Olive Oil Health: the Updated Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

When it comes to food pyramids, being at the bottom of the heap is actually a good thing. We just discovered olive oil has moved up in the world  . . . by moving farther down on the  new version of the 17-year-old Mediterranean diet pyramid.

The new version, pictured here, combines the original pyramid with the latest health and scientific studies.

Here are the key changes, according to Oldways, the Boston food think tank that was among the groups behind the launch of the original pyramid:

  1. All plant foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, olives, and olive oil – were combined in a single group and placed at the base. The change was meant to signal these foods “should be the basis of most meals.”
  2. The recommended consumption of fish and shellfish was increased to two times a week, “indicating their multiple contributions to brain and reproductive organ health.”
  3. Herbs and spices were added to reflect “increased evidence of their health-promoting properties” and their role in making foods taste better.

The pyramid also emphasizes the importance of physical activity and how you should enjoy meals in the company of family and friends.

The Mediterranean diet first came under the spotlight in 1993. That’s when Oldways, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the European Office of the World Health Organization unveiled the “classic” Mediterranean diet and the original pyramid. (The Harvard School of Public Health has issued its own “Healthy Eating Pyramid,” which I featured in a blog last week.)

Kathy McManus, director of the department of nutrition at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, noted the “center of the plate” in the Mediterranean diet revolves around plant-based foods. She was speaking at a recent healthy eating and living conference we attended in northern California,  co-sponsored by the Culinary Institute of America and the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School.

McManus  gave a rundown of the diet’s overall healthful properties:

  • Low consumption of red meat
  • Daily use of olive oil
  • Regular consumption of fish
  • “Abundant intake” of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts
  • And wine in moderation

McManus noted “moderation is key” when it comes to eating healthful foods. “Savor it and enjoy it,” she said. “But don’t abuse it by piling up the plate.”

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch