The Mediterranean diet

Mediterranean diet pyramid

The Mediterranean diet is a nutritional model that has remained constant over time and space and consists mainly of olive oil, cereals, fresh or dried fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts, a moderate amount of fish, dairy and meat, all accompanied by wine or infusions.

The pyramid that represents the optimal, traditional Mediterranean diet, is based on the dietary traditions of Crete and southern Italy in the 1960s. It is structured in the light of nutrition research carried out and presented by Professor Walter Willet of Harvard School of Public Health, during the 1993 International Conference on the Mediterranean Diet.

However, it was much earlier, in the 1950’s, that Professor Ancel Keys of Minnesota University was struck by the low incidence of cardiovascular disease and high life expectancy in the Mediterranean populations and started to track their eating habits. This dietary tracking culminated in a body of research known as the “Seven countries study”, which presented epidemiological evidence of the effects of fats and fatty acids on blood cholesterol levels. He observed that in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil and olives always played an important role, as the proportion of fats in the traditional diet of Crete, was more than 40% of the total daily, out of which 29% is monounsaturated fats (olive oil). Although this percentage is much higher compared to the 30% recommended in a conventional diet, it is considered acceptable, as long as the fat comes mainly from olive oil.

A daily consumption of 23 grams of olive oil, equivalent to two tablespoons, is in a position to reduce the risk of heart diseases. This benefit is maximized if the olive oil consumed replaces saturated animal fats. Furthermore, olive oil can quickly satisfy hunger and lead to a consumption of fewer total calories.

In conclusion, as many scientific studies have demonstated, the Mediterranean diet is a health-promoting, balanced eating pattern, good for everyone.