Connecting food culture, health and climate

Double Pyramid


The Barilla Foundation has used the latest evidence on food, health and the environment to devise the Double Pyramid model.

By placing the Health and Climate Pyramids side-by-side, the Double Pyramid gives a simple and direct illustration of what a balanced, healthy and sustainable diet looks like. This model aims to encourage the adoption of eating styles that are both healthy for humans and respectful of the planet, reducing the impact of food choices on the environment and climate change.

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The Health Pyramid arranges food into 18 food groups and seven layers according to the recommended frequency of consumption for people’s health. At the bottom are the foods that should be eaten most often: fruit, vegetables and whole grain cereals, followed by nuts and seeds, non-tropical vegetable oils, refined low glycemic index cereals and fermented milk. This is followed by pulses and fish, which are the preferred sources of protein, followed by poultry, eggs, milk and cheese. Finally, red meat, animal fats and tropical oils, high glycemic index foods, sweets and baked goods, with processed meat at the top, indicating that it should be eaten in moderation.


The Climate Pyramid shows how the production of products of animal origin makes the greatest contribution to climate change, compared to products of plant origin, which have a lower environmental impact.

The climate pyramid is based on the Su-Eatable Life project database, which classifies different foods based on their carbon footprint (carbon dioxide equivalent emissions), grouping them into 18 groups and seven layers ranging from a very low carbon footprint to a very high footprint. Foods that should be eaten most often for our health also generally have a low impact on the climate.


By adopting a varied and balanced diet we can promote our health while reducing our contribution to climate change. All foods can be part of a healthy and sustainable diet, assuming they are eaten as often as recommended and in the correct proportions, including a substantial amount of plant-based foods, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

All foods can be part of a healthy and sustainable diet


The double pyramid recommends a consumption frequency for all food groups and shows the impact they each have on health and the climate.

In the Health Pyramid in particular, foods have been grouped into 18 food groups, based first of all on their impact on cardiovascular diseases, and more generally on health, and on their origin (animal and plant) and their nutritional characteristics. These groups have been split into seven layers based on their consumption frequency.

In the first layer we find the food groups associated with the highest benefit for cardiovascular disease and health more generally: fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Two daily portions of each are recommended.

The second layer includes the food groups that people should be encouraged to eat every day but without exceeding one daily serving of each: refined cereal-based foods with a low glycemic index, such as pasta or parboiled rice or barley, as well as nuts, fermented milk such as yogurt, non-tropical vegetable oils such as olive oil , as well as corn and sunflower oil.

The third layer includes foods like pulses and fish, associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, to be eaten in three or four servings per week.

The fourth layer includes foods such as poultry, eggs, cheese and milk, which have neither a beneficial nor a harmful relationship with chronic diseases if they are eaten in moderate amounts (no more than three portions a week).

In the fifth layer we find high glycemic index foods like white bread, refined rice and potatoes. No more than two servings of this food should be eaten per week.

Animal fats, like butter, tropical oils like palm oil, red meat and sweets and baked goods made with refined flour and sugar are in the sixth layer of the pyramid because eating them is associated with a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular events. The advice is to eat these no more than once a week.

In the seventh layer there are foods like processed meat (sausages, bacon, salami), associated with a high risk of cardiovascular diseases and other chronic diseases, which should only be eaten occasionally.

The median carbon footprint of each food group has been calculated, and the resulting 18 values, one for each food group, have been clustered to define the layers of the climate pyramid: the production of animal products, especially red meat, followed by cheese and processed meats, causes the highest emissions compared to products of plant origin.


The Barilla Foundation decided to adapt the Double Pyramid to the different food cultures in order to promote a greater awareness of healthy and sustainable diets in different geographical contexts: Nordic countries and Canada; USA; South Asia; East Asia; Africa; Latin America; Mediterranean countries.

Each pyramid is accompanied by an example of a recipe to celebrate the global value of diversity. Each recipe combines foods for a healthy diet, foods with a low impact on the climate, in terms of CO 2 emissions, and foods that are representative of a specific geographical area, culture and tradition.

By exploring the ingredients of each food tradition, diving into flavors, colors and aromas of typical dishes, we can take a trip around the world, discovering that every culture can offer a healthy and sustainable diet, everywhere.

Download recipes

adapt the Double Pyramid to the different food cultures


The value of the Double Health and Climate Pyramid is twofold: on the one hand it provides an excellent summary of the main knowledge gained from medicine, nutrition studies, and the impact of our choices on the Planet, while on the other, thanks to its simple and intuitive graphics, it is a powerful consumer education tool.

Contribute to disseminating the Double Health and Climate Pyramid and share the recommendations for a healthy and sustainable diet. Download, use and share the infographics provided here. If you intend to reproduce them by any means, please complete the form to request authorization by stating the intended use.

The Double Pyramid journey of the Barilla Foundation started in 2010, find out more.

Food and Environmental Sustainability

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