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New fad diet, same old story
Do you really want another diet program that involves shakes? Didn’t think so.
I was scrolling through Google News this week, as one does when they don’t have social media on their phone and have nothing else to scroll through, and I came across the news about a recent study regarding the Green Mediterranean Diet. You can imagine how far my eyes rolled to the back of my head.
I reluctantly clicked on the news to read about the diet, and it’s pretty much as awful as it sounds. To sum it up: It’s a restrictive version of the Mediterranean Diet with a cut set of rules you need to follow. As a result, you may lose weight. No shocker there, obviously.
What’s the Green Mediterranean Diet?
Let’s take a closer at the study, published in BMC Medicine. First, it’s important to note that the study was a randomized controlled trial. These studies are seen as the most effective when evaluating data because they control what the participants are doing/consuming and get more accurate results (versus an observational study, which evaluates a collection of previous research to make a conclusion).
Within the study, researchers split 294 participants into three groups, having them follow either healthy dietary guidelines, traditional Mediterranean diet guidelines, or Green Mediterranean Diet guidelines for 18 months.
But here’s where the eye roll occurred for me: When reading the set rules that followed with the diet.
The Green Mediterranean Diet is a more restrictive version of the former. Instead of allowing moderation into your diet, dieters are supposed to completely restrict red and processed meats, while putting an extra emphasis on eating plants. Those who follow the Green Mediterranean Diet are also supposed to consume the following foods every day:
3 to 4 cups of green tea
1 oz. of walnuts (this research was partly funded by the California Walnut Commission)
100 grams of a Mankai duckweed shake
Oh yes, a shake. There’s a reason for it—Mankai duckweed is actually an aquatic plant strain that is incredibly high in protein, making it an easy supplement to get that protein you might not be getting if you’re used to consuming meat.
After 18 months, researchers found that those who consumed the Green Mediterranean Diet experienced a 14% reduction in visceral fat. Visceral fat is the type of fat that lives within the abdominal cavity and is known for causing the most harm to the body, so yes, it is good to lose visceral fat for better health and longevity.
However, it’s important to not discount the traditional Mediterranean Diet, which did see a decrease of visceral fat by 7%, and the regular healthy dietary guidelines with a 4.5% decrease.
So…what does this all mean for us?
This takes away from the success of the culture.
Do you want to know why the Mediterranean Diet is known as the most successful way of eating for long-term health? Because it’s not restrictive at all.
Calling it the most successful truly isn’t a joke—the U.S. News & World Report ranked the Mediterranean Diet number one for Best Diet Overall, Best Plant-Based Diet, Best Heart-Healthy Diet, Best Diabetes Diet, Best Diet for Healthy Eating, and Easiest Diet to Follow.
That’s because this diet is just a way of life. It’s the same eating plan that is followed in the Blue Zones, the regions of the world with the densest population of people who live to be over 100. The Mediterranean Diet closely resembles what we see in Sardinia, Italy, and Ikaria, Greece. While these cultures do put a heavy emphasis on eating plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, and olive oil, they do still allow other foods into their diet. Fish and seafood are consumed twice a week, dairy and eggs are consumed in moderation, and red meat and sweets are enjoyed on special occasions. Red wine is a staple for these cultures.
As you can see, no restrictions in the slightest. Eating plant-based foods is just a way of life, not a strict diet plan that ensures you eat particular sets of food and drink shakes every day.
This is why the Mediterranean Diet is so successful—it’s manageable. It allows people to just enjoy their life while putting an emphasis on healthier foods. By restricting yourself to set rules and not allowing certain food groups, you easily slip into dieting territory—and we know that restriction doesn’t actually work for long-term weight loss.
The key is consuming a high number of polyphenols.
Here’s what I found really interesting about the recently published study that I think we need to put into perspective: Researchers didn’t actually say to follow the Green Mediterranean Diet. Instead, they emphasized consuming a high number of plant-based polyphenols and a lower amount of red and processed meat.
This is the key takeaway that I think we can all walk away with. Time and time and time and time again, we are shown that eating polyphenol-rich foods is beneficial for health. Not just for losing visceral fat, but also for heart health, brain health, reducing inflammation, and even chronic disease risk.
Polyphenols are a set of compounds found in plant-based foods that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. They are potent in plant-based foods like fruits (especially berries), vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, spices (yes, spices!), chocolate (seriously), red wine, coffee, and tea. Green tea especially, hence the use of it in this study.
Yes, polyphenols have also been linked to helping with weight loss. But it’s important to note that it goes hand-in-hand with a changed way of life—an emphasis on adding more plant-based, whole foods to your meals. Again, this does not mean you have to give up meat completely and start downing green shakes every day. It just emphasizes the long-term benefits of eating this food in moderation.
So don’t fall for the trap of following another fad diet before truly understanding why the Mediterranean Diet has been so successful in the first place.
To conclude this little rant about fad diets, I want to point out this past newsletter where I give advice on how to be a better critic of dieting claims online. It’s a good way to decipher a new study and to actually understand the takeaways, instead of going down a brand new dieting rabbit hole.