The food pyramid we're most familiar with is based on portion size and does not take into account the different qualities of food sources. It's assumed that everyone knows that all processing done to food serves to make it more harmful. Unfortunately common knowledge and common practice often do not go hand in hand.
As people do learn that whole food choices offer health benefits over the more typical processed food choices, they are seeking out suggestions for what foods to put together into a dietary plan. The Mediterranean diet is increasing in popularity because it is not based on popularized fads but rather a model which comes from literally thousands of years of use. The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of the Mediterranean area, particularly Italy, Greece, and Spain. Understanding how the Mediterranean Diet differs from the typical American diet can help us to improve our eating habits and enjoy improved health through enjoyable dietary changes. A Mediterranean diet pyramid would start with red meat at the top as the source of animal protein which is consumed the least in a Mediterranean diet.
Under that we find eggs, poultry and fish and the common sources of animal protein. Next, we find cheese, yogurt and other milk products. Extra virgin olive oil is the most common source of fat in the Mediterranean diet pyramid. Not only does it give the diet a distinctive, and full, flavor, olive oil is also an excellent source of antioxidants.
On the next level of the Mediterranean diet pyramid, we find fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and nuts. These are eaten in great variety and raw or lightly cooked. Pickled foods are eaten for flavorful variety in a Mediterranean diet, but not as a staple as is commonly with the highly processed intake of the typical American diet. At the last level, we find bread, pasta, rice, couscous, polenta and other whole grains and potatoes. Again, where this differs from the typical America diet is that these sources are whole grain and not filled with the levels of preservatives.
The lower amount of processing also improves fiber density. In any diet, the general proportions of intake are such that the calories are split between 20% protein, 30% fat and 50% carbs. The Mediterranean diet pyramid isn't much different in this mix, but rather in the quality and variety of foods eaten. The lesson to be learned from the Mediterranean diet is that fresh, whole foods provide a dietary benefit over the highly processed foods that make up the most of the typical American diet. Eliminating processed foods entirely is probably not necessary, but they should not be the majority of what we eat, but rather the occasional variance.
By: Dave Saunders