What is the Nordic Diet?
by Tobias • 4 minutes read
Last updated: 29 Aug, 2022
Today we look into the diet of our Nordic brethren. Long, cold winters and short summers mean that a healthy diet is incredibly important to maintain physical and mental health. But can the Nordic diet be helpful to those in warmer climes? Let's find out.
What to eat on the Nordic diet
With a combined coastline of 267,623 Km it's no surprise that fish and seafood are an integral part of the diet within the Nordic countries. Norway in particular, with a coast of 202,080 Km, is heavily reliant on fish in their diet. This normally comes in the form of fatty fish such as Herring, Mackerel, Salmon and Sardines. These fish are served in a massive variety of ways in the Nordic countries, these could be dried, pickled, salted, poached, boiled, baked and the list goes on. All of these fish are a great source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3's are healthy fats that are essential in your diet as your body cannot produce them itself.
The Nordic diet also recommends eating more whole grains. In the Nordic countries foods like whole-grain crackers and dark rye bread are commonly eaten. These whole grains contain complex carbohydrates which take longer to break down in the body than simple carbs such as white bread and pastries. Because whole grains take longer to break down the cause less of an insulin spike in your body. If the insulin levels in your body spike regularly then it can lead to "insulin resistance", meaning your body will need to produce more insulin to have the same effect. Insulin resistance has been linked to a significantly increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
The Nordic diet suggests eating more fruits and vegetables with a particular effort to eat seasonal and organic foods when possible. With an emphasis on root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips and beets. Though high in calories, root vegetables contain a large amount of fibre which means they will be digested slower and will keep your blood sugars more stable. Alongside root vegetables, the Nordic diet includes peas and beans. They are a great source of protein and they contain lots of valuable nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium and riboflavin.
In many ways the Nordic diet is very similar to the Mediterranean Diet but they differ in one large way. Whilst the mediterranean diet is loaded with olive oil, the Nordic diet suggests to instead use rapeseed oil, also known as canola oil. Like olive oil, rapeseed oil is low in saturated fat and high in healthier monounsaturated fat. It is also another source of omega-3's.
As with most diets an emphasis is placed on an avoidance of processed foods and takeaways foods and instead opts for home cooking using high quality and organic ingredients. The Nordic diet also recommends reducing your red meat intake.
The Nordic way of eating has many potential health benefits. Although the goal of the Nordic diet is not to lose weight necessarily, for those that are currently eating a diet with a larger amount of processed foods switching to the Nordic diet could lead to weight loss.
In one study, 147 obese were split into two groups, those on a Nordic diet lost 4.7 kg (10.4 lbs), whilst those that ate a typical Danish diet lost only 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs). However, it should be noted that in a follow-up study a year later, the subjects that were on the Nordic diet had gained the majority of the lost weight back. This is fairly normal for weight loss studies and just goes to show that the best diet is one that you can maintain over the long term.
There is a link between the nordic diet and a reduction in blood pressure. In a 6-month study in obese people, the Nordic diet reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 5.1 and 3.2 mmHg, respectively — compared to a control diet.
The Nordic diet has potential as a weight loss diet and a diet that can reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing blood pressure and reducing the risk of Type-2 diabetes by managing blood sugar levels. When compared to most western eating habits, the limitation of processed foods is a common factor in an increase in mental and physical health. There seems to be little risk for those that want to try this diet, but it should be noted that the healthy aspects of the Nordic diet are shared with many other diets.
- Health effect of the New Nordic Diet in adults with increased waist circumference - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24257725/
- Long-term adherence to the New Nordic Diet and the effects on body weight, anthropometry and blood pressure - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24664189/
- Insulin and Insulin Resistance - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1204764/
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