Author(s): Willett WC
We present a food pyramid that reflects Mediterranean dietary traditions, which historically have been associated with good health. This Mediterranean diet pyramid is based on food patterns typical of Crete, much of the rest of Greece, and southern Italy in the early 1960s, where adult life expectancy was among the highest in the world and rates of coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and other diet-related chronic diseases were among the lowest. Work in the field or kitchen resulted in a lifestyle that included regular physical activity and was associated with low rates of obesity. The diet is characterized by abundant plant foods (fruit, vegetables, breads, other forms of cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds), fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert, olive oil as the principal source of fat, dairy products (principally cheese and yogurt), and fish and poultry consumed in low to moderate amounts, zero to four eggs consumed weekly, red meat consumed in low amounts, and wine consumed in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals. This diet is low in saturated fat (< or = 7-8% of energy), with total fat ranging from < 25% to > 35% of energy throughout the region. The pyramid describes a dietary pattern that is attractive for its famous palatability as well as for its health benefits.