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The Well being Advantages of the Nordic Food plan

What’s the Nordic weight-reduction plan, and the way can it promote optimum well being? Be taught extra concerning the well being advantages of the standard Nordic weight-reduction plan sample on this information written by Nordic weight-reduction plan professional Sharon Palmer.

On a farm in Iceland.

Scandinavia is a land blessed with pure magnificence—rugged fjords, 1000’s of lakes dotting the panorama, deep blue ocean vistas, and verdant pine forests carpeted in wild flowers in the summertime—in addition to wealthy tradition and treasured meals traditions. On condition that my husband’s household is Swedish, I’ve had the superb alternative to spend time throughout Scandinavia studying concerning the meals tradition over the previous 25 years. I’ve had easy out of doors picnics that includes native meals like potato salad, strawberry truffles, and almond cookies. I’ve picked mushrooms and berries within the forest. I’ve loved vacation tables at Christmas and Midsummer, with basic potato, beet, and cabbage dishes. Over time, I’ve seen the meals tradition evolve. My first visits to supermarkets all of these years in the past revealed nothing however cabinets stocked with easy provides of entire meals, whereas right this moment’s grocery shops look remarkably just like American markets, full of processed and comfort meals. And Western-style quick meals eating places abound. The Nordic nations are working exhausting to protect the standard weight-reduction plan sample for a number of causes, together with well being and sustainability. Certainly, extra analysis and recognition has credited the standard Nordic weight-reduction plan—the straightforward healthful consuming type primarily based totally on entire grains, seasonal produce, and seafood—with well being advantages. You may be taught extra concerning the Nordic weight-reduction plan in my Right this moment’s Dietitian Webinar on this matter.

Reykjavik, Iceland

What is the Nordic Food plan?

Darkish, hearty rye breads, preserved seafoods, summer time berries, and root greens. These are among the key meals of the standard Nordic Food plan, which is a time period used to explain the same but distinctive foodways adopted by Nordic nations. These nations embrace Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and Greenland. Nordic nations are united throughout borders by related meals traditions, geography, local weather, and a shared emphasis on native and seasonal meals. For instance, many dishes, reminiscent of dried fish and rye crispbread, can have frequent histories throughout Scandinavia, however every nation, and even areas inside that nation, can have a unique identify and recipe related to their particular tackle that recipe.

Dried fish in Iceland

The Historical past of Nordic Meals Tradition

Nordic meals tradition was birthed from a necessity for survival. The lengthy, darkish, frozen winters meant that it was troublesome to make sure securing sufficient meals to satisfy the folks’s dietary wants. Thus, the inspiration of the Nordic Food plan relies on three components: local weather, way of life, and isolation. The local weather, with these limitless icy winters, but bursts of sunshine within the lengthy heat days of summer time, meant that meals needed to be secured throughout the hotter months that might final over the winter. As well as, crops needed to be cultivated which suited these climate patterns, reminiscent of oats, rye, beets, carrots, cabbage, and potatoes, turning into necessary points of the weight-reduction plan. Meals, reminiscent of herbs, berries and mushrooms have been foraged throughout the heaters months, as properly. Way of life additionally factored into meals traditions, together with a deep-held communion with nature and the presents from the forest, in addition to a lot of small farms dotting the panorama. Because of these lengthy, darkish days (in some elements of Scandinavia the solar by no means rises throughout elements of the winter), households grew to become very remoted, having to make sure survival by means of their rugged tenacity. Over time, these three components advanced right into a cultural weight-reduction plan sample that has been handed down by means of generations. Simply have a look at these meals traditions which have lengthy been celebrated in Nordic nations: pickled herring is consumed at many holidays, crayfish events pop up within the summertime when this shellfish is broadly out there in waterways, and legend has it that it’s best to omit a bowl of porridge at Christmas for the barn elves in order that they behave themselves over the winter.

November farmers market with seasonal produce in Norway

Meals preservation is a good instance of one of many methods local weather and survival influenced the early Nordic Food plan. Within the mountains, milk is preserved as cheese and butter for the winter. Different examples of meals preservation embrace fish traditions, reminiscent of dried cod, pickled herring, Norwegian lutefisk, and Icelandic fermented shark. Greens, reminiscent of cabbage and beets, have been pickled. Berries have been cooked down into concentrates to rehydrate with water in a while. Breads have been baked into long-lasting crispbreads, created from freshly harvested grains. Root cellars helped hold greens, like cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and rutabagas, edible for months. Pulses, like beans and peas, may very well be dried and consumed throughout the yr in dishes, such because the weekly Pea Soup that may be a basic customized in Sweden. The top end result was a weight-reduction plan sample wealthy in foraged, seasonal, native meals, reminiscent of seafood, entire grains, pulses, root and cruciferous greens, and fruits like apples, pears and berries.

Native produce on show in Stockholm, Sweden

The Idea of a Wholesome Nordic Food plan

What fed into the idea of the well being advantages of the weight-reduction plan patterns in Scandinavia? You may hint this data again to the rising recognition of the Mediterranean weight-reduction plan, as this weight-reduction plan sample highlighted the well being advantages of particular conventional weight-reduction plan patterns. Within the Fifties the Seven Nations Examine, carried out by Ancel Keys, discovered that Greece had the bottom saturated fats consumption and coronary coronary heart illness danger, whereas the Nordic nation of Finland had the best saturated fats consumption of all of the European nations studied, in addition to the best danger of coronary coronary heart illness. In 1972, in response to the Seven Nations Food plan, the North Karelia Intervention mission instructed the folks of Finland to scale back saturated fats of their weight-reduction plan by encouraging low-fat dairy and the consumption of entire grains, fruits, and greens, whereas decreasing the consumption of butter, animal fats, meats, and egg yolks. These interventions diminished CHD incidents by 82% in males and 84% in girls. Outstanding certainly!

Native produce in Copenhagen, Denmark

It was throughout this time that scientists began noticing that many elements of the standard Nordic weight-reduction plan have been just like the applauded Mediterranean weight-reduction plan, reminiscent of entire grains, seafoods, and seasonal fruit and veggies. And there have been alternatives to honor a extra healthful Nordic weight-reduction plan sample steeped in a sustainable, extra conventional manner of consuming (now known as the New Nordic Food plan or the Wholesome Nordic Food plan). As a substitute of encouraging Scandinavians to eat the Mediterranean weight-reduction plan, which relies on meals not out there regionally, why not revitalize the healthiest elements of the Nordic conventional weight-reduction plan?

Entire grain crispbread is a part of the wholesome, conventional Nordic weight-reduction plan

A Nearer Have a look at the Conventional Nordic Food plan

The next meals are a part of the standard Nordic weight-reduction plan sample, with an emphasis on regionally produced, seasonal meals.

  • Fruits and Berries: Rose hip, blueberries, lingonberries, apples, pears, and prunes
  • Greens: Cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, fennel, spinach, sugar peas, kale, mushrooms
  • Root Greens: Onion, kohlrabi, turnips, parsnips, beetroot, and viper’s grass
  • Nuts: Almonds
  • Legumes: Brown beans, yellow peas, and inexperienced peas
  • Meat: Pasture-raised beef, lamb, and reindeer
  • Poultry: Hen and turkey
  • Dairy Merchandise: Low-fat or fermented milk and cheese
  • Fish: Herring, mackerel, and salmon
  • Grains/Cereals: Entire grain rye, entire grain wheat, oat bran, barley flakes, muesli, and pearled barley
  • Seeds: Linseed, psyllium, and sunflower seeds
  • Fat and Oils: Vegetable fats spreads, vegetable liquid margarine, sunflower oil, linseed (flaxseed) oil, and rapeseed (canola) oil
  • Sweets: Jam and baked items
Swedish pears on the market

Evaluating the Mediterranean Food plan to the Nordic Food plan

As I discussed, the wholesome, conventional Nordic weight-reduction plan sample has commonalities with the Mediterranean weight-reduction plan, but it’s culturally and geographically higher suited to the Nordic nations.

Key Meals Mediterranean Food plan Nordic Food plan
Oils Olive Rapeseed
Greens Legumes Native greens (roots, cabbage, legumes)
Fruits Bananas, apples, and oranges Wild berries and native fruits (apples, pears, and so forth.)
Grains Entire grain wheat Entire grain rye, oats, and barley
Nuts Present in each diets  
Fish Salmon, tuna, and halibut Sea and lake fish
Meat Poultry carefully Sport, low fats meat, and poultry carefully
Alcohol Wine carefully No suggestion, may be consumed carefully
Dairy merchandise Cheese Low-fat milk merchandise and cheese
Farm in Iceland

Evaluating the Wholesome Nordic Food plan

So, simply how wholesome is the Nordic weight-reduction plan? In 2011, the Wholesome Nordic Meals Index (HNFI) was revealed by Olsen, et al. The HNFI was created to guage the impact that Nordic meals teams have on well being and mortality. This analysis confirmed that the wholesome Nordic Food plan sample, described above, varies from the typical weight-reduction plan in these nations, as a result of it meets the requirement for micronutrients and is greater in plant meals, fish, eggs, vegetable fat, and fiber, and decrease in meat, dairy, sweets, sodium, and alcohol, in comparison with the typical weight-reduction plan. This highlights that many individuals within the Nordic nations have strayed away from the healthful Nordic weight-reduction plan sample in the direction of a extra Western type of consuming, which is excessive in pink meats, processed meals, refined grains, and sugar, and low in entire grains, pulses, fruits, greens, and fish. It additionally uncovered how highly effective a return to healthful traditions may very well be.

Science-based advantages from the wholesome Nordic weight-reduction plan sample embrace decrease danger for colorectal most cancers, which is primarily related to the next consumption of fruit and grains, average alcohol consumption, and a decrease consumption of processed meat. Nevertheless, further analysis is required to determine extra conclusive outcomes as advantages weren’t constant for all research individuals. 

Clasic Swedish Pea Soup

Proteins within the Wholesome Nordic Food plan

One of many most important variations within the wholesome Nordic weight-reduction plan sample pertains to protein selections. Listed below are the first protein selections on this weight-reduction plan sample.

  • Legumes (brown beans, yellow and inexperienced peas)
  • Fish, shellfish (herring, mackerel, salmon, white fish)
  • Free-range livestock (beef, pork, lamb)
  • Poultry (rooster, turkey)
  • Sport (reindeer, deer)
  • Dairy Merchandise (Low-fat milk, fermented milk, cheese)
  • Eggs (utilized in cooking)
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts)
Seasonal produce on the market in Helsinki, Finland

Fruits and Greens within the Wholesome Nordic Food plan

One other key function is that this healthful weight-reduction plan sample is richer in produce, reminiscent of the next:

  • Herbs (parsley, dill, mustard, horseradish, chive)
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Seaweed
  • Fruits (rose hip, apple, pear, prune)
  • Berries (blueberry, lingonberry, strawberries)
  • Greens (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, peas, viper’s grass, kale)
  • Root Greens (fennel, kohlrabi, onion, leek, turnip, carrot, parsnip, rutabaga, beetroot)
Entire grain rye bread from Sweden

Entire Grains within the Wholesome Nordic Food plan

Entire grains are additionally extra prevalent within the extra healthful weight-reduction plan sample, reminiscent of the next:

  • Oats (cereals, muesli, porridge)
  • Bread (entire grain rye and wheat)
  • Pearled Barley
  • Entire grain pasta
Shoreline of Iceland

Environmental Advantages of the Nordic Food plan

Our meals selections and sources additionally tremendously influence the surroundings. The New Nordic Food plan (or the wholesome Nordic weight-reduction plan sample) has useful results on soil construction, carbon storage, eutrophication, biodiversity, ecosystems, and people, in response to analysis.

The three dietary points of environmental safety that may be noticed within the wholesome Nordic weight-reduction plan sample embrace:

  • Food plan composition: Discount of meat, fish, and dairy consumption in comparison with the typical weight-reduction plan.
  • Native: Consuming native vs. imported commodities within the Nordic nations has higher advantages.
  • Natural vs. typical produce: Natural agriculture has environmental advantages, however it may be inhibited by socio-economic components.

Classes from the Nordic Food plan for Different Areas

So, you might marvel if the Nordic weight-reduction plan has advantages for you in your individual neighborhood? Identical to the Mediterranean weight-reduction plan, you may apply a number of key classes from the wholesome Nordic weight-reduction plan that will swimsuit your individual meals traditions, tradition, and rising local weather and area.

  • Embody extra seasonal, native, foraged, home-grown, natural greens, together with root and cruciferous greens.
  • Add extra fruits, together with berries (peaches, pears, apples, prunes).
  • Embody average quantity of low-fat, fermented dairy meals (if you happen to eat dairy; oat milk is regionally produced in Scandinavia if you happen to keep away from dairy merchandise).
  • Keep away from processed meats and scale back pink meat consumption; if you happen to eat meat, prioritize grass-fed, wild meat.
  • Embody unsaturated fat from nuts and vegetable oils.
  • Give attention to entire grains, together with completely different varieties (reminiscent of oats, rye, barley).
  • Train every day.
  • Take pleasure in meals with family and friends.
Vegan Jansson’s Temptation (Swedish Potato Casserole)

My Tips about Easy methods to Apply Nordic Meals Traditions at Residence
Listed below are a number of cooking recommendations on how one can apply wholesome Nordic traditions in your individual kitchen.

  1. Incorporate entire grains into fruit-based desserts.
  2. Use root greens in salads.
  3. Use extra beets, apples, and berries.
  4. High crisp breads with dips and greens.
  5. Use barley in soups.

Strive a few of these conventional Nordic dishes at dwelling. Listed below are a few of my favourite plant-based Scandinavian recipes.

Picture: Open Face Beet Fennel Sandwich, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

Be taught extra about my tackle the well being Nordic weight-reduction plan on this Right this moment’s Dietitian Webinar and Podcast with Vitalita Well being

Written by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN with Cara Joseph, Dietetic Intern

Images by Sharon Palmer


  1. Amilien, V. Nordic Meals Tradition-A Historic Perspective. Open Version Journals. 2012.
  2. Kolehmainen, M. The Nordic Food plan. Ernaehrungs Umschau Worldwide. 2013.
  3. Adamsson, V. What’s a Wholesome Nordic Food plan? Meals and Vitamins within the NORDIET Examine. U.S. Nationwide Library of Medication. 2012.
  4. Anja Olsen, Rikke Egeberg, Jytte Halkjær, Jane Christensen, Kim Overvad, Anne Tjønneland, Wholesome Facets of the Nordic Food plan Are Associated to Decrease Complete Mortality, The Journal of Vitamin, Quantity 141, Subject 4, April 2011, Pages 639–644,
  5. Jense, J. & Poulsen, S. The New Nordic Food plan-Shopper Expenditures and Financial Incentives Estimated from a Managed Intervention. U.S. Nationwide Library of Medication. 2013.
  6. Saxe, H. The New Nordic Food plan is an Efficient Instrument in Environmental Safety: It Reduces the Related Socioeconomic Price of Diets. The American Journal of Scientific Vitamin. 2014.

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