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Vegetarian Mediterranean Diet: Benefits & How To Follow In 2023
The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest diets on the planet. Revolving around eating whole grains, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats (like olive oil and avocado), and legumes, this diet has plenty of nutritional value.
As a result, the body gets the nutrients it needs, which can help ward off diseases and other health ailments. However, if you’re a vegetarian, you might wonder if the Mediterranean diet suits you.
The vegetarian Mediterranean diet, different than a vegan diet, offers an option for plant-based individuals allowing them to reap the benefits of the classic Mediterranean diet while following a meatless approach.
Read on to discover more about this diet and various vegetarian Mediterranean diet recipes.
- The vegetarian Mediterranean diet can be simple to follow and includes a variety of whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and more.
- When eating primarily whole foods, your body can gain the nutrients it needs to function optimally, giving way to many health benefits such as improved heart health and better weight maintenance.
- Some tips when following a Mediterranean diet include focusing on eating “real” foods, adding quinoa to meals, incorporating small amounts of healthy fats, etc.
- Ensure adequate nutrient intake, including complete plant-based protein, often supplemented with vitamin B12 or protein powders.
What Is A Vegan Vs Vegetarian Mediterranean Diet?
Derived from the region around the Mediterranean Sea, the vegetarian Mediterranean diet often excludes meat and focuses on plant-based consumption. However, the vegan Mediterranean diet eliminates all animal products, including dairy, solely focusing on plant-based foods.
For example, a vegan Mediterranean diet won’t include honey, gelatin, or butter as these come from animals. In contrast, a vegetarian will likely eat honey, butter, or gelatin.
In this way, the vegan diet can be very restrictive, forcing many individuals to consume various multivitamins for the vegan diet alongside their regular foods.
Health Benefits Of The Mediterranean Vegetarian Diet
The vegetarian Mediterranean diet offers plenty of health benefits. It can be used to get your health and weight on track. In turn, it can increase longevity and even happiness. The following offers an overview of the health benefits of this diet.
Reduces The Risk Of Heart Disease
Research indicates that the Mediterranean diet has the power to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. This is partially tied to the ability to maintain a healthy weight with this diet. Many individuals already use the vegetarian diet for weight loss due to its restrictive caloric nature.
Recall that vegan and vegetarian are different terms for different restrictions.
Decreases The Risk Of Dementia
No matter your genetics, studies show that following this diet can help reduce dementia risk. This indicates that diet is important in reducing one’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological diseases.
May Help With Weight Loss And Maintenance
The vegetarian Mediterranean diet for weight loss and helps maintain a healthy weight due to its minimal processed food content, making overeating unlikely.
While this diet lowers one’s caloric intake per day, it also provides ample nutrients, making it an ideal choice for those looking to lose weight and get healthy.
In fact, vegetarian fat burner supplements have become all the rage. Yet, you don’t necessarily need these to promote healthy weight loss.
Reduces The Risk Of Diabetes
Along with obesity, diabetes has skyrocketed in recent decades. Yet, the vegetarian Mediterranean diet may help reduce one’s risk of developing diabetes. Research even suggests it may help treat diabetes.
The reasoning behind this is that the Mediterranean style is shown to facilitate the growth of good gut bacteria, reduce inflammation, and increase antioxidant compounds, all of which may play a part in the development of diabetes.
Reduces Joint Pain
For those with arthritis, the Mediterranean diet offers some good news. For rheumatoid arthritis, this diet has been shown to decrease pain and improve functionality. Experts theorize that this is due to increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Improves Mental Health
Surprisingly, diet plays a significant role in good mental health. In fact, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to a reduced risk of depression. While more research is needed to uncover the exact link, the studies so far show tons of promise!
Vegetarian Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
Following a vegetarian diet of any kind can sometimes prove challenging. It’s essential to ensure you get enough protein and nutrients, especially considering that this type of diet is fairly restrictive. While you can choose to plan your own meals, various vegetarian meal delivery services can help you stay on track.
With that in mind, here’s a quick breakdown of a sample meal plan.
Some examples of vegetarian breakfast include overnight oats with fruit, yogurt with nuts or fruit, milk, and fruit smoothies, fruit salad with nuts, Greek yogurt, a chickpeas pack, or sweet potatoes with beans and vegetables.
There are plenty of healthy grab-and-go vegetarian Mediterranean recipe options for lunch, such as salads with tomatoes, nuts, and fruits, black bean burgers, a mix of hummus and vegetables, lentil soup, crusty bread with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, and more.
Dinner can be very similar to lunch. Some examples include black bean burgers, lentil burgers or salads, quinoa-bean-and-vegetable bowls, chickpea burgers, a vegetarian grain bowl, and more.
Adding garlic, dried oregano, basil, or other spices is key to amping up the flavor for many of these recipes.
Inevitably, you might get hungry between these three major meals of the day. Snacks are ultra-easy when following the vegetarian Mediterranean diet.
Simply reaching for an apple, some berries, nuts, vegetables, hummus, or soy yogurt is sufficient to curb your appetite until your next meal.
Be sure to try to balance your diet with all the food groups on the vegetarian Mediterranean diet including at least two dairy servings per day to ensure adequate calcium and vitamin D or use fortified dairy alternatives.
Beverages are not on the sample menu but don’t forget to include them for hydration and additional nutrients and protein.
Tips For Mediterranean Diet Vegetarian
Following any diet can provide hurdles and inflexibility. So, here are a few tips you can use to stay on track with the vegetarian Mediterranean diet.
- Focus on eating “real” foods (like fresh fruits and vegetables).
- Incorporate small amounts of healthy fats (like olive oil and avocado).
- Plan ahead when eating out by scoping out the menu beforehand.
- Add quinoa to meals for bulk and calories.
- Focus on getting enough protein (such as by eating nuts, seeds, beans, and tofu).
- Keep primarily whole foods in your home pantry and fridge.
- Meal prep beforehand so you won’t be tempted to change your diet.
- Do a trial run including a 4-week Mediterranean diet menu plan to determine if this is right for you in the long term.
Getting Enough Nutrients On The Mediterranean Diet Vegetarian
When following a vegetarian diet of any kind, it’s important to ensure you get enough nutrients, such as sufficient plant-based protein with all of the essential amino acids.
When on a vegetarian diet, it’s highly restrictive so it’s easy to become nutrient deficient, such as from vitamins and minerals commonly found in meat like iron and vitamin B12.
Many individuals opt to take certain supplements to make up for this, such as vitamin B12 tablets or protein powder. It may be beneficial to track your nutrients initially to ensure you’re getting enough of them.
It may further help to have regular bloodwork done, especially in the first few months to a year of following a vegetarian diet, to ensure you’re not nutrient deficient. And, talk to a registered dietitian for help in meal planning.
The vegetarian Mediterranean diet provides plenty of health benefits and can be easy to follow when planned ahead of time. The key is ensuring you’re getting enough protein and other trace minerals and vitamins often found in animal products. Cooking your meals at home may also help you adhere to this type of diet easier.
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- Martín-Peláez, S., Montse Fitó and Castañer, O. (2020). Mediterranean Diet Effects on Type 2 Diabetes Prevention, Disease Progression, and Related Mechanisms. A Review. Nutrients, [online] 12(8), pp.2236–2236. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082236.
- Forsyth, C., Matina Kouvari, D’Cunha, N.M., Ekavi Georgousopoulou, Panagiotakos, D.B., Mellor, D., Kellett, J. and Naumovski, N. (2017). The effects of the Mediterranean diet on rheumatoid arthritis prevention and treatment: a systematic review of human prospective studies. Rheumatology International, [online] 38(5), pp.737–747. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00296-017-3912-1.
- Yin, W., Löf, M., Chen, R., Hultman, C.M., Fang, F. and Sandin, S. (2021). Mediterranean diet and depression: a population-based cohort study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, [online] 18(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-021-01227-3