Part 2- Mastering the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
Enjoy learning about the Mediterranean diet, written by Sonya Douglas, Director & Principal Accredited Practising Dietitian, Dietwise Nutrition Clinics. Stay tuned for part 3, 4 and 5 in this series.
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid has been developed to demonstrate the different components important to achieve not only a healthy diet but also a healthy lifestyle.
As we learnt in our Part 1 blog post, the Mediterranean diet focuses on eating primarily plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. These foods provide many health benefits and collectively contribute a rich variety of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants and should be consumed at each meal so are towards the base of the pyramid. As the pyramid rises through the layers, animal foods are introduced, however, are eaten less frequently. This includes low-fat dairy products and other fermented dairy foods which are eaten daily, and extends to red meats which are eaten once a week. Animal source of fat, such as butter, are completely replaced with healthy fats such as olive oil which provides a rich source of healthy fats and polyphenols (an antioxidant). The Mediterranean diet is also sustainable long term with sweet treats consumed on special occasions and glass of wine in moderation with food is encouraged!
While the pyramid’s emphasis is on the diet, what is unique to this pyramid is that the foundation focuses on the Mediterranean lifestyle. The lifestyle components embrace health in other ways, such as self-care, environmental sustainability and social wellbeing. This includes staying well hydrated, being physically active, having enough rest and buying seasonal and local produce. Perhaps the most important part of the pyramid however is not what we eat, but how we eat. For this, the term conviviality is used, and this describes the importance of eating and drinking together and enjoying meals together socially.
If we think about it, eating isn’t just about food, it’s about what we enjoy to eat or what is available at the time. Therefore, a healthy diet and lifestyle isn’t just about healthy food either; it’s about where food comes from, who we are eating with and nourishing your body with adequate activity and sleep. The Mediterranean diet and lifestyle pyramid perfectly summarises this in one beautiful image embracing everything required to optimise overall health.