The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has been the subject of many research studies as well as general media articles. Many people think that it refers to the diet of the entire Mediterranean area, but northern Italy and other areas of the region use fats other than olive oil, some of which are saturated fats.

The 2015 US food pyramid is very similar to the Mediterranean diet. The primary difference is that the USDA food pyramid doesn't put as high an emphasis on fish and seafood; it recommends "plant oils" rather than olive oil, and it recommends multi-vitamins for most people.

Studies associate following the Mediterranean diet with lowered cardiovascular risk factors and lowered risk of advanced macular degeneration.

Researchers have generally used an "alternate Mediterranean diet" in their eating assessments of various patient populations. The alternate diet includes, instead of olive oil, a type of high-ALA (omega-3) margarine. But we feel that margarines that are hydrogenated or have enhancements such as artificial flavorings, artificial coloring, chemicals for preservation and much more are not a good idea.

Mouseover to See the Vision Diet Pyramid

Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid Guidelines

Every Day

Pure water. Drink plenty of pure water every day.

Vegetables & fruit. The largest portion of the Mediterranean diet features vegetables and fruits. The focus is 5 to 10 servings a day of non-starchy products. That means 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked fresh fruit and fresh vegetables every day, every meal.

Grains. Favor whole grains for maximum nutrition and flavor. To get the best mix of amino acids to help with digestion always eat grains with healthy fats and protein. Some people, especially those prone to diabetes need to watch their consumption of grains - whole or otherwise.

Beans, seeds & nuts are a fantastic source of antioxidants, fiber, protein, minerals, and B vitamins. Include about a tablespoon of nuts and seeds daily, and 1/2 cup of cooked legumes at least two times a week.

Fresh herbs and spices contain many polyphenols, carotenoids and other phytonutrients (nutrients from plants) that provide valuable antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and micronutrients. They add a dash of deliciousness to your meal which has the advantage of stimulating the digestive system.

Fats. Olive oils with their monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, B vitamins, and vitamins A and C are a second factor that distinguishes this way of eating. Vitamin A supports vision; vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, B vitamins support brain, heart and vision health. Polyphenols are micronutrients that are readily absorbed into the digestive system. Polyphenols have been demonstrated to have antioxidant properties. 50% of the composition of olives are polyphenols that decrease free radicals in blood plasma and decreased the presence of various markers that indicate oxidative damage to DNA in in blood chemistry.1 These good effects come with consumption of about 10mg daily - and many nutritionists recommend that you should eat 6 olives a day. Total fats should be no more than 25% to 35% of total calories per day, less if you are concerned about weight or cardiovascular conditions.

Two or three times a week

Seafood. Include 4 ounces of seafood two or three times a week, especially fatty fish like salmon for its omega-3 content. Fatty fish contains valuable omega-3s which support brain functioning, vision health and cardiovascular health. Fresh water fish in many parts of the world contain high levels of toxins. For example the anti-microbial chemical triclocarban is commonly used in personal care products. It accumulates in sewage and persists for a long time in the environment eventually making its way into our waters. In 2011 researchers found that Japanese freshwater fish samples had high levels of the toxin.3

Even wild-caught seafood is increasingly contaminated. Researchers found that polar bears who have a large diet of wild salmon had high levels of mercury.4 For that reason we recommend that you limit large fatty fish like salmon to once a week and add small, low-on-the-food-chain fish like sardines and herring.

Eggs can be eaten at least several times a week. If you eat organic, pasture-raised eggs, they'll be a rich source of omega-3s and B vitamins. They'll have higher levels of omega-3s, vitamins A, E and beta-carotene than conventionally raised eggs.

Dairy products. If you are not lactose intolerant, then dairy products can also be included, one to three cups a day of milk or fermented dairy like yogurt or ricotta cheese that contain beneficial bacteria for digestibility. An equivalent amount of cheese would be 1 oz.

Once a Week

Red wine is fine, in moderation.

Sweets. Sugar. Chemically you need to remember that sugar is sugar is sugar. Honey, maple syrup, and most other sweeteners end up in the body as glucose. Sweet, sugary products have been associated with everything from flabby muscles to stroke. Many nutritionists feel that if you constantly have a hankering for sweets it is because there are other deficiencies in your diet. If you get enough fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grains and other foods from the bottom 2/3 of the pyramid you'll find that your desire for sweets drops off, but it may take some time.

Red meat. Red meat and processed meats are associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease and many other conditions including vision conditions. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer reported in October, 2015 that processed meat most certainly increases the risk of cancer and that red meat is a probable cause of cancer.2

1. D. Raederstorff, et al, Antioxidant activity of olive polyphenols in humans: a review, International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, May, 2009.
2. Veronique Bouvard, et al, Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat, The Lancet Oncology, October, 2015.
3. P. Venter, et al, Bioconcentration, metabolism and excretion of triclocarban in larval Qurt medaka (Oryzias latipes), Aquatic toxicology, October, 2011.
3. How Artic food webs affect mercury in polar bears, Science Daily, December, 2009