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But if you’ve heard of the Nordic diet (also known as the Scandinavian diet), you might be curious what it’s all about and if it’s just another fad diet.
The Nordic diet, which is based on principles that have been around for centuries, promotes a healthy way of eating by focusing on locally sourced fruits, vegetables and wild seafood.
Registered dietitian Courtney Barth, RD, explains what the Nordic diet is, what foods are included and if it might be right for you.
Very similar to the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet focuses on whole foods that are typically found in Nordic regions like Norway, Denmark and Iceland. You’ll eat mostly plant-based, seasonal foods that are high in protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Think fruits (especially berries), vegetables and seafood.
One difference, though, is the type of oil each diet uses. The Mediterranean diet focuses on using extra-virgin olive oil, while the Nordic diet touts canola oil. Canola oil has less saturated fat than extra-virgin olive oil and can be used in cooking and baking at a higher temperature than olive oil. It should be noted that most canola oil available in the U.S. is processed and lacks antioxidants compared to olive oil.
“Generally, both are good unsaturated, healthy anti-inflammatory oils,” says Barth.
The Nordic diet encourages people to consume less sugar and twice the amount of fiber and seafood than traditional Western diets.
By focusing on eating whole foods like fruits and vegetables, the Nordic diet can affect your health in a positive way. Here are some potential benefits:
“For people who have arthritis or joint pain incorporating more whole foods can be the way to reduce inflammation further,” says Barth.
The Nordic diet encourages you to eat a lot of whole foods, particularly sourced locally and in season, including:
You should also eat the following in moderation:
“Game meat is a good source of lean protein and is lower in saturated fat compared to red meats, which should be consumed once or twice a week,” says Barth.
Like many diets, the Nordic diet has a handful of foods to avoid or only enjoy rarely.
“Anything that’s really high in saturated fat and high in sugar is inflammatory to the body,” says Barth. “It causes the body to be stressed out.”
With a focus on eating locally sourced foods, following the Nordic diet can be a good way to try out local farmers markets in your area.
“Many of them will have a variety of booths with farmers who harvest fruits and vegetables that are in season,” says Barth. “You can also ask your local grocery store if they carry local produce and products.”
For some, following the Nordic diet could be challenging due to availability of local produce. It does take planning, so the time and commitment could be a challenge for some. Since produce like lingonberries and cloudberries aren’t available in the U.S., you may need to modify what you eat based on what’s available in your area.
But whether you focus on the local aspect of sourcing foods, the Nordic diet is a good roadmap for getting yourself into a realistic eating pattern. It can even be modified for vegans and vegetarians by adding more plant-based foods into your diet.
“The approach to the Nordic diet is more of a guideline that can be really sustainable for someone,” says Barth. “It’s just the basics and not overthinking or complicating what you eat.”