Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Mediterranean Diet

For some reason, the word has not gotten out. Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, reduced incidence of cancer, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Books have been written, articles posted, in fact, the Harvard School for Public Health announced via a press release in 2003 that the Mediterranean diet promotes longevity, and yet for some reason when-ever I mention the Mediterranean diet—no-one knows what I am talking about!

Let me explain…

In the late 1990’s, researcher Ancel keys and a group of scientists set out to examine diet and disease patterns around the world. The end result of their studies: The traditional diet of the people in the Mediterranean is a major factor in their good health, longevity, and general lack of chronic disease. In short, it is one of the most healthful diets in the world.

Hopefully, you are asking yourself what do they eat?! The Mediterranean diet is abundant in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and grains—but one of the biggest differences between the American diet and the Mediterranean is this: types of fat consumed. Americans tend to eat a fair amount of saturated fat from meat and dairy, for the people of the Mediterranean—olive oil is the primary fat consumed.

Take a look at these images to compare the differences…

Mediterranean diet pyramid:

USDA Food Pyramid:

As you can see, the biggest differences are the addition of olive oil (it gets its own section!), red meats have been pushed up to the “use sparingly” tip in the Mediterranean pyramid, and legumes and nuts get their own section as well.

Not sure what to do? Confused about which food pyramid to follow? In this case, try the Harvard School of Public Health "Healthy Eating Pyramid":

Can you see the similarities between it and the Mediterranean diet pyramid? Here’s an excerpt and link about Harvard’s Healthy Eating Pyramid:

“We can’t look at a pyramid these days without thinking of food and healthy eating. There was the U.S. government’s Food Guide Pyramid, followed by its replacement, My Pyramid, which was basically the same thing, just pitched on its side. The problem was that these efforts, while generally well intentioned, have been quite flawed at actually showing people what makes up a healthy diet. Why? Their recommendations have often been based on out-of-date science and influenced by people with business interests in their messages. But, there’s a better alternative: the Healthy Eating Pyramid, built by the faculty in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.”

Read more about how to follow the Healthy Eating Pyramid:

Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences


Behty said...

Thanks Nancy, so helpful. I have been really interested in the Mediteranean Diet, and you have laid it out so well! Awesome :)

Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness said...

Thanks for the feedback Behty! I'm glad you found the information useful :).

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