What is the New Nordic Diet?

Research suggests that the New Nordic diet may have heart-healthy benefits – reducing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure and fostering weight loss. 

Each year, Christmas at my in-laws begins with risengrød (a Danish rice porridge made with rice, milk, and vanilla topped with cinnamon and a pat of butter) for breakfast followed by a small Scandinavian gift (think Swedish Dala Horse, Icelandic wool socks, or a Nordic diet cookbook) for everyone at the table.

nordic diet

This small tradition celebrates family heritage from Scandinavia – a region in Northern Europe inclusive of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The “Nordic” region, as some refer to it as, actually encompasses a broader region which includes the Scandinavian countries plus Finland and Iceland. The cuisines in each of these nations vary slightly, but they do all have a few things in common when it comes to dietary habits.

the nordic diet

While your familiarity of the Nordic diet may only go as far as the Swedish meatballs with lingonberry preserves served at Ikea, hearty Swedish Wasa crackers, or trendy Icelandic Skyr yogurt, the New Nordic Diet has emerged on the health scene and is becoming more and more popular as researchers discover its heart-healthy benefits. The New Nordic diet was actually developed in 2004 by a cohort of Danish nutritionists, scientists and chefs in effort to decrease growing obesity rates, address unsustainable farming practices and reduce food waste in Nordic countries. While more research is needed, studies suggest that the New Nordic diet may foster weight loss, decrease blood pressure and lower cholesterol.

nordic diet food pyramid

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What is the Nordic Diet?

The best way to describe the New Nordic diet (commonly shortened to the “Nordic diet”) is a northern twist (due to cooler weather) on the Mediterranean diet. Similar to the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet emphasizes (but is not limited to) plant foods, leaning heavily on local, seasonal produce. The cuisines of each Nordic country vary slightly, but the overall diets share the following characteristics:

 

  • Focus on quality whole grains (rye, wheat, barley, oats)
  • Rich in fruits and vegetables (berries, root and cruciferous vegetables)
  • High in fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, herring)
  • Inclusive of low-fat dairy and eggs
  • Plentiful in nuts, seeds and legumes
  • Limited in processed food and sugar
  • Rich in canola (rapeseed) oil
  • Inclusive of high-quality, lean meat (beef, pork, lamb and game meats)

 

The main difference between the Nordic and Mediterranean diet is the type of oil used. The Mediterranean diet uses primarily olive oil, while the Nordic diet uses canola (rapeseed) oil. Similar to olive oil, canola oil is high in monounsaturated fat. It also contains 10% alpha-linoleic acid – a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid like the kind found in flaxseed. Another difference is the type of herbs and spices. As seen in the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet relies on parsley and dill for fresh flavors; however, horseradish, mustard, chive, fennel, juniper berries, cardamom and thyme are also common.

 

nordic diet

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Similar to the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet focuses on the body and soul. In addition to healthy food, it’s also a way of life – taking time to slow down and live in the present.

For example, Swedes commonly practice fika – a Swedish word meaning to meet up for a cup of coffee or tea often paired with a pastry or sandwich – twice a day with family, friends or colleagues in order to take a break from the daily grind. Anyone remember this U.S. fika commercial?

And those in Norway and Denmark embrace hygee – a concept of cultural identify referring to a feeling of contentment, well-being and coziness. The term is commonly associated with gratitude, relaxation and indulgence. Hygge requires conscious appreciation for the present and living in the moment. It is commonly associated with warm fires, candles, slippers, pastries, warm beverages and comfy clothes you would never leave the house in. With more books about hygge published this year in the United States than ever before, this concept of Scandinavian coziness has international reach.

 

So eat like a Viking and spend more time enjoying the simple things in life! You can start by following along with my Prevention Plate program for heart-healthy meal plans and recipes. And check out my favorite Nordic diet cookbooks for more inspiration from the north!

 

Need even more? When it comes to Nordic diet recipes, these bloggers are killing it.

Nordic Diet Bloggers

 

Nordic Diet
Nordic Diet

Comments

  1. I have studied the various diets for y ears now, and while I don’t consider myself an expert, I disagree from what you said about the differences in oils used by the Med diet and the Scandinavian diet. Everything I have read says do not use Canola oil because in the process of producing Canola oil it is treated to very high temperatures and other things are added to it. I use olive oil, macadamia nut oil, avocado oil and a little coconut oil.

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