How a "green" Mediterranean diet protects our brain and will help lose weight

The green-med diet can prevent your brain shrinking and improve insulin sensitivity to help with weight loss

Green tea and Mediterranean diet
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Mediterranean diet is often cited as one of the healthiest ways to eat. A diet rich in vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and whole grains, this principle of eating eschews processed red meats, added sugar, and "white" carbohydrates. 

It's thought to be way better for your heart and general health, as you might expect when swapping fatty burgers for lean cuts of meat and fish cooked on the best health grills. Olive oil, fish, nuts, and seeds are all high in healthy omega-3 and omega-6 (which can also be found in our list of the best fish oil supplements), but you also get an unexpected benefit when you add green tea to the mix. 

Research from Israeli institute Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (opens in new tab) has found that a green Mediterranean diet or "green-med", high in polyphenols and low in red and processed meat, seems to slow age-related brain atrophy. This neurodegenerative process means the brain, like other muscles in your body, begins to shrink as you age, getting more severe once you reach retirement age.  

284 men and women, aged 31-82, were studied over 18 months. They were split into three groups; a healthy dietary guidelines group, which followed more general healthy eating principles, a Mediterranean diet group and a "green Mediterranean diet" group. The green-med group matched the regular Med dieters, but consumed 3-4 cups of green tea and a shake in addition to the other diet changes.

The research found "a significant attenuation in brain atrophy over the 18 months in those who adhered to both Mediterranean diets; with greater magnitude in the green-med group, specifically among participants over age 50". In addition, green-med dieters saw an increase in insulin sensitivity, which can prevent weight gain and hunger pangs, and makes it much less likely you'll develop metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

Dr. Alon Kaplan, one of the study's authors, writes; "Our findings might suggest a simple, safe, and promising avenue to slow age-related neurodegeneration by adhering to a green-Mediterranean diet." 

Want to give it a go? Start with simple food swaps, switching a processed meat meal like a burger to a serving of oily fish like salmon. You don't have to cut out meat entirely, but the best vegan cookbooks can offer an extra helping of information.

Matt Evans
News Editor

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.