Quantcast

5 Health Benefits of the Nordic Diet

Popular

By Joe Leech

The latest “diet" to appear in the media is called the Nordic diet.

Proponents of this diet claim that you can improve your health by eating “Nordic" foods.

These are the traditional foods commonly eaten by people in the Nordic countries.

The Nordic diet emphasizes locally grown and sustainable food sources, with a heavy focus on foods considered healthy according to “mainstream" nutrition science.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Several studies have shown that the Nordic diet can cause weight loss and improve health markers, at least in the short-term (1, 2).

This eating pattern is also supported by the fact that obesity rates in the Nordic countries are much lower than in the U.S. (3).

This article explains everything you need to know about the Nordic diet. What to eat, what to avoid, health benefits, a research review and numerous tips.

What is The Nordic Diet?

As the name suggests, the Nordic diet is a way of eating that focuses on the traditional foods of the Nordic countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland).

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

Compared with an average Western diet, it contains less sugar, less fat, twice the fiber, and twice the fish and seafood (4).

Foods to Eat and Avoid

The Nordic diet emphasizes locally grown and sustainable food sources, with a heavy focus on foods considered healthy according to “mainstream" nutrition science.

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

As many critics correctly point out, many of the foods on the “Nordic" diet were actually never eaten in the Nordic countries back in the day.

Read page 1

These include low-fat dairy and canola oil, which are modern foods. Fruit also does not grow well in the north, except perhaps for some berries.

Bottom Line: The Nordic diet emphasizes the traditional foods of the Nordic countries. It is similar to the Mediterranean diet in many ways, and heavily emphasizes plant foods and sea foods.

The Nordic Diet and Weight Loss

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

In one study of 147 obese men and women, those eating a Nordic diet lost 10.4 lbs (4.7 kg), while those eating a typical Danish diet lost only 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg) (1).

This is fairly impressive, especially considering that people were not instructed to restrict calories.

However, in a follow-up study a year later, the Nordic diet participants had gained most of the weight back (5).

These results are actually very typical for long-term studies on weight loss. People lose weight in the beginning, but then it gradually returns over a period of one to two years.

Another study supports the weight-reducing effects of the Nordic diet. In this six-week long study, the Nordic diet group lost four percent of body weight, significantly more than those who followed a standard diet (6).

Bottom Line: The Nordic diet appears to be effective for short-term weight loss, even when people are not asked to restrict their calorie intake.

Health Benefits of The Nordic Diet

Healthy eating goes way beyond just weight loss.

It can also lead to significant improvements in metabolic health, and lower the risk of all sorts of chronic diseases.

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

Blood Pressure

In a six-month study on obese participants, a 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 in participants with the metabolic syndrome (7).

Cholesterol and Triglycerides

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

Read page 1

Some studies, but not all, have found a reduction in triglycerides, but the effects on LDL and HDL cholesterol appear to be so small that they are not statistically significant (1, 2).

However, one study found a mild reduction in the LDL-c/HDL-c ratio and the Apo B/Apo A1 ratio, as well as non-HDL cholesterol, which are all 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, but one study found 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 have given mixed results. One study found a reduction in the inflammatory marker CRP, while others have found no statistically significant effects (1, 2).

Another study found that the Nordic diet reduced the expression of genes related to inflammation in the body's fat tissues (8).

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

Environmental Aspect of The Nordic Diet

The Nordic diet may be a good choice from an environmental perspective. It emphasizes foods that are locally grown and sustainably farmed.

Some proponents of the diet also recommend consuming organic foods.

Take Home Message

The evidence behind the Nordic diet is not particularly impressive.

It does cause short-term weight loss, and some reduction in blood pressure and inflammatory markers, but the results appear to be weak and inconsistent.

At the end of the day, any diet that emphasizes real food instead of standard Western junk food is likely to lead to weight loss and health improvements.

This has been demonstrated, time and time again, in hundreds of studies on various different diets.

However, there is nothing magical about “Nordic" foods, or “eating like a viking."

The diet works because it replaces processed foods with whole, single-ingredient foods. That's it.

This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

What Sunscreen Should I Use? This Guide Tells You Products You Can (and Can't) Trust

Could Earthworms Save the Climate?

If GMOs Are Safe, Why Not Label Them? (64 Other Countries Do)

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Variety of fermented food korean traditional kimchi cabbage and radish salad. white and red sauerkraut in ceramic plates over grey spotted background. Natasha Breen / REDA&CO / Universal Images Group / Getty Image

By Anne Danahy, MS, RDN

Even if you've never taken probiotics, you've probably heard of them.

These supplements provide numerous benefits because they contain live microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, which support the healthy bacteria in your gut (1, 2, 3, 4).

Read More Show Less
Pexels

Singapore will become the first country in the world to place a ban on advertisements for carbonated drinks and juices with high sugar contents, its health ministry announced last week. The law is intended to curb sugar consumption since the country has some of the world's highest diabetes rates per capita, as Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

A typical adult takes around 20,000 breaths per day. If you live in a megacity like Beijing, with many of those lungfuls you're likely to inhale a noxious mixture of chemicals and pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Fred Stone holds his brown swiss cow Lida Rose at his Arundel dairy farm on March 18 after a press conference where he spoke about PFAS chemical contamination in his fields. Gregory Rec / Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

By Susan Cosier

First there was Fred Stone, the third-generation dairy farmer in Maine who discovered that the milk from his cows contained harmful chemicals. Then came Art Schaap, a second-generation dairy farmer in New Mexico, who had to dump 15,000 gallons of contaminated milk a day.

Read More Show Less
Protesters attend the 32nd annual Fur-Free Friday demonstration on Nov. 23, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. Ella DeGea / Getty Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that that bans the sale and manufacture of fur products in the state. The fur ban, which he signed into law on Saturday, prohibits Californians from selling or making clothing, shoes or handbags with fur starting in 2023, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Watchfield Solar Park in England. RTPeat / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Simon Evans

During the three months of July, August and September, renewables generated an estimated total of 29.5 terawatt hours (TWh), compared with just 29.1TWh from fossil fuels, the analysis shows.

Read More Show Less
A demonstrator waves an Ecuadorian flag during protests against the end of subsidies to gasoline and diesel on Oct. 9 in Quito, Ecuador. Jorge Ivan Castaneira Jaramillo / Getty Images

The night before Indigenous Peoples' Day, an Indigenous-led movement in Ecuador won a major victory.

Read More Show Less
Protesters block the road outside Mansion House in London during an XR climate change protest. Gareth Fuller / PA Images via Getty Images

One week into Extinction Rebellion's planned two weeks of International Rebellion to demand action on the climate crisis, the London police have banned the group from the city.

Read More Show Less