One key message in the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is to engage in daily physical activity for good health. This includes planned activities like running, aerobics and swimming. More importantly is the focus on being physically active in daily living: such as doing yard work, going for a short walk, parking the car further away from a destination, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
In addition, the base of the Pyramid supports using foods as a means to pleasure and enjoyment. Eating and drinking in the company of others, savoring meals slowly, and sitting down at a meal can help achieve this.
Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Olive Oil, Beans, Nuts, Legumes, Seeds, Herbs and Spices
Including the above list of foods is central to a healthy diet, and that is why all of these foods fall in the same category, completing the base of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. These plant-based foods should be enjoyed at each and every meal, as research shows they promote heart health, overall health, and weight control.
Fresh fruits are abundant in the Mediterranean diet. Whole fruit is preferred over fruit juice to retain health-promoting dietary fiber, although 100% fruit juice can be consumed in moderation. Enjoying fresh fruit after a meal is a terrific substitute for high-fat desserts.
Try These: Figs, pomegranates, apricots, melons, apples, pears, lemons, and grapes.
Vegetables should form the foundation of most meals. Eating a variety of colorful vegetables, like dark leafy greens, vibrant reds, yellows and deep purple, is a sure-fire way to reap the array of nutrients and antioxidants these plant foods offer. Enjoy steamed, stir-fried, grilled, roasted or raw.
Try These: Artichokes, dandelion greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, cabbage, and leeks.
By making at least half of your grain choices whole grain, you’ll enjoy the health benefits of dietary fiber and a host of disease-fighting nutrients. Choose a variety of whole grains each day, from sources like oats, wheat, rice, corn, and rye.
Try These: Barley, whole wheat couscous, whole wheat pasta, crunchy whole grain bread.
Nuts and Seeds
These foods may be more calorie dense than their plant-food counterparts, but they pack a lot of nutrition in every bite. Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of healthy unsaturated fats, and pack ample protein, dietary fiber, and zinc. Just remember to enjoy them in small quantities, as a little goes a long way.
Try These: almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, and chestnuts.
Beans are high in antioxidant nutrients, dietary fiber, and plant protein. Enjoy as the basis of meatless main dishes and you won’t miss the animal protein.
Try These: lentils, broad beans, kidney, fava, chickpeas, and yellow split peas.
Herbs and Spices
The newest addition to the Med pyramid, herbs and spices are an excellent substitute for blood pressure-raising sodium, with the added benefit of adding flavor and aroma to dishes. What’s more, herbs and spices are chock full of antioxidants– key players when it comes to improving your heart health.
Try These: Oregano, fennel, parsley, basil, dill, mint and sage.
Olives and Olive Oil
Like nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil are calorie dense, but play a central role in Mediterranean cuisines. Enjoy olives whole or chopped in spreads, dishes and sauces; and enjoy olive oil in cooking, baking, marinades, and to dress vegetables.
Try These: Kalamata olives, Nicoise olives, extra virgin olive oil.