The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid Guidelines

The Mediterranean diet pyramid was created with the aim of promoting the traditional Mediterranean diet, and it has evolved to suit the current lifestyle without altering its essential guidelines and principles.

Doctors have noted for over 50 years that people from the Mediterranean are incredibly healthy. Compared to those in industrialized countries, they are less likely to suffer from either strokes or heart disease.

They also have the highest adult life expectancy rates and some of the lowest rates of chronic diseases. The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world. What is the secret?

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

what is the mediterranean diet pyramid


To summarize the Mediterranean diet and suggest the types and frequency of foods to be eaten, the Harvard School of Public Health, Oldways, and the World Health Organization established the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid as a nutrition guide back in 1993. The pyramid is what led to the increase in popularity of the Mediterranean Diet.

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid Guidelines

1. Promoting an active lifestyle

At the base of the pyramid, there is an emphasis on staying active and enjoying meals in the company of others. Daily physical activity is essential for good general health.

Mediterranean people love swimming, walking, and playing tennis, basketball, and soccer. The easiest way to exercise is to integrate it into your everyday activities.

For instance, cycling and walking are common methods of getting from one place to the next in the Mediterranean, which is not the case in other places such as the U.S.Fortunately, there are ways to get around this.

All you have to do is wake up early, go for your 20-minute walk before taking your breakfast, or try going for a short walk over your lunch break. Other ways are to park your car a walking distance from the store, getting off the train/bus one stop before your final destination, or simply taking the stairs.

 2. Lots of Whole Grains, Fruits, and Vegetables

The second level of the Mediterranean food pyramid depicts plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, potatoes, beans, and bread.

The people who live in the Mediterranean try as much as possible to avoid consuming processed foods and instead prefer consuming locally grown and seasonally fresh foods. By so doing, they can get most of the healthy antioxidants and micronutrients.

The Diet has tomatoes, legumes, and tomato products as a staple food. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, which is important in the fight against cancer and heart disease.

People from the Mediterranean don’t get most of their calcium intake from dairy but rather from plant sources such as seeds, dark green vegetables, white beans, almonds, tofu, and figs.

Spinach, Garlic, Capers, Beans, Mushrooms, Peppers, Broccoli, Tomatoes, and Eggplants are some of the most popular vegetables in the Mediterranean Diet.

Instead of having cake for dessert, the people from the Mediterranean eat fruit. Grapes, Avocadoes, and Olives are some of the most popular fruits. The good thing about consuming fruits is that they are rich in antioxidants, which help fight cancer and heart disease.

3. Snacking on Nuts

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid has nuts being a staple food. Nuts are a rich source of monosaturated fat, which is a healthy kind. Scientific studies reveal that walnuts and almonds are some of the most beneficial nuts to health.

4. Spicing Food with Onions, Garlic, and Aromatic Herbs

Mediterranean herbs are used for flavoring everything from stews, soups, and meat, to spaghetti and pizza. Salt is replaced with aromatic herbs and garlic. Garlic is a major contributor to the low incidence of high blood pressure in people of the Mediterranean.

Studies reveal that garlic helps reduce triglycerides and cholesterol, prevents blood clot formation, lowers blood pressure, and helps protect the body due to its antioxidant properties.

Aromatic herbs and onions also work very similarly to garlic. They contain around 25 active compounds that help combat cholesterol, high blood pressure, strokes, and heart disease.

5. Consuming Less Red Meat, Eggs, Yogurt, and Fat Cheese

Processed meatsHigh in sodium and preservatives may increase the risk of chronic diseases.
Red meatMay increase the risk of chronic diseases, should be limited
Refined grainsCan contribute to weight gain and may increase the risk of chronic diseases
Sweets and sugary drinksCan contribute to weight gain and increased risk of chronic diseases
Fried foodsHigh in unhealthy fats can contribute to weight gain and increased risk of chronic diseases.
Fast foodOften high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and calories may increase the risk of chronic diseases.
Foods Not Allowed on the Mediterranean Diet

Dairy products are not a major component of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. Cheeses and yogurt are obviously important components of Mediterranean cuisine. Still, they are not consumed as much since they are only used sparingly as a dessert, appetizer, or as part of salad.

In reality, yogurt and cheese are very good for health since they are a rich source of calcium. The only problem is that they have a high cholesterol content, but you can still get a good dose of calcium minus the high cholesterol by choosing the non-fat or low-fat options.

The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes only moderate consumption of eggs. On average, 0 to 4 eggs are consumed each week, and this includes the amount used in baking and cooking.

Poultry and fish are preferred over red meat in this diet. In fact, red meat is only consumed several times each month, and it shows on the tip of the pyramid as the less recommended food along with sweets.

Conversely, seafood and fish are consumed 2 to 3 times every week. If you choose fish, you should try eating more of herring, trout, and salmon since they are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for good health.

Studies reveal that omega-3 fatty acids can help fight cancer, heart and cardiovascular disease, acne, inflammation, anxiety, depression, miscarriages, and even congenital disabilities.

6. Olive Oil is Preferred

Mediterranean diet pyramid

The Mediterranean Diet Plan discourages the consumption of too much margarine and butter. Instead, all this saturated fat is replaced with olive oil, which is rich in antioxidants and unsaturated fats.

Olive oil is preferred since it has numerous health benefits. It protects against heart disease by regulating cholesterol levels, has a beneficial effect on gastritis and ulcers, and helps prevent the formation of gallstones.

7. A Glass of Wine Once in a While!

The Mediterranean Diet encourages the consumption of wine in moderation. A glass of wine is usually taken with meals; studies reveal that it can have some important health benefits.

Drinking wine in moderation can help improve heart health, helps reduce forgetfulness, aids in weight loss, boosts your immunity, and helps in the prevention of bone loss.

8. A Relaxed and Sociable Lifestyle

Lifestyle is another important aspect to consider when it comes to good health. The people of the Mediterranean never rush through their meals. People are often relaxed at the table.

Food and conversation are shared with friends and family at the dinner table. All this helps improve the body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients and also helps reduce stress.

Stress tends to slow down your metabolism rate and makes you eat more. The more stress, the more fat is stored in your body. It is why having a relaxed lifestyle is critical to good health.

The people of the Mediterranean also love their afternoon naps, and rightly so. Scientific studies reveal that napping is very good for health. However, the naps shouldn’t be longer than 20 minutes if you don’t wish to wake up with a headache.

The Bottom Line

The Mediterranean Diet Plan focuses primarily on consuming fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole grains and daily servings of seeds, nuts, or dried beans.

Fish should regularly be consumed, while red meat should be consumed sparingly. Onions, herbs, and garlic should be used to spice and flavor food instead of salt.

Olive oil should be the main fat source rather than margarine or butter, while desserts should be healthy foods such as fruits. Physical activity is also an important component of the diet plan.

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid Guidelines are designed to provide actionable steps for implementing the incredibly healthy Mediterranean Diet. As is clear from the guidelines discussed here, the Mediterranean Diet is not just a diet/diet plan but rather a lifestyle plan.

If you adopt this diet plan, you will transform your body and your lifestyle as a whole. So, what are you waiting for, start implementing the Mediterranean Diet today and enjoy all benefits it has to offer.

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