When it comes to positive lifestyle changes, the Mediterranean diet has long reigned supreme as one of the best food plans for people looking to improve their health. Now, scientists say they’ve discovered an updated version of this beloved diet that leads to even better outcomes than the traditional one.
What Is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet encompasses the foods eaten in places that border the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Italy, and Spain. While the diet may vary from place to place, people in this region generally focus on eating lots of fruits and vegetables; plenty of nuts, seeds, and whole grains; healthy fats like olive oil; and moderate amounts of beans, eggs, dairy products, fish, and chicken. The Mediterranean diet also tends to forgo refined sugars and processed foods.
Does it actually work? While there are many factors that play into any individual’s health, science generally supports the notion that the Mediterranean diet is a “healthy eating pattern” for adults who want to lower their risk of heart disease and maintain their weight, amongst other benefits.
For those who want to get the most out of a Mediterranean diet though, new research conducted by a team at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and published in the BMJ Journal recently found that a “green” Mediterranean diet that substitutes red meat for more plant-based foods leads to bigger changes in both weight and heart health.
In their study, researchers had a total of 294 people, who were defined as moderately obese, randomly assigned to one of three diet plans for 18 months. A control group was given basic guidelines for a healthy diet and told to exercise regularly. The second group received guidelines for following a traditional Mediterranean diet plan. The third group received a few plant-based tweaks to the Mediterranean diet, including drinking three to four cups of green tea, consuming 28 grams of walnuts, and drinking a plant-based protein shake every single day; they were also advised to avoid red meat entirely.
Researchers noted that all groups saw positive changes immediately, but participants following the “green” Mediterranean diet saw the biggest improvements. They lost 13.6 pounds on average, compared to 12 pounds for the traditional Mediterranean diet group and 3.3 pounds for the general healthy diet group.
Additionally, after six months, the participants who’d been put on the “green” Mediterranean diet had the sharpest decrease in their unhealthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure. The “green” Mediterranean diet group decreased their “bad” cholesterol by nearly four percent, compared to just one percent for the traditional Mediterranean diet group and less than one percent for the general healthy diet group.
At the end of the day, while everyone is different, it may make sense to take some of these new findings to heart. (Pun intended!) They could lead to a healthier you in the new year.
This story originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.