You may have noticed there’s a new diet creating a lot of noise in the health and wellness scene.
It’s the Nordic diet, and some nutritionists think it may be one of the healthiest ways to eat.
The diet was constructed when health experts set out to find why, exactly, Northern Europe had lower obesity rates than the United States. The Nordic diet was developed based on the traditional cuisine found in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
What is the Nordic diet?
There’s no calorie counting or crash dieting — rather, the Nordic diet promotes a lifelong approach to healthy eating. It focuses on plant-based, seasonal foods and is packed with lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
The new diet, which has actually been around for centuries, was adapted from the Baltic Sea Diet Pyramid in 2004 to include more flavors and nutritional value. The new version promotes more food from wild landscapes, less food additives, organic produce whenever possible, and more home-cooked meals.
Additionally, it places an emphasis on planning each meal around winter vegetables — such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Eggs and fish are more of an aside.
How does it stack up against the Mediterranean diet?
The Nordic diet is quite similar to the well-known Mediterranean diet. Both include plenty of freshwater fish, root veggies, fruit, and whole grains — such as oats and barley — and limit the consumption of red meat, dairy, sugars, and processed foods.
The main difference is in the oily fats. While the Mediterranean diet suggests olive oil, the Nordic diet opts for rapeseed oil, aka canola oil. Both oils promote a healthy heart by boosting good cholesterol (HDL) and trimming away bad cholesterol (LDL).
“Both are plant-based oils with high amounts of omega-3. Since canola oil has less saturated fat than olive oil, it is considered healthier, however, both have a different recommended use in the kitchen,” Dr. Nancy P. Rahnama, a bariatric physician based in Los Angeles, told Healthline.
For example, olive oil, which is higher in antioxidants, is more flavorful and is typically used for salads and toppings whereas canola oil can withstand more heat, so can be used when cooking and baking at higher temperatures.
The long list of health benefits
One of the main reasons dietitians have been so fond of the Nordic diet is because of all the research-backed health benefits it’s been linked to.
The World Health Organization (WHO) found that both the Mediterranean and Nordic diets reduce the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Other studies have revealed that the Nordic diet can lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels, normalize cholesterol levels, and help people lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
Additionally, because the diet is quite similar to anti-inflammatory diets — which traditionally consist of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats — it’s been shown to reduce inflammation in fatty tissues and, consequently, obesity-related health risks.
It may even help women who are trying to get pregnant.
“This lifestyle falls in line with the recommendations I give my clients when [they’re] trying to conceive,” Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition Now Counseling, said. “A diet that is low in processed foods and refined carbohydrates, along with eating mostly plant-based and seafood-based proteins along with high consumption of fruits and vegetables, is correlated with increased chances of pregnancy.”
It’s good for planet Earth, too
Additionally, the Nordic diet is environmentally sustainable, as it focuses on the consumption of fresh, local ingredients. As a result, fewer greenhouse gases are emitted.
“Plant-based diets create less pollution because they use fewer natural resources than meat-heavy diets,” fitness expert Lauren Cadillac, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, said. “We can also reduce energy consumption and food waste by eating locally-produced food.”
“A large reason I like this diet is that it takes the focus off of calories and puts it on quality food,” Cadillac added.
A well-balanced, affordable option
While the Mediterranean diet has been more heavily researched, growing interest in the Nordic diet has already found that the diet is just as healthy, if not more.
Not to mention, because the Nordic diet focuses on consuming what’s in season, it doesn’t break the bank. Seasonal produce tends to be a bit cheaper, as it’s more widely available.
So, if you’re looking to do some good for your body, the Nordic diet may be well worth a try. It’s packed with a ton of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your body needs to survive and thrive.