The Nordic Diet - Everything You Need To Know

You’ve likely heard about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and whilst it’s been labelled as one of the healthiest diets out there but there’s always something else on the side lines waiting to steal the thunder. This time it’s the Nordic Diet which everyone’s talking about. It’s not difficult to work out the Nordic diet is one which is consumed by those who live in Nordic countries. What is this diet and why is it trying to steal the light of the ever so great med diet? Well actually, the Nordic diet is not too dissimilar from the Mediterranean diet. It promotes a generous consumption of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole-grains, nuts, seeds, fish, low-fat dairy, rapeseed oil, herbs and spices, a moderate consumption of cheese, eggs, poultry and a limited consumption of red meat and animal fats. The Nordic diet also advises against consuming highly processed meats and fast food and sugar sweetened beverages. You’re likely thinking that this appears very similar to the well-known Mediterranean diet and you’re not wrong. Although the Nordic diet places a larger emphasis on consuming more plant rich foods and ensuring a larger percentage of your diet comes from plant based foods.  

So when it comes to the health benefits, what do you need to know?

-          Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. One large scale study conducted on over 57K Danish participants showed an inverse relationship between the Nordic diet and type 2 diabetes following a 15 year period. These findings were compared to that of an average Danish diet. Another study looked at the benefits of the Mediterranean diet over the Nordic diet on the risk of type 2 diabetes and found no significant differences (both were shown to have beneficial effects).

-          Reduced risk of stroke. Research shows a strong association between the Nordic diet and a reduction in risk of stroke. Remember though that whilst these effects are promising, diet alone is not protective against diseases as there are hundreds of other uncontrollable factors involved.

-          Weight management. The diet has been associated with a reduction in weight when compared to a Danish diet over a period of 6 months. Although other research suggests that over a period of 1 year the diet is not superior and those following the Nordic diet are likely to gain the weight back if the diet is not continued.

-          High diet quality. Due to the nature of the diet you’re less likely to be at risk of deficiency and research has shown the Nordic diet to be of a higher nutrient quality than the average Danish diet.

-          Environmental benefits. As the diet is based heavily around consuming more fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods the environmental impact of the diet is significantly reduced. This may be one of the key reasons why this style of eating has been gaining more traction recently. The diet has also been shown to be higher in fibre and lower in saturated fats.

So what can you take away from this?

Both the Nordic and the Mediterranean diets have been shown to have beneficial effects on heart health, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and overall improved weight management although the Nordic diet might be slightly more environmentally friendly. Ultimately as you probably know by now that there is no one size fits all so it’s important to eat in a way which makes you feel happy and great about yourself. Yep, this may be different to your sister, brother, neighbour or best friend but that’s what makes us all unique.

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Kanerva, N., Harald, K., Männistö, S., Kaartinen, N. E., Maukonen, M., Haukkala, A., & Jousilahti, P. (2018). Adherence to the healthy Nordic diet is associated with weight change during 7 years of follow-up. British Journal of Nutrition120(1), 101-110.

Gunge, V. B., Andersen, I., Kyrø, C., Hansen, C. P., Dahm, C. C., Christensen, J., ... & Olsen, A. (2017). Adherence to a healthy Nordic food index and risk of myocardial infarction in middle-aged Danes: the diet, cancer and health cohort study. European journal of clinical nutrition71(5), 652.

Poulsen, S. K., Crone, C., Astrup, A., & Larsen, T. M. (2015). Long-term adherence to the New Nordic Diet and the effects on body weight, anthropometry and blood pressure: a 12-month follow-up study. European journal of nutrition54(1), 67-76.

Poulsen, S. K., Due, A., Jordy, A. B., Kiens, B., Stark, K. D., Stender, S., ... & Larsen, T. M. (2013). Health effect of the New Nordic Diet in adults with increased waist circumference: a 6-mo randomized controlled trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 99(1),