Mediterranean or vegan diet: which is better?

The Mediterranean diet and the vegan diet are two popular diets. Both have been well studied for their many potential health benefits.

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional eating habits of people in Mediterranean countries like Greece, Spain, and Italy. It is known to promote a variety of foods that are both tasty and nutritious.

Meanwhile, the vegan diet encourages a wide range of plant-based foods and is associated with health and environmental benefits.

While there are obvious similarities between these two diets, you may also wonder how they compare.

This article takes a closer look at the Mediterranean and vegan diets to help you decide which, if any, is right for you.

Both the Mediterranean diet and the vegan diet include a variety of nutrient-dense plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

The Mediterranean diet also allows animal products in moderation, including poultry, eggs, dairy and seafood. Red meat and processed meat products like bacon or ham are not excluded but do should only be consumed occasionally (1).

Conversely, vegan diets eliminate all of these foods, along with other animal products like honey, gelatin, and butter. Foods cooked in animal fat or containing animal additives should also be avoided, including certain food colorings and flavorings (2).

Although the Mediterranean diet doesn’t set strict rules on allowed and prohibited foods, it’s generally recommended to limit processed foods, refined grains, and added sugars.

These foods are all allowed in a vegan diet, as long as they do not contain any animal products.

Additionally, there are several other components of the Mediterranean diet that are not emphasized in vegan diets. These include drinking red wine in moderation, eating a variety of heart-healthy fats, and sharing meals with others whenever possible.

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Vegan and Mediterranean diets emphasize plant foods, but only the vegan diet eliminates ingredients containing animal products. The Mediterranean diet limits processed foods, refined grains and added sugar.

Mediterranean and vegan diets have been linked to increased weight loss. Some research comparing the two eating habits suggests that the vegan diet may be more effective (3, 4).

For example, a study in 62 overweight adults found that participants who followed a low-fat vegan diet for 16 weeks lost an average of 13.2 pounds (6 kg), while participants who followed the diet Mediterranean maintained their weight (5).

Keep in mind that any low-fat diet is likely to be low in calories, thus leading to weight loss.

Another small study found that people who followed a vegan diet for 4 weeks lost more weight than those who followed the Mediterranean diet for the same amount of time (6).

On the other hand, one study showed that after three months, the Mediterranean and vegetarian diets were equally effective in improving levels of certain hormones that regulate energy balance and hunger (7).

It should also be noted that vegan diets are often more restrictive than Mediterranean diets. Thus, they may be more difficult to adhere to in the long term, which could negate any potential lasting weight loss effects.

Ultimately, more research is needed to better understand how these two diets compare in terms of weight loss success.

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Although both diets have been linked to weight loss, some studies suggest that vegan diets may be more effective. However, vegan diets are also more restrictive and can be harder to stick to in the long run.

Mediterranean and vegan diets have been linked to several other health benefits besides weight loss. These include improved heart health, brain function, and blood sugar control.

Heart health

The Mediterranean diet has been widely studied for its ability to improve heart health and protect against heart disease and stroke (8).

Vegan and vegetarian diets have also been shown to support heart health. For example, they may be linked to lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for heart disease (9).

One study compared the effects of Mediterranean and vegan diets on heart health. The vegan diet resulted in greater reductions in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while the Mediterranean diet was more effective in lowering blood pressure levels (5).

Another small study had similar results, noting that the vegan diet lowered total cholesterol levels, while the Mediterranean diet significantly improved the function of small blood vessels in the heart, indicating that it may reduce the risk of heart disease (6).

Ultimately, both diets appear to offer notable benefits for heart health and disease prevention.

brain function

Numerous studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to improved brain function. Some even note that it may help protect against conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (ten, 11, 12).

Likewise, some studies suggest that following a plant-based diet promotes healthy brain function. It is speculated that this effect may lead to a better composition of beneficial bacteria in your gut (13, 14).

However, while there is substantial research on the brain-boosting benefits of the Mediterranean diet, studies on the effects of the vegan diet on brain health are limited.

Blood sugar control

Both the Mediterranean diet and the vegan diet encourage a variety of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods that may support healthy blood sugar levels (15, 16).

Both diets were also associated with better blood sugar control.

For example, a review of 15 studies linked the vegan diet to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It was also associated with better blood sugar control in people with the disease (17).

Other research suggests that the Mediterranean diet may be linked to better blood sugar control and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (18).

In fact, a large study linked the Mediterranean diet with a 19% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (19).

Still, more research is needed to directly compare the two diets and determine if one is better for supporting blood sugar control.

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Both diets may promote heart health and improve blood sugar control. The Mediterranean diet has also been linked to improved brain function, while research on the vegan diet and brain health is limited.

As noted, both the Mediterranean diet and the vegan diet have been linked to a host of health benefits, including improved weight loss, heart health, and blood sugar control.

Therefore, it is worth evaluating your goals and preferences to decide which one is right for you.

Compared to the Mediterranean diet, the vegan diet is more restrictive and largely focuses on foods to avoid rather than foods to eat.

As a result, the vegan diet may seem more restrictive and difficult to follow. It may also be associated with a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B12 and iron, especially without proper planning (20).

Conversely, the Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of a variety of nutrient-dense ingredients like heart-healthy fats, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.

This can make it much easier to stick with it long-term while ensuring you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need as part of a balanced, balanced diet (21).

The Mediterranean diet also emphasizes other habits that can contribute to overall well-being, such as sharing meals with family or friends.

On a final note, it’s also worth noting that many people choose to follow a vegan diet due to ethical or environmental concerns rather than simply for their personal health (22).

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Both the Mediterranean diet and the vegan diet have been linked to several benefits. While some people prefer to follow a vegan diet for ethical or environmental reasons, it may be easier to meet your nutritional needs with a well-balanced Mediterranean diet.

Both the vegan diet and the Mediterranean diet can be nutritious and are associated with many potential health benefits.

They both emphasize nutritious plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

The vegan diet is generally more restrictive and requires careful planning to ensure your nutritional needs are met. Some aspects of the vegan diet are also less studied compared to the Mediterranean diet, including its effects on brain function.

Be sure to consider factors like your goals, preferences, and priorities when determining whether a vegan or Mediterranean diet is right for you — or whether you need to look beyond those two options.