Mediterranean Diet Vs. Vegetarian Diet: What's The Difference?

According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 48% of American adults suffer from some kind of cardiovascular disease. As the most common cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease comes with symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue, among others. Although there are several causes for the heart condition, unhealthy diets tend to be a prevalent origin behind the disease.

With almost half of the adult population suffering from an unhealthy heart, switching up what you eat is a popular way to transform your health. When it comes to knowing the best thing to eat, differentiating between fad diets and meal plans that are actually helpful takes some research. Both the Mediterranean diet and vegetarian diet have been heralded as diets that come with a slew of health benefits.

Foods that are filled with cholesterol and saturated and trans fats are known to cause heart issues. Since they're heart-healthy, the Mediterranean and vegetarian diets consist of avoiding these types of items. Knowing the difference between the two will help you figure out which diet is best for you.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

Repeatedly dubbed as one of the healthiest diets, the Mediterranean diet involves eating similarly to the palates of Mediterranean people. Two locations in the Mediterranean (Ikaria, Greece and Sardinia, Italy) are deemed to be Blue Zones, five places in the world where the people are the healthiest and have the longest lifespan. On the surface, it may appear as if the Mediterranean diet isn't all that healthy. Bread is often eaten with olive oil and cheese, with wine present at the table.

However, the focus of the diet is to eat non-processed, healthy fats. The breads are whole grain, and there's an abundance of vegetables in every meal. Instead of eating processed or added sugar at dessert, fruit is typically consumed at the end of a meal. Alcohol is drunk sparingly and protein is derived from seafood, nuts, seeds, and legumes, with the occasional white meat.

As for dairy, they opt for low-fat feta, parmesan, and mozzarella rather than fattier cheeses, such as cheddar. While you don't have to eat dolmas or tajine every day of the week, simply using the ingredients typically consumed by Mediterraneans will revamp your health. Aside from aiding your heart, the Mediterranean diet is known to improve your gut and cognitive health, fighting off inflammation while improving your memory.

How is the vegetarian diet different?

The main difference between the Mediterranean and vegetarian diet is the presence of meat. While the former is abundant in seafood and often features chicken or lamb, vegetarians don't eat meat, seafood, or poultry at all. Although the two differ in that respect, it's possible to follow both the vegetarian and Mediterranean diet by eating whole grains, healthy fats, and avoiding processed food.

Some people tend to think that people who follow plant-based diets are low in protein and iron, but as long as your plates are rich with vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans, this doesn't have to be the case. There are also protein-rich meat alternatives such as seitan, tofu, and tempeh that can be swapped out for traditional protein choices. Unlike vegans, vegetarians eat animal-derived products, such as cheese, milk, or honey.

If you're wondering what may happen to your body when you stop eating meat, it turns out there are a lot of benefits. People who follow the vegetarian diet typically have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and chronic disease. Vegetarians also tend to have healthier hearts, as the diet reduces cholesterol and allows you to keep your weight in control.