Food And Nutrition: The Mediterranean Food Pyramid

Did you know that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest out there? Here are some tips on how to incorporate the Mediterranean Food Pyramid into your diet.

The people of Greece and Southern Italy have remarkably lower incidences of chronic diseases and higher life expectancy rates than many other countries. One possible explanation for this phenomenon is their diet. In trying to follow their eating patterns, researches came up with the Mediterranean Food Guide Pyramid, comparing it to our own USDA guide. There are several differences between the American Food Guide Pyramid and the Mediterranean Food Guide Pyramid. By incorporating some of these foods into your own diet, you may have found the secret to living a longer and healthier life.

At the bottom of the pyramid, we find daily physical activity. Traditionally, these peoples had a more active way of life than many Americans. Experts agree that if you are really serious about trying to lose weight or increase health, then diet and exercise go hand in hand. Don't get discouraged if you haven't worked out in a long time. Start with small manageable goals, such as "walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes without stopping". Increase your goals once you've met them. Include weight training to increase muscle mass and tone.

The next step in the pyramid is the bread, pasta, grains, rice, couscous and polenta group. This is the largest food group on the Mediterranean pyramid, much like the American version. Choose foods rich in whole grains instead of ones composed of simple starches whenever possible.

The next level is: Fruits, vegetables and beans and legumes, the latter an added category from the American guide. Fruits and vegetables contain lots of vitamins and minerals that are essential to our daily activity. For variety, make sure you eat a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables to make sure you are getting the variation you need.

Next marks one of the largest derivations from the Pyramid's American cousin: The olive oil layer. People mistakenly believe that all fats are bad. On the contrary, we need fat to sustain life. But the types of fat you choose are very important. Monounsaturated fats like olive oil do not raise cholesterol like polyunsaturated fats do. Olive oil is also a great source of antioxidants. Choosing monounsaturated fats over polyunsaturated ones is a small, healthy way to change your diet. Above olive oil is the Cheese and yogurt level, rounding out the foods that are generally consumed daily.

The next section of the pyramid consists of food that is eaten a few times per week, if following the Mediterranean food guide. Fish is the meat most often consumed, which is no surprise when a culture is so dependant on the sea. Choosing fish over red meat will boost your levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. Above fish is poultry and then eggs, with an average of 1-4 eggs per week. The smallest portion of the weekly category is sweets. A majority of the sweetness in Mediterranean desserts comes from honey, another nutrient dense food.

At the very top of the pyramid is red meat, something that may come as a surprise to meat-living Americans. Red meat is only consumed a few times per month. The emphasis for protein in this diet is lean, including lots of fish and poultry.

It should be noted that before beginning any diet and exercise plan, you should consult your physician. Once you get the go ahead you'll soon realize that, by making just a few small adjustments in your diet, you can begin eating the healthy Mediterranean way. Incorporate some of these dietary changes, begin and exercise regime, and drink plenty of water and you'll be well on your way to a healthier (and hopefully longer) life!

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