If your idea of the Nordic diet was plating up on meatballs, then you are highly mistaken. In fact, this eating style focuses on healthier food which consists of a nutritious mix of plant-based ingredients with locally sourced meat and fish. Although the research on the Nordic diet provides limited data, several studies do suggest that following a Nordic eating pattern may foster weight loss and lower blood pressure.
How is it different?
Nordic diet features the locally sourced food traditionally consumed in the Norden region of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The staples include whole-grain cereals such as rye, barley, and oats; berries and other fruits; vegetables (root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, tubers and lots of cabbage); fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring; and legumes (beans and peas).
In fact, the Nordic diet does share many elements with the Mediterranean diet, according to Dr Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Mediterranean diet is widely considered as the best eating pattern for preventing heart disease and also emphasizes on plant-based foods. Both the diets include moderate amounts of fish, eggs, and small amounts of dairy, but limit the intake of processed foods, sweets, and red meat.
But when it comes to oil, Nordic folk use rapeseed or canola oil instead of the Mediterranean preference for olive oil. Like olive oil, canola oil is also high in monosaturated fats. It also contains trace amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid similar to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. And let’s not forget another essential component of Nordic diet – fatty fish. This is the richest dietary source of omega-3s and a minimum of two to three servings is suggested.
Though many diets shun carbohydrates, they play an important role in the Nordic diet. It emphasizes on the intake of high-quality carbohydrates: cereals, crackers, and bread made with whole-grain barley, oats, and rye. Including these whole grain foods provide abundant heart-protecting nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Berries also find a special place in the Nordic diet and may account for some of its health benefits. Berries such as blueberries and strawberries aid in weight loss and lower one’s risk of having a heart attack. Berries are also an excellent source of anthocyanins, which lower blood pressure and make blood vessels more flexible.
Should you try it?
Though there have been studies proven to justify the efficiency of the Nordic diet at preventing heart disease to the same extent as a Mediterranean diet. But it is clearly a step above the average processed food and meat diet that many of us indulge in. In Dr Hu’s words, “People who really like berries, rye bread, and canola oil should go ahead and enjoy a Nordic-style diet rather than waiting 10 years to get more evidence.”