October 29, 2022

The Nordic Diet

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Image: The House of Wellness (Nordic diet)

Restricting Calories and Why It Doesn’t Work

It seems like every week, there’s a new diet that promises weight loss. Yet dietitians and healthcare providers generally agree – in the long-run, these diets (such as cutting out carbs or restricting calories) don’t work, as they’re not sustainable. Dieters often regain the weight they lost within two years (Carter, 2022). Food is fuel; our bodies are wired to crave it.

What is the Nordic Diet?

Another thing dietitians generally agree on: if you don’t have a diagnosed medical condition like epilepsy or celiac disease, you probably don’t need to follow a specific diet like keto or going gluten-free. It’s more important to establish overall good eating habits. Hence, the Nordic diet. You may have heard of the Mediterranean diet (here, “diet” refers more to a general eating pattern than a prescribed regimen). Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet – with its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats like fish and olive oil – can help lower the risk of heart disease (Harvard School of Public Health, 2018). Well, meet the Mediterranean’s lesser-known cousin – the Nordic!

How does the Nordic Diet Work?

The Mediterranean and Nordic diets, in fact, are more alike than different. Similar to its Mediterranean counterpart, the Nordic (Scandinavian) diet encourages the consumption of high-fiber, nutrient-dense plant-based foods, oily fish, and whole grains – with moderate amounts of
dairy like yogurt and small quantities of red meat. The main difference is that the Mediterranean diet involves fruits and vegetables that grow in warmer climates; the Nordic diet, colder climates.
Yet even in here in California (where I’m based), there are ways to follow Nordic diet principles using what’s available, even if it doesn’t mean replicating exactly what might be eaten in Denmark or Norway. The key is to eat locally and seasonally. The table below breaks down how
to incorporate Nordic diet foods, even if you live in a warm climate and you’re on a budget.

Foods in the Nordic Diet

  • Fruit Berries like lingonberries, cloudberries, elderberries, red currants.
  • Berries, apples, pears, anything local and in season.
  • Vegetables root vegetables like carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, rutabaga.
  • Carrots, beets, radishes, potatoes with skin on, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, anything local and in season.
  • Whole grains Oats, barley, rye bread. Oats, barley, rye bread, whole-grain pasta.
  • Oily fish Salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, trout, cod.
  • Preferably any local and/or seasonal fish (trim pieces are cheaper); canned tuna or sardines.
  • Fermented foods Icelandic yogurt (skyr), kefir, Swedish fermented milk (filmjölk)
  • Pickles, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kombucha. Also – skyr and kefir are available in many supermarkets (buy them plain, with no added sweet flavors like vanilla or peach).
  • Legumes Yellow and green peas, brown beans.
  • Yellow and green peas, brown beans.
  • Herbs Dill, mustard, horseradish. Dill, mustard, horseradish.

Moderation in Flexibility

The Nordic diet is a flexible one, and you don’t have to overthink it. Many of the foods listed above are high in complex carbohydrates, protein, and/or healthy fats; red meat is allowed in smaller quantities, and sweets, alcohol, and processed foods should be limited. One word of caution: historically, the Nordic diet has touted canola oil, but (at least in the US), canola oil is highly processed and lacks antioxidants (Cleveland Clinic, 2021). Olive oil or avocado oil are healthier alternatives.

Even better news: studies are finding that, like the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet may help lower blood pressure (Khakimov et. al., 2016) and reduce the inflammation that causes chronic disease (Kolehmainen et. al., 2015).

It’s Fetch is a community that provides a safe space for members to discuss health and wellness topics. We provide access to archived health related content, note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content shared, regardless of date should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

-Written by Laura Miller

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