Mediterranean or Vegan Diet? Find out which is more effective and why

Mediterranean or Vegan Diet

Are you looking for a diet which is more effective for your cholesterol level and weight loss? Recent research made and published by Journal of the American College of Nutrition states that low-fat vegan is more beneficial as compared to the Mediterranean diet for body composition, weight loss, cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity. Let us find some more about the Mediterranean and vegan diet.

What is a Vegan diet?

Many people have moved towards a Vegan diet mainly due to the health benefits offered by it. Some opt vegan diet because it is environmentally friendly and for animal welfare. A report prepared by Gallup poll in 2018 found that 3% of people in the U.S. are fully vegan and are showing concern for plant-based food products. Vegan diet, as compared to any other healthy diet is more nutritious and contain low saturated fats. It is proven that the vegan diet has the potential to protect people from cancer, improves heart health and lessens type 2 diabetes risks. Though, people following a vegan diet and eating plant-based food only must be more aware of obtaining necessary nutrients such as calcium, iron and vitamin B-12 which generally comes from animal-based food diet.

Facts about the Vegan diet

  • A vegan diet involves food consumption that includes plants only. Once following vegan diet, you must avoid animal-based products like dairy, eggs and meat.
  • A vegan diet may restrict you from consuming honey also. For some, being vegan is completely their own dietary choice while others may take is as a lifestyle choice.
  • People following the vegan diet may opt for abandoning soaps, clothes or other products that consist of animal parts like animal fur and leather. Such contributions add to the sustainable diet and environmental benefits from lifestyle.
  • A vegan diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans and seed. By intaking such healthy food, many important vitamins are included in the diet of vegan people like healthful fats, minerals and protein.

Are vegan and vegetarian the same?

Although a vegan diet is often confused with a vegetarian diet, one must understand that vegan is very dissimilar to vegetarian. One of the major differences is that although vegetarian people do not consume egg, meat or fish, they consume dairy products. Some vegetarians like to consume eggs also. Vegan diet, on the other side, restricts intaking of animal products or animal-based ingredients including milk or other dairy products.

Vegan diet as compared to a vegetarian diet is more restrictive. This is the reason people need to think twice before becoming a vegan. Also, a vegan diet needs a very thought-out diet plan so that necessary nutrients and proteins are met by daily dietary intake.

Benefits of a Vegan diet

The good health heart is one of the major benefits provided by a vegan diet. By reducing animal intake and increasing plant-based food, it is found that vegan people have reduced heart-related risks and early death ratio.

Lower cancer risk

Eating a vegan diet reduces a person’s risk of cancer by fifteen per cent. This is because of the plant food intake that is rich in phytochemicals, fibre and vitamins that protect against cancer. Avoiding processed and red meat further lessen cancer risks.

Weight loss

A vegan diet is mostly adopted by people suffering from obesity or excessive weight gain. This is because the vegan diet helps in reducing BMI or body mass index as compared to other diets. Many animal-based products are high in calories and fat. By replacing them with plant-based products, people can manage their weight more effectively.

Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes

Following a plant-based diet, one reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. This can be directly linked with healthy nutrients found in fruits, nuts, legumes and healthy vegetables.

Why choose a Mediterranean diet?

Interest in the Mediterranean diet was first seen in the 1960s when coronary heart disease was discovered that caused deaths in the Mediterranean nations like Italy and Greece. Many studies found that the Mediterranean diet is related to health benefits that eliminate cardiovascular disease-related risks. As per Dietary guidelines by the American Association, the Mediterranean diet is associated with healthy eating plans to prevent chronic disease and promote a healthy lifestyle. World Health Organization recognized the Mediterranean diet as a sustainable and healthy dietary pattern and the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization states it as an intangible cultural asset.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

As the vegan diet, the Mediterranean diet is all about healthy eating that is based on traditional cuisine as per countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Although there is no single definition which defines the Mediterranean diet, it is a form of a dietary intake that consists of vegetables whole grain, olive oil, seeds and fruits. Some of the major components of the Mediterranean diet includes daily consumption of fruits, whole grains, vegetables and healthy fats. Unlike the vegan diet, followers of the Mediterranean diet must consume eggs, fish, beans and poultry once a week. Mediterranean diet may include dairy products moderately but limits the intake of red meat like a vegan diet. Red wine is also allowed in the Mediterranean diet and thus you can opt for a physically active and social life while following it.

Facts about the Mediterranean diet

  • Mediterranean diet is plant-based and not meat-based. The main components of the Mediterranean diet are fruits, vegetable nuts, beans, and whole grains. Meals include plant-based products only. However, a moderate amount of dairy-based food, eggs and poultry can also be consumed under a Mediterranean diet besides other seafood. Red meat can be consumed occasionally but in less amount.
  • In the Mediterranean diet, healthy fats are consumed as they are the mainstay of this kind of diet. Healthy fats are eaten instead of less healthy fats like trans fat and saturated fats that contribute to heart disease. One of the primary sources of healthy fat in the Mediterranean diet is olive oil. Olive oil provides monosaturated fats that lower overall cholesterol level along with low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Nuts are also included along with seeds to include monosaturated fats in the diet.
  •  Fish is another important part of the Mediterranean diet. Some of the fatty fish like herring, mackerel, salmon, lake trout and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Such polyunsaturated fats can potentially lessen inflammation in the body. Omega 3 fatty acid is also preferred to decrease triglycerides, heart failures, reduction in blood-clot and risk of strikes.
  • The Mediterranean diet allows the intake of red wine. Though alcohol is related to reduced heart disease-related risks, by no means it means a risk-free life. The Dietary Guidelines for American recommends prevention of alcohol more often and must be included according to the health condition of the person.

Is a Vegan diet better than the Mediterranean diet?

A recent study was conducted and examined by Journal of the American College of Nutrition on the assigned participants who did not have any diabetic history or obesity issues. For sixteen weeks, they consumed low-fat vegan diet which eliminated animal products and emphasised more on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Another half of the participants had a Mediterranean diet following a PREDIMED protocol focussing more on fish, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and extra virgin olive oil, limiting red meat and other saturated fat. After sixteen weeks, the results were:

  • Vegan diet participants lost 3.4 kilograms more fat than Mediterranean participants.
  • An average of 6 kilograms was lost on vegan diet participants while Mediterranean diet participants showed no significant change.
  • Some of the vegan participants showed a great reduction in their visceral fat approximately 315 cubic cm.
  • Vegan diet people lost cholesterol levels by 18.7 mg/dl while the Mediterranean diet participant showed no change in their cholesterol level.
  • Blood pressure reduced under both the diets but the Mediterranean diet seemed more effective here.

What works best?

Many studies have been conducted recently to find short-term effects of a vegan diet and the Mediterranean diet. Most of the studies suggest that in short-term, the Mediterranean diet can enhance the availability of necessary nitric acids on our arteries and veins that is important in maintaining a healthy vascular system. Nitric acids are affected due to the ageing process and can be directly associated with cardiometabolic diseases. Thus, availability of nitric acid is positive news for Mediterranean diet followers.

Vegan diet, on the other side, provides other health benefits such as a reduction in cholesterol levels. People following a vegan diet also showed a reduction in significant micro-nutrients like iodine and Vitamin B-12 despite taking B-12 supplements. But then, vegan offers better heart health in the long run besides reducing unnecessary weight gain and risks related to chronic disease. A vegan diet is more environmentally friendly and considers animal welfare. Therefore, people following a vegan diet are always recommended to follow a planned meal to ensure that every necessary nutrient is consumed for avoiding deficiencies.

Our recommendation

A balanced diet is more beneficial in the long-term and hence our recommendation includes both vegan and Mediterranean diet than other food trends. However, you must choose according to your health condition and what suits your individual needs. it is also necessary to be informed about the pros and cons behind both the diets before making a dietary choice. This is due to deficits in vitamins and micronutrients in both kinds.

So far, we recommend a Mediterranean diet for reducing cardiovascular diseases. Although a vegan diet helps in reducing weight, the Mediterranean diet can be used by those whose past generations have suffered from heart diseases.

If your goal is to reduce weight or live an environmentally friendly life, we would recommend you to go for a vegan diet. By choosing a plant-based lifestyle you will not only achieve your resolution to reduce weight but contribute to animal welfare and the environment as a whole.

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