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The green Mediterranean diet may protect health and the environment

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Share on PinterestThe so-called green Mediterranean diet may benefit human health and the planet’s health. Stocksy/Getty Images,Photo,Getty

People who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But new research suggests that a “green” Mediterranean diet — which avoids all meat and provides extra greens — may be even better for human health. If the diet catches on, the benefits for planetary health could be equally impressive.

Climate scientists believe that one of the most impactful things that people can do for the environment is to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products.

Research notes that global production of animal-based foods — including livestock feed — accounts for 57% of total greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, whereas production of plant-based foods accounts for only 29%.

Another study estimates that if everyone became vegan, this would reduce the amount of land worldwide that farmers need to grow food by 3.1 billion hectares or 76%.

In addition to cutting emissions from food production, say the authors, rewilding the freed-up land would remove around 8.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year for the next 100 years.

Of course, the idea that billions of people worldwide would voluntarily give up their steaks, sausages, and cheeseburgers simply to curb climate change may seem far-fetched.

But perhaps they would think twice if they knew how much it would benefit their own health.

Recent research suggests that people who eat little or no meat tend to have a lower risk of cancer, in particular colorectal cancer and prostate cancer in men.

Diets that combine a reduction in meat and dairy consumption with increased intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats bring further health benefits.

People who eat a typical Mediterranean diet, for example, have a lower overall mortality rate and a lower risk not only of cancer but also cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

A series of clinical trials now suggests that eating a “green” Mediterranean diet, or green Med diet, may provide additional benefits on top of those provided by the regular Mediterranean diet.

The diet, which adds extra plant foods rich in polyphenols and aims to avoid meat completely, is also better for the planet.

“[E]liminating meat intake — beef, pork, lamb — is by far the most important single way to reduce the carbon footprint from diet,” said Dr. Meir Stampfer, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and one of the authors of the green Med studies.

“The contribution of meat to greenhouse gas emissions is enormous compared with other foods,” he told Medical News Today.

dr Rammer pointed out that the total area needed for meat production includes a lot of land for growing crops to feed livestock.

So by reducing the amount of land around the world that is devoted to producing meat, the green Med diet could play a major role in the preservation of biodiversity.

In its 2020 report “Biodiversity for Nutrition and Health”, the World Health Organization (WHO) describes a virtuous circle that links varied, plant-based diets, human health, biodiversity, and sustainability.

“The significance of pressures generated by human activity on both climate change and biodiversity loss, and their impacts on nutrition and health outcomes, cannot be overstated,” the authors conclude.

A traditional Mediterranean diet contains the following elements:

  • vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • sources of healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, and olive oil
  • moderate amounts of dairy and fish
  • less red meat than a traditional western diet
  • fewer eggs
  • red wine in moderation

The diet provides an abundance of polyphenols, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and plant fiber.

Importantly, the classic Med diet also avoids refined grains, highly processed foods, and products with added sugars.

Scientists believe that, in combination, these features help lower levels of bad cholesterol, reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, and improve insulin sensitivity.

Scientists in Israel, Germany, and the United States reasoned that replacing all the remaining meat in the diet with plant-based proteins could supercharge these health effects.

Over the past few years, they have conducted three clinical trials of their green med diet on a cohort of 294 people with abdominal obesity. Participants’ average age at the start of the trials was 51 years.

Over the course of their studies, they were all given free gym membership and advice about physical activity.

The researchers randomly assigned them to three diets:

  • Healthy dietary guidance — basic advice on how to achieve a healthy diet.
  • A calorie-restricted traditional Med diet, with advice to reduce red meat consumption, plus 28 grams (g) of walnuts each day.
  • A calorie-restricted green med diet, which incorporated 28g of walnuts per day, plus 3-4 cups of green tea, and 100g of Mankai duckweed in a shake. They were asked to avoid red and processed meats completely and discouraged from consuming poultry.

People in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries eat mankai as a “vegetable meatball.” Previous research by the same scientists showed that Mankai provides all the essential amino acids plus vitamin B12, making it an ideal meat substitute.

Cardiovascular benefits

In the first study, the researchers examined possible extra heart health benefits from eating a green Med diet.

They report that after 6 months, both Med diets led to greater weight loss and metabolic benefits than standard dietary advice.

However, the green Med diet led to a greater reduction in waist circumference and several other measures of cardiovascular risk.

For example, participants who ate this diet had improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, lower levels of bad cholesterol, and less inflammation compared with those on a standard Med diet.

Fat storage in the liver

For their next study, the researchers compared the amount of fat in the liver of subjects after 18 months on the three different diets.

They discovered that people who ate the green med diet lost more fat in their liver than those on the regular med diet.

This may reduce their risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which affects around 25% of people worldwide and can lead to potentially fatal cirrhosis and liver failure.

Brain atrophy

Finally, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the effect of the three diets on loss of brain volume over 18 months.

Brain atrophy in a region called the hippocampus vital for memory formation is an early marker of cognitive decline in aging and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers report that in subjects 50 years or older, both med diets were associated with significantly reduced shrinkage of the hippocampus.

But the green med diet appeared to provide the greatest protection against brain atrophy.

Polyphenols can cross the blood-brain barrier, where they help to reduce inflammation and promote the growth of new nerve cells in the hippocampus.

So it makes sense that the green Med diet — which the researchers say doubles the polyphenol content of the classic Med diet — was associated with a greater reduction in brain atrophy.

It is important to note that 88% of participants were middle-aged males who all had obesity. The results may therefore not apply to females, younger age groups, or people without obesity.

In addition, the number of people in the studies was relatively small.

The researchers believe that a combination of reduced red and processed meat consumption and increased polyphenol intake is responsible for the health benefits of the green Med diet.

For example, levels of Mankai-derived polyphenols in participants’ urine were significantly associated with reduced shrinkage of the hippocampus.

But eating less red and processed meat was also independently and significantly associated with reduced shrinkage of this region.

Mankai is relatively expensive and not widely available in stores.

MNT asked senior author Iris Shai, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel, whether other high protein plants may be equally beneficial as meat substitutes.

“Mankai was just a test case,” she replied. She said other plant sources of protein would work just as well.

“You don’t need to get the polyphenols within the same food source as protein,” pointed out Prof. Stampfer.

“For example, numerous studies show the benefits of berries, which have little protein but lots of phenols,” he said.

However, he said further studies would be needed to evaluate the benefits of different food sources because polyphenols are a large, varied group of compounds.

“As for protein, you can easily get all the protein you need without eating any meat, or without eating any animal products,” he added.

Nutritionists told MNT that several alternatives to Mankai are widely available.

“For the protein and mineral content as well as a boost of omega-3 fatty acids, ground flax, hemp, and chia are good alternatives to include in the diet,” said Katie Cavuto, MS, RD, a nutritionist and executive chef of salad works

“Quinoa is also a complete protein that is rich in polyphenols,” she added.

Unusually for a plant, Mankai also provides Vitamin B12, which is often lacking in vegan diets. But Cavuto said edible algae, such as spirulina, and seaweeds, such as nori, are also good sources of this vitamin.

Dr Donald Hensrud, MD, associate professor of nutrition and preventive medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, MN, recommended vegan cereal or plant-based milks fortified with vitamin B12.

“It is sometimes easiest to take a supplement of vitamin B12,” he told MNT.

“Vitamin B12 is nontoxic, so taking too much is not an issue,” he added.

There are also alternatives to walnuts as sources of polyphenols, as detailed in the Mayo Clinic Diet plan.

“If somebody isn’t a fan of walnuts, there are plenty of other options to include polyphenols,” said Prof. Hensrud.

Each type of nut has a different nutrient profile, he pointed out. For example, almonds are relatively high in calcium, and Brazil nuts are high in magnesium.

“Therefore, if you like mixed nuts, they would provide the widest variety of nutrients,” he said.

Plant-based foods have a much smaller impact on the environment, in particular in terms of carbon emissions.

However, not all plant sources are equal. For example, huge quantities of water go into growing almonds and cashews, often in areas where water is in short supply.

It is also worth taking into account that almond farmers often use a lot of fertilizers and pesticides.

To minimize environmental harm, therefore, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts may be better choices.

Avocados, which are popular among vegans and vegetarians, may be among the worst offenders in terms of sustainability.

Most avocados on supermarket shelves originate in Central and South America, so they have a large carbon footprint for customers in Europe, for example.

They are usually grown as a monoculture, which means little or no biodiversity, and require a lot of water.

It takes 320 liters of water to grow a single avocado.

Whole Grains Health

Protein Variety and Heart Health Are Linked, Study Finds

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We’ve all found ourselves in the habit of eating the same three things over and over (…and over) again. When life gets busy, falling back on simple dishes that satisfy your tastebuds is the natural thing to do. But if you’re cooking up the same couple proteins on the regular, a new study published in the the journal Hypertension suggests that it may be time to introduce a few new varieties into your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

The study pulled existing data from over 12,000 participants who took part in a minimum of two rounds of the China Health and Nutrition Survey. Researchers sought to explore the relationship between hypertension—or high blood pressure—and the variety and quantity of proteins from eight major dietary sources consumed by participants. (Study participants were an average age of 41 years old.)

Researchers measured protein intake by looking at three consecutive days of eating, scoring each round based on the number of protein varieties consumed (including legumes, fish, eggs, whole grains, refined grains, processed and unprocessed red meat, and poultry).

The results? “Among ‘just the right amount’ consumers of protein, those eating the greatest variety of protein had a the lowest blood pressure,” explains John Higgins, MD, a sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at the UT Health Science Center at Houston. Notably, those who ate the least and the most amount of protein were at the greatest risk for developing high blood pressure, while those who ate the greatest variety of protein were 66 percent less likely to end up developing hypertension between the rounds of the survey .

“The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure.” — Xianhui Qin, MD, study author

Although the survey results sound complicated—and, hey, they were—the takeaway is simple: “The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure,” Xianhui Qin, MD, the study author, said in a press release. In other words: Mix it up! Spin the protein wheel of fortune and try something new.

Related Stories

If you’re not quite sure where to start with upping your protein game, Dr. Higgins recommends looking at your consumption on a daily basis. “The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than about 5.5 ounces of protein daily, about one to two servings, from healthy sources such as plants, seafood, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and some lean meats and poultry,” he says. “The best proteins are lean proteins including beans, soy or tofu, fish, skinless chicken, very lean meat, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid proteins that say ‘hydrogenated’ on label or contain high levels of trans fats or saturated fats. “

Of course, there’s always room in your eating plan for less nutritional proteins, too—just try to incorporate these lean sources when you can, and ask your doctor if you have questions about what dietary habits are right for your particular health status and family history .

A delicious way to eat more varied proteins? This delicious quiche recipe:

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The 10 Best Diet Books in 2022

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Staff, Courtesy of Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

The word “diet” has earned itself an undeniably negative reputation, often leading people to think of unsustainable restriction and unhealthy fads. However, if you’re looking to adjust your way of eating, whether you want to feel better, lose weight, or hit a new personal record, there are tons of great diet books out there that can help educate you on ways to improve your nutrition and get you feeling better than ever.

While the diets of the past have focused on restriction, newer ways of eating encouragement consuming more good-for-you foods to crowd out less healthy choices, leaving you feeling satisfied, not deprived. These diet books are also super educational, teaching you why you should eat certain foods, what they can do for your health, and the best ways to make them delicious. To help you on your nutrition journey, we’ve gathered the best diet books and healthy cookbooks available today.

Best Diet Books

    How to Choose a Diet Book

    If you’re looking to switch up your diet, the first thing you should ask yourself is why. What exactly do you want out of a diet?

    Second, consider your lifestyle. Do you need meals that are quick and easy? Do you like to take an hour or two to cook for yourself every night? How often can you grocery shop for fresh ingredients?

    Finally, consider whether you’re looking specifically for a cookbook or one that will provide you education on a particular way of eating without necessarily giving you recipes. While many cookbooks will have some content that discusses the origins of food and their nutritional benefits, these books are unlikely to go as in-depth regarding nutrition as less recipe-focused ones.

    How We Selected

    To find the best diet books among the many options on the market, we researched the most popular books available and considered their content, credibility, design, digestibility, and organization. We then looked at both expert reviews and more than 105,000 customer ratings, written by people who’ve bought these books on Amazon, to settle on the diet books you’ll find below.

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    1

    Best vegetarian

    How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    This is a great all-around cookbook, but it’s an especially great buy if you’re trying to lay off meat. This book contains everything from specific meal recipes to instructions for steaming veggies, truly teaching you how to cook from start to finish. There are recipes for every meal, as well as snacks and desserts, and it includes instructions for so many different dishes you could easily cook from only this book for an entire year and not get bored.

    2

    Best for Longevity

    The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100

    This cookbook highlights recipes from specific areas across the globe—called blue zones—where people live the longest. While some of their longevity surely comes from other lifestyle factors, there’s no discounting the role diet plays in their long-lasting health and wellbeing. These recipes not only focus on ingredients, but the ways in which foods are prepared and how that relates to their overall nutritional value.

    The goal of the book is to increase longevity and quality of life while creating delicious recipes that you’ll want to eat time and time again.

    3

    Best Mediterranean

    The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook

    The Mediterranean diet is consistently ranked as one of the healthiest diets in the world. It’s full of lean proteins, healthy fats, and tons of vegetables, providing a well-rounded, nutritious way of eating.

    This cookbook not only has 500 great Mediterranean recipes, but it also helps you learn which ingredients you should make staples in your grocery list. It also uses only ingredients that you can easily find at standard grocery stores, which makes the Mediterranean diet more accessible.

    4

    Best for Runners

    run fast eat slow

    You’ve probably heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”—and to some degree, the same holds true for personal records. While nutritious food won’t necessarily knock 30 seconds off your mile time, it can help you fuel your workouts so you get the most out of your training.

    This book was designed by Olympian Shalane Flanagan and is packed with recipes designed to help runners fuel their toughest workouts and recover after. As a bonus, the recipes included in this book just so happen to be delicious, too.

    5

    Best Vegan

    The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook

    When first going vegan, it can be difficult to figure out how to make food that is both delicious and nutritious. This book has 500 recipes ranging from meals to snacks to desserts that use entirely plant-based ingredients. These recipes also offer alternate ingredient options, like eggs and dairy, which is great if you want to add more plant-based recipes into your diet, but aren’t ready to dive headfirst into veganism.

    6

    Best for a full reset

    The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    If you’ve been diet-hopping in hopes of finding a meal plan that can help you commit to a healthier lifestyle and enjoy some weight loss, Whole 30 is a great choice. It has you cut out sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and some other specific foods for 30 days. The idea behind the diet is that it helps jumpstart weight loss while simultaneously getting you to reassess how you think about what you are eating to reach a place of freedom with your food.

    7

    Best for weight loss

    The Obesity Code – Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss

    If weight loss is your goal, and you have struggled to find lasting success, this book could be a game-changer. It dives into the science of weight loss, helping you understand hormones, insulin resistance, and other reasons for weight gain. The book recommends intermittent fasting and a low-carb diet, and guides you on how to do them correctly, efficiently, and in the long term.

    8th

    Best for Learning about Food

    How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

    A lot of eating plans focus on what you should eliminate from your diet, but this book places more importance on what you should be adding to your diet and why.

    It discusses foods that are scientifically proven to help you live a longer, healthier life, and the many ways in which food can help prevent disease. It focuses on whole body health—including both mental and physical health—and teaches you to focus on more than just weight and physical appearance when it comes to your food.

    9

    Best for Anti-Dieters

    Not a Diet Book: Take Control. Gain Confidence. ChangeYourLife.

    The rise of anti-diet culture gave inspiration to this book, which helps you improve your relationship with food, tackle weight loss, and debunk fad diets to find a simple and easy way to lose weight and create habits that will keep the pounds from coming back. This book will help you build skills that enable you to live a happier, healthier life without focusing too closely on calories or numbers on a scale.

    10

    Best for fasting

    Complete Guide to Fasting

    Fasting has gained popularity over the last decade and can be a great way to boost your metabolism, clear your mind, and promote weight loss. There are, however, rules you should follow while fasting so that you improve your health rather than endangering it. This book will guide you through intermittent, alternate-day, and extended fasting to ensure you choose the style that will work best for you and do it correctly.


    Before joining Runner’s World as an Editor in 2019, Gabrielle Hondorp spent 6 years in running retail (she has tested top gear from shoes, to watches, to rain jackets which has expanded her expertise—and her closets); she specializes in health and wellness, and is an expert on running gear from head-to-toe.

    This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io

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Eating different kinds of protein protects against hypertension: New study

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Despite all this talk that more Australians are toying with vegetarianism, and despite the endless drum-beating about red meat giving you cancer and a dodgy heart, we continue to have one of the world’s highest levels of meat consumption.

Analysis published in December found Australians eat about 95 kilograms of meat per capita every year. The global average is 35 kilograms.

The article, ‘The Evolution of Urban Australian Meat-Eating Practices’, argues our meat-eating habits are driven by a blocky culture, an association with social status, a perception that plant-based diets are inadequate and lame, and ignorance about cooking legumes and tofu.

On the other hand, the authors point to a survey that found almost 20 per cent of those sampled “identified as meat-reducers”.

Furthermore, the authors say, 87 percent “of the meat reducer segment reported consuming a meat-free dish as their main meal at least once a week”.

They point to another survey that found almost 20 per cent described themselves as “flexitarian”, which is cool.

But it may not translate to more lentils, nuts, whole grains, fish and dairy hitting the dinner table as new favorite sources of protein.

A new study found why we need variety

Chinese researchers found that “eating protein from a greater variety of sources is associated with a lower risk of developing high blood pressure”.

Good to know because blood pressure is literally out of control in Australia.

One in three adults – more than six million Australians – has high blood pressure.

Of those afflicted, only 32 per cent have their hypertension under control. That leaves about four million Australians as ticking time bombs.

In December, in the Medical Journal of Australia, Professor Alta Schutte, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at UNSW Sydney, called for a national taskforce to tackle the issue.

By improving the control of hypertension, the risks of coronary heart disease, dementia and cerebrovascular disease will be substantially reduced.

The Chinese study suggests changing your diet will go some way to solving the problem.

the study

“Nutrition may be an easily accessible and effective measure to fight against hypertension. Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is one of the three basic macronutrients,” said study author Dr Xianhui Qin, of the National Clinical Research Center for Kidney Disease at Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China.

The study authors analyzed health information for nearly 12,200 adults (average age 41), who had taken part in multiple rounds of the China Health and Nutrition Survey from 1997 to 2015.

Over three days in the same week, participants shared what they had eaten.

They were given a protein “variety score” based on the different sources of protein they’d eaten: whole grains, refined grains, processed red meat, unprocessed red meat, poultry, fish, egg and legumes.

One point was given for each source of protein, with a maximum variety score of 8. The researchers then evaluated the association for new onset hypertension in relation to the protein variety score.

New-onset hypertension was defined as blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg/90 mm Hg, the use of blood pressure-lowering medicine, or self-reporting that a physician had diagnosed high blood pressure.

The average follow-up time was six years.

The results

More than 35 per cent of the participants developed new-onset high hypertension during the follow-up.

Compared to participants with the lowest variety score for protein intake (1), those with the highest variety score (4 or higher) had a 66 per cent lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

The amount of protein eaten was also a factor. Consumption was divided into five categories, from least to most intake.

The researchers found that “people who ate the least amount of total protein and those who ate most protein had the highest risk for new onset of hypertension”.

The researchers didn’t ask why a variety of proteins was more healthy. But nutritionists, doctors and health writers have banged on about it for years.

Lean red meat is high in quality protein but provides no fiber or healthy fats. Processed meats are high in saturated fats and salt and are the worst.

Fish is high in long-chain fatty acids, which are good for the brain. Lentils and whole grains are high in fibre.

Hand on heart, a bit of each during the week might stop you from carking it in the street. Which is just undignified and unmanly.

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