Fifteen years ago, Oldways Preservation Trust introduced its highly influential Mediterranean diet pyramid to the United States.Â In view of soaring global rates of obesity and diet-related chronic disease, Oldways convened a panel of experts last November to update the pyramid based on new scientific research.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, fish, olive oil, judicious amounts of wine, with minimal saturated fats.Â Dairy products are mostly cheese and yogurt.Â Other characteristics are daily fresh fruits, seasonal locally grown foods with minimal processing, less than four eggs per week, small amounts of red meat, poultry in low to moderate amounts, and concentrated sugars only a few times per week.
Major modifications to the original pyramid are 1) the grouping of all plant foods together at the base of the pyramid to emphasize their health benefits, 2) the addition of â€œmostly wholeâ€ to the recommendation of grains since whole grains deliver health benefits not present in refined grains, and 3) the addition of herbs and spices to the base of the pyramid, reflecting new research on their health benefits.
Prominent Mediterranean spices are cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, anise, Spanish saffron, lemon, mint, parsley, garlic, dill, pepper, and sumac.
Also recommended are 1) consumption of fish at least twice per week, and 2) advice to drink water regularly instead of less healthy beverages.
The press release from Oldways quotes Frank Sacks, M.D., Professor of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Dept. of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School and co-chair of the scientific committee:
With obesity and diet-related chronic diseases at an all-time high, we felt it was important to review the hundreds of new scientific studies that join the archive of high-level research on the healthfulness of eating a Mediterranean-style diet, and update the pyramid.
These studies suggest that healthy diet and lifestyle practices, like those associated with the Mediterranean Diet, can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and more.