The Nordic diet was developed in 2004 as a response to two concerns in the Nordic region: a growing obesity crisis and a decline in sustainable farming practices.
The Nordic region includes Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden. Traditionally, the diet in this region is rich in seafood, seasonal berries, root vegetables, and whole wheat bread.
However, the diet has changed in recent years to look more like a heavier, North American diet with more red meat, processed foods, and added sugars.
The hope of the Nordic diet is not only to encourage a healthier diet, but also to challenge individuals to think about how food is produced and to change their attitudes towards food consumption.
Basics of the Nordic Diet
The Nordic diet is concerned with what people eat as well as how they eat. In terms of food choices, it is clear the Nordic diet emphasizes a combination of high fiber fruits and vegetables, whole grain bread, and protein from seafood.
In a normal meal, the ratio of carbohydrate calories to protein calories should be two to one. The designers of this diet also encourage individuals to prepare more home-cooked meals using local ingredients.
They want individuals to think about the social aspects of dining as well, and meals are supposed to be enjoyed slowly in a relaxed setting.
They also want individuals to consider the environmental aspects of eating by encouraging the use of sustain-ably farmed foods and efforts to decrease food waste.
Foods to Eat On the Diet
The foods to eat on the Nordic diet are akin to the foods eaten in the popular Mediterranean diet. Dieters should be eating several servings of seafood, such as fish, every week. Whole grain bread with a high fiber content is also on the list, especially the rye bread, which is popular in Scandinavia.
Because this diet is based on the Nordic region, the suggested fruits and vegetables are ones common in the northern climate, especially seasonal berries, root vegetables, and potatoes. Fruits and vegetables should be minimally processed so diners can enjoy the benefits of their natural fiber.
Other sources of protein such as eggs, game meat, low-sugar yogurt, and cheese are encouraged in moderation in the Nordic diet.
Foods to Avoid On the Diet
The foods to avoid on the Nordic diet are foods discouraged in many modern diets. Fast food and processed foods should be avoided, and foods with added sugar are also discouraged.
However, the Nordic diet also asks dieters to think about the environmental impact of the foods they eat as well as the nutritional benefits.
For example, red meat is supposed to be minimized not only because seafood has important health benefits, but also because red meat is difficult to produce in a sustainable way.
Similar arguments are made for avoiding processed and food with refined sugars. The more a food is processed, the fewer health benefits it brings to the consumer and more energy is spent producing it.
Benefits and Risks of the Nordic Diet
The benefits and risks of the Nordic diet are somewhat difficult to measure. The health benefits of the Nordic diet include short-term weight loss and a reduction in blood pressure.
Studies on other impacts of the diet, such as on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and blood sugar, are inconsistent, with some showing a decrease in both and others showing little or no change.
The Nordic diet has the potential to create positive change in terms of changing the eating culture and the way food consumption impacts the environment.
There are no known immediate health risks of the diet, though patients should still consult a physician before trying it. The greatest long-term risk of the Nordic diet is the return of lost weight.
Because the Nordic diet involves more food preparation and more expensive ingredients, it can be hard to maintain consistently over a long period. Some studies found lost weight had been regained within two years of starting the diet.
Final Takeaway Regarding the Diet
The final takeaway regarding the diet is that it can be a beneficial and healthy way to approach food. In terms of direct health benefits, it has similar benefits to any diet that minimizes red meat consumption, discourages processed sugar consumption, and encourages increased amounts of fiber.
What makes the Nordic diet different is its emphasis on the social aspects and environmental impacts of food. If dieters pay more attention to the sources of their food, they will consume cleaner food with less of an environmental impact.
If dieters can turn more meals into relaxed social events to be savored, they will not only improve their health but also their social connections and sense of well-being.