The Mediterranean Diet and the New Food Pyramid

Nina Simonds's website has a cool video of Walter Willett, author of the terrific book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, and professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.  Willett is one of the chief advocates of the Mediterranean diet, which stresses a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, fish and the consumption of healthy fats.  The paradox of the Mediterranean diet is that while it is relatively high in the proportion of total calories derived from fat, the incidence of cardiovascular disease in Mediterranean countries is low relative to the United States.  A big part of this story probably lies in the types of fats consumed.  Olive oil, which is rich in LDL-reducing monounsaturated fat, is the principal cooking fat in the canonical Mediterranean diet.  This is probably not the entire story since there are, in fact, plenty of parts of the Mediterranean world where olive oil is not the primary cooking fat, but evidence nonetheless points to many health benefits of a diet where olive oil is substituted for much of the animal fat.

A diet that permits you, nay, encourages you to eat fried calamari (as long as it's fried in canola oil) and drink red wine is all right by me!

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