The Mediterranean diet can help lose weight, protect the heart, and prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes and dementia. It is recognized as the best diet overall. However, a modified version called the “Green Mediterranean Diet” is more effective in getting rid of visceral fat—one of the factors that cause many chronic diseases.
The Green Mediterranean Diet Works Best in Losing Visceral Fat
The Mediterranean diet has been ranked the “Best Diet Overall” by U.S. News & World Report for five consecutive years. It is also the “Best Heart-Healthy Diet”, the “Best Diabetes Diet”, and the “Easiest Diet to Follow”. The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are recognized by the medical community. However, a modified version called the “Green Mediterranean Diet” was found to have more prominent benefits, especially in reducing visceral fat.
The green Mediterranean diet refers to adding green tea, walnuts, and Wolffia globosa to the traditional Mediterranean diet, and reducing the consumption of red meat and processed meat.
In one study, 294 participants with abdominal obesity were divided into three groups and followed a healthy dietary guidelines (HDG) diet, a Mediterranean diet, and a green Mediterranean diet, respectively, for 18 months.
In this trial, participants in the traditional Mediterranean diet group consumed 28 grams of walnuts per day; while participants in the green Mediterranean diet group consumed green tea (3 to 4 cups) and a green shake (100 grams) made of Wolffia globosa per day in addition to 28 grams of walnuts, and reduced their consumption of red meat.
The results showed that participants on the traditional and green Mediterranean diets lost similar amounts of weight (−2.7 percent and −3.9 percent) and reduced similar lengths of waist circumference (−4.7 percent and −5.7 percent), but the green Mediterranean diet was more effective in some ways.
The group following the healthy dietary guidelines reduced their visceral fat by 4.2 percent; the traditional Mediterranean diet group lost 6.0 percent; the effect of the green Mediterranean diet was particularly prominent, and the participants lost 14.1 percent of their visceral fat, which is more than twice of fat reduction of the traditional Mediterranean diet.
The study noted that the reduction in visceral fat was significantly associated with higher dietary consumption of walnuts, green tea, and Wolffia globosa, as well as the reduction in red meat consumption.
A high visceral fat level not only causes abdominal obesity, but is also closely related to a variety of chronic diseases, including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular diseases, myocardial dysfunction, insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and dementia. It is also an independent factor of mortality.
Visceral fat also leads to fatty liver. The green Mediterranean diet helps reduce liver fat, cutting the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by half. In addition, it can improve cholesterol levels, which reduces the cardiovascular risk score by nearly twofold in the next 10 years.
What Are the Health Benefits of Wolffia Globosa, Green Tea, and Walnuts?
The green Mediterranean diet mainly has three ingredient additions: Wolffia globosa, green tea, and walnuts.
1.) Wolffia globosa
Wolffia globosa is an edible aquatic plant that looks like green couscous (a pasta that is colored and shaped like millet). Wolffia globosa contains a variety of nutrients: nine essential amino acids (the smallest basic unit of protein) that cannot be synthesized by the human body, dietary fibers, polyphenols, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.
Wolffia globosa is one of the proteins in the green Mediterranean diet. The total protein content of freeze-dried Wolffia globosa is between 20 and 30 percent, the fiber content is about 25 percent, and the fat content is between 1 percent and 5 percent. The polyunsaturated fatty acids in it account for more than 60 percent of the total fat, and its content of Omega-3 fatty acids is higher than that of Omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce visceral fat mass and the oxidative damage caused by visceral fat.
Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal-based foods, so vegetarians are often deficient in this nutrient. However, Wolffia globosa contains bioactive vitamin B12 and can serve as a plant-based food source of this nutrient. The aforementioned features make it a high-quality protein source suitable for many people, especially vegetarians.
Besides, this plant contains 200 different polyphenols with powerful antioxidant activity, and its fiber also helps regulate the gut microbiota.
Wolffia globosa is also beneficial for the control of postprandial and fasting glucose levels. In one study, subjects were divided into two groups: one group consumed Wolffia globosa in the evening, and the other consumed a yogurt shake. The results showed that the Wolffia globosa group had a lower postprandial glucose peak, returned faster to the baseline glucose level, and had a higher satiety rank. Furthermore, the fasting glucose level of the Wolffia globosa group was also lower the next morning.
2.) Green tea
The catechins in green tea help reduce cardiovascular risk. One study found that subjects who consumed more catechins (583 mg per day) for 12 consecutive weeks had greater reductions in body weight, body fat mass, waist circumference, hip circumference, visceral fat area, and subcutaneous fat area than those in the control group (96 mg of catechins per day). Also, the former had greater decreases in systolic blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol).
In addition, catechin is also anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-allergic; and it can prevent inflammatory bowel disease.
Gyaltsen Lobsang, director of the Dr. Lobsang Preventive Medicare Clinic, said that he encourages people to drink green tea as long as they do not have issues like poor sleep quality, hyperacidity, or upset stomach. The antioxidants in green tea can fight free radicals, naturally boost the immune system, and help prevent cancer.
Tzu-Yun Chien, a nutritionist who specializes in functional medicine, said that walnuts contain fibers, minerals, and vitamin D, and that its content of unsaturated fatty acids is higher than other nuts. Visceral fat can be reduced if saturated fat in the diet is replaced with more unsaturated fat.
In addition, a study proved that daily ingestion of 56 grams of walnuts can improve vascular endothelial function and lower blood pressure in overweight adults with high visceral fat, and it does not lead to weight gain. A healthy vascular endothelium reduces the risk of heart disease.
Lobsang said that nuts are a good source of fat, and walnuts are particularly beneficial to the health of the brain.
Compared to other nuts, walnuts are rich in α-Linolenic acid, an omega-3 that plays an important role in brain health. Studies have found that eating walnuts can significantly improve memory and slow down the processes of brain aging.
Focus on Food Variety and Eat Smart With the Green Mediterranean Diet
The traditional Mediterranean diet consists of a large amount of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, healthy fats (such as virgin olive oil), moderate consumption of fish, seafood, poultry, dairy products, and eggs, as well as reduced intake of red meat and processed meat.
The green Mediterranean diet reduces the consumption of red and processed meat to a greater extent than the traditional Mediterranean diet, and it also includes Wolffia globosa, green tea, and walnuts. However, Wolffia globosa is not a common food. According to Tzu-Yun Chien, if Wolffia globosa is not available, we can replace red meat with white meat (fish and chicken) or high-protein legumes (soybeans, black beans, edamame, and chickpeas).
Other edible algae similar to Wolffia globosa are also good sources of protein. Edible algae (both microalgae and macroalgae) have been found to have high nutritional value and are excellent sources of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and macro and microelements. They are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, polysaccharides, polyphenols, carotenoids, and other nutrients.
Clinically, Lobsang found that consuming green algae can help patients remove toxins from their brain nerves and help the brain to fight inflammation. In addition, green algae are effective in controlling blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides, as well as removing heavy metals. He noted that algae also help boost immunity, and regulate the nervous system and immune systems.
The recommended consumption of walnuts is generally 2 to 3 per day. However, Chien believes that people who do not have obesity issues and usually do not consume much fat can eat 5 to 6 walnuts a day.
At the same time, it is important to have a varied diet—other nuts and healthy foods can be eaten, but one needs to watch the intake of red meat. Chien found in her outpatient clinic that people who eat red meat, especially men, are particularly prone to inflammation in the body, which will increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.