Oldways, a nonprofit organization that promotes science-backed healthy eating, said the re-design of its pyramid draws on the conclusions of leading international nutrition scientists, who met at the end of last year to review recent studies on the Mediterranean diet.
The Med diet, rich in cereals, wine, fruits, nuts, legumes and whole grains, fish and olive oil, has been linked to longer life, less heart disease, and protection against some cancers. The diet's main nutritional components include beta-carotene, vitamin C, tocopherols, polyphenols, and essential minerals.
The original Mediterranean diet pyramid was developed by Oldways in 1993, and was based on the available science at the time.
Since then – and particularly in the last few years – a flood of new studies has added support to the health benefits of the Mediterranean style of eating, prompting the current revision of the pyramid.
The three primary changes involve the prominence of all plant-based foods, increased recommendations for fish consumption, and the addition of herbs and spices.
Oldways explains that placing all plant foods in a single group at the base of the pyramid indicates that they should be the basis of most meals. Plant foods include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, olives and olive oil.
The frequency of consuming fish and shellfish is increased to at least two times per week, as a result of mounting scientific evidence indicating their multiple contributions to brain and reproductive organ health.
In addition, Oldways said it has included herbs and spices in the pyramid to reflect increased evidence of their health-promoting characteristics and the role they play in increasing the palatability of foods.
The updated Med diet pyramid can be accessed here.
Mediterranean Foods Alliance
Oldways, which is the same group behind the popular Whole Grains Stamp, has been involved in Med diet education efforts for over 15 years. In 2007 the group launched a Med Mark symbol, which can be used on foods that meet the criteria of the diet plan.
Last year, Oldways also launched the Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA), a network amongst health professionals, scientists, industry and media, which is said to provide manufacturers with one more channel of support and promotion for products within the category.