an area with very limited access to fresh produce, which creates a significant barrier to following the green Mediterranean diet. (10)

[Read More: The Best Supplement Stacks, Tested and Reviewed]

While participants were able to follow the green Mediterranean diet for up to 18 months, it’s important to keep in mind that the green tea, walnuts, and Mankai were provided by the researchers. It remains to be seen whether participants would be able to follow the diet as prescribed without the assistance of the researchers. 

Sample Green Mediterranean Diet Meal

Dinner on the green Mediterranean diet is already planned: the green Mankai duckweed shake. So, that’s the easy part. If you’re wondering what to eat for breakfast and lunch, here are some ideas:

Breakfast: A smoothie made with oatmeal, fat-free Greek yogurt, mixed berries, and frozen spinach.

Snack: Chopped cucumber, tomato, and feta cheese tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a cup of green tea.

Lunch: A green salad topped with chicken or salmon, tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, crushed walnuts, citrus fruit, and balsamic vinaigrette, with a cup of green tea.

These meals provide plenty of veggies, fruits, healthy fats, and lean proteins, including the walnuts and green tea that are specific to the green Mediterranean diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Nutrition is certainly a complex topic. Here’s how to navigate your most burning questions about the green Mediterranean diet.

What foods do you eat on a green Mediterranean diet?

A green Mediterranean diet is very similar to the standard Mediterranean diet, but includes the addition of green tea, walnuts, and a type of duckweed called Mankai. It also replaces red meat and lamb with fish and poultry.

Can you eat chicken on the green Mediterranean diet?

Poultry includes chicken, so it’s an appropriate protein option for the green Mediterranean diet.

How much weight can you lose on the green Mediterranean diet?

Weight loss depends on an energy deficit, which is influenced by many factors. While recommended calorie levels are standard in green Mediterranean diet research trials, each person burns a different number of calories per day, so your results will vary even if you eat the amount used in these studies.

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.


Tsaban G, Yaskolka Meir A, Rinott E, et al. The effect of green Mediterranean diet on cardiometabolic risk; a randomised controlled trialHeart 2021;107:1054-1061.

Zelicha, H., Kloting, N., Kaplan, A. et al. The effect of high-polyphenol Mediterranean diet on visceral adiposity: the DIRECT PLUS randomized controlled trial. BMC Med 20, 327 (2022). 

Yaskolka Meir A, Rinott E, Tsaban G, et alEffect of green-Mediterranean diet on intrahepatic fat: the DIRECT PLUS randomised controlled trial. Gut 2021;70:2085-2095.

U.S. News & World Report. (2023, June 16). Mediterranean Diet.

Illescas, O., Rodríguez-Sosa, M., & Gariboldi, M. (2021). Mediterranean Diet to Prevent the Development of Colon Diseases: A Meta-Analysis of Gut Microbiota Studies. Nutrients, 13(7), 2234. 

Helms, E. R., Prnjak, K., & Linardon, J. (2019). Towards a Sustainable Nutrition Paradigm in Physique Sport: A Narrative Review. Sports (Basel, Switzerland), 7(7), 172. 

Henselmans, M., Bjørnsen, T., Hedderman, R., & Vårvik, F. T. (2022). The Effect of Carbohydrate Intake on Strength and Resistance Training Performance: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 14(4), 856. 

King, A., Helms, E., Zinn, C., & Jukic, I. (2022). The Ergogenic Effects of Acute Carbohydrate Feeding on Resistance Exercise Performance : A Systematic Review and Meta ‑ analysis. Sports Medicine, 0123456789. 

Hall, K. D., & Kahan, S. (2018). Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity. The Medical clinics of North America, 102(1), 183–197. 

US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. (2011, December 1). Data Feature: Mapping Food Deserts in the U.S. Amber Waves. 

Featured Image: Chatham172 / Shutterstock

The post Is the Green Mediterranean Diet Worth the Hype? A PhD Weighs In appeared first on BarBend.


您的电子邮箱地址不会被公开。 必填项已用 * 标注