Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
In 1993 Oldways created the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid – in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and the WHO – as a healthier alternative to the USDA’s original food pyramid. (Learn more about Oldways’ key role in the Med Pyramid’s history.) Today the Mediterranean Diet is more popular than ever, with new research every month documenting its beneﬁts.
Starting at the base of the pyramid, you’ll ﬁnd an emphasis on activity and social connections. Moving upward, you’ll see the core foods that you’ll shop for and enjoy every day: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts and healthy fats such as olive oil. Fish and seafood are typically eaten at least twice a week, and dairy foods – especially fermented dairy like yogurt and traditional cheese – are eaten frequently in moderate portions. Eggs and occasional poultry are also part of the Mediterranean Diet, but red meat and sweets are rarely eaten. Water, and wine (for those who drink) are typical beverages.
Getting Started with the Mediterranean Diet: 8 Steps
Embracing the Med Diet is all about making some simple but profound changes in the way you eat today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life.
- Eat lots of vegetables. From a simple plate of sliced fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and crumbled feta cheese to stunning salads, garlicky greens, fragrant soups and stews, healthy pizzas, or oven-roasted medleys, vegetables are vitally important to the fresh tastes and delicious ﬂavors of the Med Diet.
- Change the way you think about meat. If you eat meat, have smaller amounts – small strips of sirloin in a vegetable sauté, or a dish of pasta garnished with diced prosciutto.
- Enjoy some dairy products. Eat Greek or plain yogurt, and try smaller amounts of a variety of cheeses.
- Eat seafood twice a week. Fish such as tuna, herring, salmon, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and shellﬁsh including mussels, oysters, and clams have similar beneﬁts for brain and heart health.
- Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week. Build meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables, and heighten the ﬂavor with fragrant herbs and spices. Down the road, try two nights per week.
- Use good fats. Include sources of healthy fats in daily meals, especially extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, peanuts, sunﬂower seeds, olives, and avocados.
- Switch to whole grains. Whole grains are naturally rich in many important nutrients; their fuller, nuttier taste and extra ﬁber keep you satisﬁed for hours. Cook traditional Mediterranean grains like bulgur, barley, farro and brown, black or red rice, and favor products made with whole grain ﬂour.
- For dessert, eat fresh fruit. Choose from a wide range of delicious fresh fruits — from fresh ﬁgs and oranges to pomegranates, grapes and apples. Instead of daily ice cream or cookies, save sweets for a special treat or celebration.
Our “Mediterranean Diet 101” brochure: Welcome to the Mediterranean Diet
Learn more about the health beneﬁts and the “how-to” of the traditional Mediterranean Diet, with our Welcome to the Mediterranean Diet brochure. This trifold brochure, available either as a downloadable PDF or in hard copy, includes the 8 simple steps above, plus more – to introduce you to the Mediterranean Diet.
Download “Welcome to the Mediterranean Diet” (fondly referred to by us as “Mediterranean Diet 101”)
To purchase hard copies of this brochure, please visit our Oldways store.
Foods & Flavors of the Mediterranean Diet
It’s likely that many Mediterranean foods are already among your favorites. There are so many choices! Check out our Mediterranean Foods glossary to learn about some of the most popular dishes people living around the Mediterranean Sea make with these ingredients.
Another great resource is our Mediterranean Pantry page, which lists products from Mediterranean Foods Alliance member companies.
Click on the list of traditional Mediterranean foods below to download a PDF.
The Mediterranean Diet and Health: Proven Beneﬁts in Countless Studies
Scientists have intensely studied the eating patterns characteristic of the Mediterranean Diet for more than half a century.
Shortly after World War II, Ancel Keys and colleagues (including Paul Dudley White, later President Eisenhower’s heart doctor) organized the remarkable Seven Countries Study to examine the hypothesis that Mediterranean-eating patterns contributed directly to improved health outcomes. This long-running study examined the health of almost thirteen thousand middle-aged men in the United States, Japan, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Finland, and then-Yugoslavia.
When the data were examined, it was clear that people who ate a diet where fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, and ﬁsh were the basis of daily meals were healthiest. Topping the chart were residents of Crete. Even after the deprivations of World War II – and in part, perhaps, because of them – the cardiovascular health of Crete residents exceeded that of US residents. Researchers attributed the diﬀerences to diet.
Out of this extensive work came an understanding that certain Mediterranean-eating patterns were remarkably connected with good health. From this conclusion emerged the concept of a “Mediterranean Diet” that could promote lifelong good health.
In subsequent years, hundreds if not thousands of additional studies have added to the body of scientiﬁc evidence supporting the “gold standard” status of traditional Mediterranean Diet eating patterns. These studies show that eating the Med way may:
- Lengthen your life
- Improve Brain Function
- Defend you from chronic diseases
- Fight certain cancers
- Lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and elevated “bad” cholesterol levels
- Protect you from diabetes
- Aid your weight loss and management eﬀorts
- Keep away depression
- Safeguard you from Alzheimer’s disease
- Ward oﬀ Parkinson’s disease
- Improve rheumatoid arthritis
- Improve eye health
- Reduce risk of dental disease
- Help you breathe better
- Lead to healthier babies
- Lead to improved fertility
Check out our Health Studies page, where we post all the latest research in support of the Mediterranean Diet and other traditional ways of eating.