The Nordic diet incorporates foods commonly eaten by people in the Nordic countries.

Several studies show that this way of eating may cause weight loss and improve health markers — at least in the short term (1, 2).

This article reviews the Nordic diet, including foods to eat and avoid, as well as potential health benefits.

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The Nordic diet is a way of eating that focuses on locally sourced foods in the Nordic countries — Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland.

It was created in 2004 by a group of nutritionists, scientists, and chefs to address growing obesity rates and unsustainable farming practices in the Nordic countries.

It may be a good choice from an environmental perspective, as it emphasizes foods that are locally sourced and sustainably farmed.

Compared to an average Western diet, it contains less sugar and fat but twice the fiber and seafood (3).

Foods to Eat and Avoid

The Nordic diet emphasizes traditional, sustainable, and locally sourced foods, with a heavy focus on those considered healthy.

  • Eat often: fruits, berries, vegetables, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, rye breads, fish, seafood, low-fat dairy, herbs, spices, and rapeseed (canola) oil
  • Eat in moderation: game meats, free-range eggs, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Eat rarely: other red meats and animal fats
  • Don't eat: sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meats, food additives, and refined fast foods

The Nordic diet is very similar to the Mediterranean diet. The biggest difference is that it emphasizes canola oil instead of extra virgin olive oil.

As critics correctly point out, some of the foods on the Nordic diet didn’t exist in the Nordic countries centuries ago.

These include low-fat dairy and canola oil, which are modern foods. Most fruits also don’t grow well in the north — except for apples and several types of berries.

Still, the Nordic diet wasn’t designed to reflect the diet of Nordic people hundreds of years ago. Instead, it emphasizes healthy foods that are sourced locally in modern-day Scandinavia.

SUMMARY The Nordic diet emphasizes the foods of the Nordic countries. It’s similar to the Mediterranean diet and heavily emphasizes plant foods and seafoods.

Several studies have assessed the weight loss effects of the Nordic diet.

In one study in 147 obese people instructed not to restrict calories, those on a Nordic diet lost 10.4 pounds (4.7 kg), while those eating a typical Danish diet lost only 3.3 pounds (1.5 kg) (1).

However, in a follow-up study a year later, the Nordic-diet participants had gained most of the weight back (4).

These results are very typical for long-term studies on weight loss. People lose weight in the beginning but then gradually gain it back over 1–2 years.

Another 6-week study supports the weight-reducing effects of the Nordic diet, as the Nordic diet group lost 4% of their body weight — significantly more than those on a standard diet (5).

SUMMARY The Nordic diet appears to be effective for short-term weight loss — even without restricting calories. Still — as with many weight loss diets — you may regain lost weight over time.

Healthy eating goes beyond weight loss.

It can also lead to significant improvements in metabolic health and lower your risk of many chronic diseases.

Several studies have examined the effects of the Nordic diet on health markers.

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 (1).

Another 12-week study found a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number of a reading) in participants with metabolic syndrome (6).

Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Even though the Nordic diet is high in many heart-healthy foods, its effects on cholesterol and triglycerides are inconsistent.

Some — but not all — studies find a reduction in triglycerides, but the effects on LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol are statistically insignificant (1, 2).

Still, one study observed a mild reduction in non-HDL cholesterol, as well as the LDL-c/HDL-c and Apo B/Apo A1 ratios — all of which are strong risk factors for heart disease (2).

Blood Sugar Control

The Nordic diet does not appear to be very effective at lowering blood sugar levels, though one study noted a small reduction in fasting blood sugar (1, 2).

Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a major driver of many serious diseases.

Studies on the Nordic diet and inflammation give mixed results. One study found a reduction in the inflammatory marker CRP, while others observed no statistically significant effects (1, 2).

Another study showed that the Nordic diet reduced the expression of genes related to inflammation in your body's fat tissues (7).

SUMMARY The Nordic diet appears to be effective at lowering blood pressure. The effects on cholesterol, blood triglycerides, blood sugar levels, and inflammatory markers are weak and inconsistent.

The Nordic diet is healthy because it replaces processed foods with whole, single-ingredient foods.

It may cause short-term weight loss and some reduction in blood pressure and inflammatory markers. However, the evidence is weak and inconsistent.

Generally, any diet that emphasizes whole foods instead of standard Western junk food is likely to lead to some weight loss and health improvements.