- The Nordic diet is becoming increasingly popular and ranked as the best diet choice in 2021.
- It includes whole grains, fruits, root vegetables, fatty fish, legumes, and low-fat dairy products.
- But how does this diet compare to the Mediterranean diet, another very popular diet, for its long-term health benefits? A researcher takes a look.
Every month there seems to be a new diet making the rounds online. One of the latest is the Nordic diet, which some claim could be better for your health than the Mediterranean diet. And research is starting to suggest that it might at least have similar benefits.
The Nordic diet is based on traditional foods available in the Nordic countries. The staple foods it includes are whole grains (especially rye, barley, and oats), fruits (especially berries), root vegetables (like beets, carrots, and turnips ), fatty fish (including salmon, tuna, and mackerel), legumes, and full-fat dairy products.
But unlike the Mediterranean diet which has a long legacy and the health benefits which have been consistently observed in demographic studies and surveys, the Nordic diet was in fact developed by a committee nutrition and food experts, alongside chefs, food historians and environmentalists.
Why it was created
The motivation for its creation was to improve dietary recommendations in the Nordic countries in a sustainable way, while seeking to create a local identity linked to food and culture.
Yet the Nordic diet shares a number of similarities with the Mediterranean diet, in that it consists of more whole foods and less or no highly processed foods. It also encourages eating more plant foods and less meat.
Perhaps the main feature of the Nordic diet is that it encourages people to include a diverse range of locally available foods like mosses, seeds, vegetables and herbs (including those that grow wild) . That is why berries such as lingonberries are a central part of the Nordic diet, unlike citrus fruits and tropical fruits.
Although the most of both the Nordic diet and the Mediterranean diet consist of plants, the type of plants is very different. For example, people on the Nordic diet will be encouraged to eat foods like seaweed and kelp (which are high in nutrients like iodine, omega-3 fatty acids, and even vitamin D), as well as other vegetables and fruits available locally.
For the Mediterranean diet, people would include leafy vegetables such as spinach, as well as onions, zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers, all of which are local to the region.
What does the evidence say?
The Nordic diet is still relatively new, being first published in 2010. That means it’s probably too early to tell whether it reduces the risk of chronic disease.
The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, has been studied by researchers since 50s and 60s – which means we have a much better understanding of its links to a lower risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
But some studies that have looked retrospectively at people’s eating habits have found that people who followed diets similar to what is now called the Nordic diet tended to be healthier. These studies found that northern dietary habits were associated with a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes in people from Nordic countries. However, the relationship between a lower risk of disease and Nordic diets is less strong in people of northern origin. other countries. The reason for this is currently unclear.
The difficulty with these population studies is that they looked at a diet that technically didn’t exist – because it wasn’t defined until after they participated in these studies. This means that the participants may not have deliberately followed the Nordic diet, making it difficult to really know if the health benefits they say were due to the Nordic diet itself.
However, a recent (but small) review of studies on the Nordic diet found that it may reduce certain disease risk factors, including body weight and LDL cholesterol (often called the “bad” cholesterol). But no significant improvement was seen in blood pressure or total cholesterol.
At this time, it’s probably too soon to tell if following the Nordic diet has any long-term health benefits — and if it’s more beneficial to our health than the Mediterranean diet. But based on the research, it looks like the Nordic diet holds promise for your health.
Research also shows that some of the main staples of the Nordic diet (including whole grains and oily fish) are single-handedly linked to better health, including a reduced risk of heart disease. This suggests that combining these foods while following the Nordic diet could result in similar health benefits.
The Nordic diet is not just about health. It was also developed to help the planet by using local and sustainable foods for healthier eating.
Currently, some of the main barriers preventing people from adopting the Nordic diet are taste preferences and Cost. But if these barriers are overcome, the Nordic diet could very well be a plus. more sustainable way to eat for those in the Nordic countries, as well as a locally sourced diet for others.
Although it may be too early to say whether the Nordic diet is healthier than other well-known diets, such as the mediterranean diet – it might inspire us to look at how we can adapt diets to focus more on eating locally available and grown whole foods.
However, eating more foods common to Mediterranean and Nordic diets – such as vegetables, seeds, legumes, whole grains and fish – while consuming less red and processed meat, is likely to be the basis for a healthy diet. This, in addition to eating a variety of foods and trying to be above all herbal is more important for health than following a special named plan.