The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid reflects the dietary pattern found by Dr. Ancel Keys in the island of Crete during his “Study of the Seven Countries”
In 1993, Oldways, in association with the WHO and the Harvard School of Public Health – created the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. It was an alternative to the original food pyramid of the United States Department of Agriculture , that was being questioned. The USDA had released its pyramid just one year before, in 1992. It did not reflect all the authorized opinions and scientific research.
Oldways is a nonproﬁt food and nutrition educational organization.
The truth is that the US Government amended the original USDA pyramid, succumbing to industry interests. This was reported by Luise Light, one architect of the original version of the controverted Pyramid, that never was published. The missing version was much higher in fruit and vegetables than the corrected one. Finished in the earliest eighties, it was released ten years later.
In the meantime, it had been brought forth the Swedish food pyramid. Anna-Britt Agnsäter, gave birth to this first food pyramid in 1974. But the US Government did not considered it relevant. It was part due to its design, and part to the high heart disease death rate of the Swedish population.
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
In 1993, as I said, the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid came as a scientific but unofficial answer to the USDA one.
So, the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is the third food pyramid in the world and the second in USA. It tried to recreate the nutrition patterns found in Crete by Dr. Ancel Keys, considered the healthier in the world.
Anyway, the USDA Food activities began much earlier, with investigations in agricultural chemistry at the end of nineteenth century. Dr. Wilbur Olin Atwater, Ph.D, wrote the first dietary guideline. He was an agronomic chemist, founder and first managing director the Office of Experiment Stations (OES).
In 1902, Mr. Atwater published a Farmer’s Bulletin which highlighted the importance of diversity, balance and control in the diets of American males. He pointed out the calorie was a mean to prove the efficacy of a diet. He defined the roles of the different types of food. Finally, he tried to reduce the intake of sugar, starchy carbohydrates and fat.
In 1917, USDA published the first USDA food guide. Its title was How to Select Foods, written by Caroline Hunt, that ignored Dr. Atwater’s advice about fat and sugar intake. She focused on the new discovered groups of nutrients: the vitamins and minerals.
In 1940 took place other important landmark in the US nutrition history. The National Academy of Sciences released the first edition of the “Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA). The USDA corrected it as well.
In 1977, the influence of Dr. Keys unleashed a different attitude over fat and cholesterol consumption by the US Government.
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid Guidelines:
- Cereals. 70-80 gr per meal, ff possible, true whole grain.
- Vegetables. Every day at lunch and dinner. A minimum of two servings, one of them raw.
- Fruits. One or two pieces per meal. O better, between meals. Fruit should be the most frequent dessert.
- 2 liter of water per day
- Dairy products. Milk, yogurt and cheese. Nowadays, low fat.
- Olive oil is the king of the pyramid. It is the principal source of lipids.
- Spices, aromatic plants, garlic and onions to introduce flavors and tastiness to dishes. They contribute to limit the salt addition.
- Nuts, seeds. 50 grams per day.
- A glass of wine or beer during meals.
- Fish (two or more portions), red meat (no more than two) and eggs (two to four).
- Red meat (less than two servings, if possible lean) and a small quantity of processed meats (about one serving)
- Combination of legumes (three servings or more) and cereals. Potatoes, three or four servings, alone or as part of many traditional recipes with meat and fish.
Not very often:
On the top of the Mediterranean Diet pyramid are the unhealthy sugary and fat rich foods (sweets). Limit or ban the intake of sugar and sodas, sweetened fruit juices and soft drinks.