The Nordic countries include Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and Greenland. The “Nordic diet” is based on their traditional ways of eating. Like the more famous Mediterranean diet, it’s not really about weight loss. Instead, it’s a delicious way to eat healthy. So, what foods does it include?
What Can You Eat?
There are several similarities with the Mediterranean diet, but this style of eating is based on these guidelines which also include lifestyle choices:
- More fruits, vegetables, and seasonal and organic foods when possible
- More whole grains
- More food from seas, lakes, and the wild
- Higher-quality meat and less of it
- Less processed, less sugary foods
- Cooking at home more
- Wasting less food, and natural resources
Think whole-grain crackers from Sweden or the dark, dense sourdough rye bread from Denmark called rugbrod. Or you can also choose any other high-quality “complex” carbohydrates that are rich in fibre. They take longer to digest than the “simple” carbs found in many processed foods like white bread, pastries, and biscuits. They also have lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help protect your cells.
They’re a big part of the Nordic way of eating. That’s a good thing because when you eat lots of them, you’re less likely to gain weight. They’re also a good source of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which seem to keep your veins and arteries healthy and flexible, and may help lower your blood pressure.
I can vouch for this as I am a big Nordic fan, for the scenery, but enjoyed their lovely lingonberries and cloudberries while there.
You might know that the Mediterranean and DASH diets include olive oil. The Nordic diet generally uses canola oil instead. Like olive oil, it’s low in saturated fat and higher in healthy monounsaturated fat. Also, it has alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 that may help protect your brain, including from stroke.
However Rapeseed oil and canola oil are often used interchangeably. Wild rapeseed oil contains large amounts of erucic acid, which is known to cause health problems, so the canola plant was developed from rapeseed in order to use it to produce a food-grade canola oil with lower erucic acid level but Canola itself has been under criticism recently for two main reasons: over 90 percent of canola oil is genetically modified and is a refined oil that’s often partially hydrogenated to increase its stability, but this may increase its negative health effects.
They have certain omega-3 fatty acids that your body can’t make. These could lower your chance of having heart rhythm problems, lessen plaque buildup in your arteries, and cut down on fat in your blood (triglycerides).
You might know about salmon, sardines, and tuna but Nordic cultures like herring and mackerel too, which certainly used to be a staple of the UK diet. Best if you can have two to three servings a week of oily fish for your health.
Beans and peas
The Nordic diet recommends them as one of the major sources of complex carbohydrates and fibre in your daily diet, along with whole grains, berries, and vegetables.
They’re a great source of protein, especially to replace some of the calories you get from red meat. And they have lots of nutrients like riboflavin, B6, calcium, zinc, and iron.
Root vegetables & tubers
Carrots, parsnips, beetroot, and potatoes are typical of this category of food. Though they can be high in calories, they also give you fibre, which takes longer to digest and keeps your blood sugar more stable. And they’re loaded with nutrients that help protect your cells, lower your cholesterol, and help fight infection.
Nuts and seeds
They’re a source of complex carbohydrates and fibre, as are whole grains, berries, and vegetables. They’re rich in zinc, copper, potassium, vitamin E, niacin, antioxidants, and mono- and poly-unsaturated fats.
This way of eating may help lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol in people who start out with higher than normal LDL levels. And it may work even for people who don’t lose weight on the diet.
You should get a cholesterol blood test every 4 to 6 years — more often if you have heart health problems.
When people shift to this way of eating, they tend to lose weight, especially the fat you carry around your waist. That’s better for you than losing it from elsewhere on your body. And if you follow this plan, it may help you keep those pounds off.
People in Denmark were more likely to stick with the diet and said they were more satisfied, compared with those who didn’t change their eating habits.
Unhealthy cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose, and insulin levels are all “risk factors” for heart disease — that is, they make you more likely to get it. Because the Nordic diet seems to improve these issues in many people, scientists think this way of eating might help support heart health, too.
Type 2 diabetes
As with heart disease, this approach helps ease some of the issues linked to type 2 diabetes, like inflammation and obesity. That’s why many doctors believe it probably helps prevent the disease over the long term.
It means the swelling of tissues all over your body, and it’s linked to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure that can lessen the quality and length of your life.
Other inflammation conditions include allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
A healthy Nordic-style diet seems to be a good way to keep inflammation at bay, and certainly worth considering if you suffer from any such conditions.
Lifestyle and the environment
Of course, diet is not the only cause for weight gain, there are hormonal factors such as oestrogen dominance and lifestyle choices around exercise and healthy living including getting good sleep.
One of the main goals of the Nordic diet is to be environmentally friendly so while it’s good for your health to eat a diet that’s more plant-based than animal-based, it’s also good for the planet. That’s because plant-based foods are less taxing on the land, the climate, and the atmosphere. So you can make yourself healthy and do something for the Earth while you’re at it.
This may not seem as difficult to achieve as you may think as the simple steps of healthy diet choices, regular exercise and tackling stress or sleep issues will make a big difference.
If your stress or sleep issues are related to oestrogen dominance and hormonal factors then check whether you need to look at rebalancing your hormone levels to increase the benefits of progesterone to help with menopause symptoms.
What Signs of Oestrogen Dominance Do You Have?
Don’t Underestimate The Effect Of Stress On Your Hormonal Symptoms