The Nordic Diet: What Does the Evidence Say?
The Nordic diet follows the traditional diet of people from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, which is focused on whole grains, vegetables, berries, legumes, and fatty fish, and low in red meat and sweets.
Locally sourced and seasonal foods are also emphasized in the Nordic diet, which makes it both a healthy and sustainable diet. The diet was initially created by a group of experts to deal with the problem of obesity and unsustainable farming practices in Nordic countries. It has since been promoted to be an effective diet for weight loss and disease prevention. Read on to learn more about what the evidence says about the Nordic diet.
What Foods are Allowed in the Nordic Diet?
Traditional; sustainably farmed; locally sourced, and in-season – these are the foods emphasized in the Nordic diet and include the following healthy food ingredients:
- Fruits and berries
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetables, especially cabbage and root vegetables like potatoes and carrots
- Whole grains
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herrin, as well as other seafood
- Herbs and spices
- Rapeseed/canola oil
- Low-fat dairy
- Rye breads
These are modern-day, healthy foods that are locally farmed in Nordic countries. A common misconception about the Nordic diet is that it’s supposed to reflect the traditional diet of Nordic people centuries ago, but it was created to emphasize plant foods and seafood available locally today.
The Nordic diet recommends eating game meats, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation, and eating other red meats and animal fats only on rare occasions. It excludes all artificial sugars, fast foods, processed meats, and food additives.
The Nordic Diet vs the Mediterranean Diet
Both the Nordic diet and Mediterranean diet emphasize plant-based foods and fatty fish, include only moderate to small amounts of eggs, dairy, and meat, and limited to zero amounts of red meat, sweets, and processed foods.
One of the major differences between these two diets is the recommended healthy oil, which is determined by what is available in their respective regions. The Mediterranean diet favors olive oil, while the Nordic diet includes rapeseed/canola oil. Both of these oils have high levels of healthy monounsaturated fat. Canola oil, however, also contains the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid.
Another Nordic diet staple is high-quality carbs, such as whole-grain breads, cereals, and crackers. Berries also play an important role in the Nordic diet and contribute to some of the health benefits attributed to the diet.
Both diets may have significant health impacts, especially with regards to weight loss and blood pressure. However, findings on the impact of the Nordic diet on heart disease prevention and risk are still inconclusive; in comparison, the Mediterranean has long been established as the ideal diet for heart health. Compared to the American diet, the Nordic diet is definitely many degrees healthier and a step in the right direction.
What are the Benefits of the Nordic Diet?
Promotes Weight Loss
Study findings have mostly supported the claim that the Nordic diet can lead to weight loss. With an emphasis on plant foods and seafoods and the elimination of sugars and processed foods, following this diet can help people lose weight.
Impacts on Health Markers
As it can effectively lead to some weight loss, the Nordic diet can also, therefore, help reduce the risk for diseases associated with being overweight or obese.
Additionally, a few studies have found that the Nordic diet can lead to reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure, particularly among those with metabolic syndrome.
Some findings have shown small reductions in cholesterol and triglycerides, although results are mostly inconclusive. There have also been mixed results with regards to the reduction of the inflammatory response, which is a serious factor in many chronic diseases.
As with other plant-based and sustainable diets, the Nordic diet is also beneficial for the environment. Adopting a plant-based diet can greatly reduce one’s carbon footprint, as it uses fewer natural resources and produces less pollution and food waste.
Because the Nordic diet promotes the consumption of locally produced foods, the same healthy food options may not be available to consumers in other parts of the world. But wherever you are, you can apply the same principle of consuming sustainably farmed, locally grown, and in-season plant foods, as well as healthy meats.
The Nordic Diet – Final Thoughts
The Nordic diet is a healthy diet that emphasizes plant foods and seafoods, and limits meats, dairy, sugars, and processed foods. Overall, it offers a positive health impact and is even great for the environment.
While the Nordic diet also focuses on locally grown foods, which may not be available to consumers in other parts of the world, the same principle of consuming what is locally and sustainably produced can be easily adopted by everybody in an effort to switch to healthier and more environment-friendly eating patterns.