The Well being Advantages of the Nordic Food regimen

What’s the Nordic food plan, and the way can it promote optimum well being? Be taught extra concerning the well being advantages of the standard Nordic food plan sample on this information written by Nordic food plan skilled 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 wonderful alternative to spend time throughout Scandinavia studying concerning the meals tradition over the previous 25 years. I’ve had easy outside picnics that includes native meals like potato salad, strawberry muffins, 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 complete meals, whereas at present’s grocery shops look remarkably much like American markets, full of processed and comfort meals. And Western-style quick meals eating places abound. The Nordic nations are working laborious to protect the standard food plan sample for a number of causes, together with well being and sustainability. Certainly, extra analysis and recognition has credited the standard Nordic food plan—the easy healthful consuming fashion primarily based totally on complete grains, seasonal produce, and seafood—with well being advantages. You’ll be able to be taught extra concerning the Nordic food plan in my At the moment’s Dietitian Webinar on this matter.

Reykjavik, Iceland

What is the Nordic Food regimen?

Darkish, hearty rye breads, preserved seafoods, summer time berries, and root greens. These are a few of the key meals of the standard Nordic Food regimen, which is a time period used to explain the same but distinctive foodways adopted by Nordic nations. These nations embody 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, similar to dried fish and rye crispbread, can have widespread histories throughout Scandinavia, however every nation, and even areas inside that nation, can have a unique title 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 regimen relies on three components: local weather, way of life, and isolation. The local weather, with these countless icy winters, but bursts of sunshine within the lengthy heat days of summer time, meant that meals needed to be secured in the course of the hotter months that would final over the winter. As well as, crops needed to be cultivated which suited these climate patterns, similar to oats, rye, beets, carrots, cabbage, and potatoes, changing into vital facets of the food plan. Meals, similar to herbs, berries and mushrooms have been foraged in the course of the heaters months, as properly. Life-style additionally factored into meals traditions, together with a deep-held communion with nature and the items 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 way of their rugged tenacity. Over time, these three components advanced right into a cultural food plan sample that has been handed down by way 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 extensively out there in waterways, and legend has it that you must miss 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 regimen. Within the mountains, milk is preserved as cheese and butter for the winter. Different examples of meals preservation embody fish traditions, similar to dried cod, pickled herring, Norwegian lutefisk, and Icelandic fermented shark. Greens, similar to 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, comprised of freshly harvested grains. Root cellars helped maintain greens, like cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and rutabagas, edible for months. Pulses, like beans and peas, may very well be dried and consumed in the course of the yr in dishes, such because the weekly Pea Soup that may be a basic customized in Sweden. The tip end result was a food plan sample wealthy in foraged, seasonal, native meals, similar to seafood, complete 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 regimen

What fed into the idea of the well being advantages of the food plan patterns in Scandinavia? You’ll be able to hint this information again to the rising recognition of the Mediterranean food plan, as this food plan sample highlighted the well being advantages of particular conventional food plan patterns. Within the Nineteen Fifties the Seven International locations Research, 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 very best saturated fats consumption of all of the European nations studied, in addition to the very best danger of coronary coronary heart illness. In 1972, in response to the Seven International locations Food regimen, the North Karelia Intervention undertaking instructed the folks of Finland to scale back saturated fats of their food plan by encouraging low-fat dairy and the consumption of complete grains, fruits, and greens, whereas decreasing the consumption of butter, animal fats, meats, and egg yolks. These interventions lowered 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 parts of the standard Nordic food plan have been much like the applauded Mediterranean food plan, similar to complete grains, seafoods, and seasonal vegetables and fruit. And there have been alternatives to honor a extra healthful Nordic food plan sample steeped in a sustainable, extra conventional manner of consuming (now known as the New Nordic Food regimen or the Wholesome Nordic Food regimen). As an alternative of encouraging Scandinavians to devour the Mediterranean food plan, which relies on meals not out there domestically, why not revitalize the healthiest elements of the Nordic conventional food plan?

Complete grain crispbread is a part of the wholesome, conventional Nordic food plan

A Nearer Have a look at the Conventional Nordic Food regimen

The next meals are a part of the standard Nordic food plan sample, with an emphasis on domestically 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: Rooster and turkey
  • Dairy Merchandise: Low-fat or fermented milk and cheese
  • Fish: Herring, mackerel, and salmon
  • Grains/Cereals: Complete grain rye, complete 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 regimen to the Nordic Food regimen

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

Key Meals Mediterranean Food regimen Nordic Food regimen
Oils Olive Rapeseed
Greens Legumes Native greens (roots, cabbage, legumes)
Fruits Bananas, apples, and oranges Wild berries and native fruits (apples, pears, and many others.)
Grains Complete grain wheat Complete 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 advice, will be consumed carefully
Dairy merchandise Cheese Low-fat milk merchandise and cheese
Farm in Iceland

Evaluating the Wholesome Nordic Food regimen

So, simply how wholesome is the Nordic food plan? In 2011, the Wholesome Nordic Meals Index (HNFI) was printed 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 regimen sample, described above, varies from the typical food 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 food plan. This highlights that many individuals within the Nordic nations have strayed away from the healthful Nordic food plan sample in the direction of a extra Western fashion of consuming, which is excessive in purple meats, processed meals, refined grains, and sugar, and low in complete 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 food plan sample embody decrease danger for colorectal most cancers, which is primarily related to a better consumption of fruit and grains, reasonable alcohol consumption, and a decrease consumption of processed meat. Nonetheless, extra analysis is required to ascertain extra conclusive outcomes as advantages weren’t constant for all examine members. 

Clasic Swedish Pea Soup

Proteins within the Wholesome Nordic Food regimen

One of many important variations within the wholesome Nordic food plan sample pertains to protein selections. Listed here are the first protein selections on this food 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 regimen

One other key characteristic is that this healthful food plan sample is richer in produce, similar to 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)
Complete grain rye bread from Sweden

Complete Grains within the Wholesome Nordic Food regimen

Complete grains are additionally extra prevalent within the extra healthful food plan sample, similar to the next:

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

Environmental Advantages of the Nordic Food regimen

Our meals selections and sources additionally drastically impression the atmosphere. The New Nordic Food regimen (or the wholesome Nordic food plan sample) has helpful results on soil construction, carbon storage, eutrophication, biodiversity, ecosystems, and people, in keeping with analysis.

The three dietary facets of environmental safety that may be noticed within the wholesome Nordic food plan sample embody:

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

Classes from the Nordic Food regimen for Different Areas

So, it’s possible you’ll surprise if the Nordic food plan has advantages for you in your individual group? Similar to the Mediterranean food plan, you may apply a couple of key classes from the wholesome Nordic food plan which will swimsuit your individual meals traditions, tradition, and rising local weather and area.

  • Embrace extra seasonal, native, foraged, home-grown, natural greens, together with root and cruciferous greens.
  • Add extra fruits, together with berries (peaches, pears, apples, prunes).
  • Embrace reasonable quantity of low-fat, fermented dairy meals (should you eat dairy; oat milk is domestically produced in Scandinavia should you keep away from dairy merchandise).
  • Keep away from processed meats and cut back purple meat consumption; should you eat meat, prioritize grass-fed, wild meat.
  • Embrace unsaturated fat from nuts and vegetable oils.
  • Concentrate on complete grains, together with completely different varieties (similar to oats, rye, barley).
  • Train each day.
  • Get pleasure from meals with family and friends.
Vegan Jansson’s Temptation (Swedish Potato Casserole)

My Recommendations on How you can Apply Nordic Meals Traditions at Residence
Listed here are a couple of cooking tips about the best way to apply wholesome Nordic traditions in your individual kitchen.

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

Attempt a few of these conventional Nordic dishes at house. Listed here 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 food plan on this At the 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 regimen. Ernaehrungs Umschau Worldwide. 2013.
  3. Adamsson, V. What’s a Wholesome Nordic Food regimen? Meals and Vitamins within the NORDIET Research. U.S. Nationwide Library of Drugs. 2012.
  4. Anja Olsen, Rikke Egeberg, Jytte Halkjær, Jane Christensen, Kim Overvad, Anne Tjønneland, Wholesome Facets of the Nordic Food regimen Are Associated to Decrease Complete Mortality, The Journal of Diet, Quantity 141, Situation 4, April 2011, Pages 639–644,
  5. Jense, J. & Poulsen, S. The New Nordic Food regimen-Client Expenditures and Financial Incentives Estimated from a Managed Intervention. U.S. Nationwide Library of Drugs. 2013.
  6. Saxe, H. The New Nordic Food regimen is an Efficient Device in Environmental Safety: It Reduces the Related Socioeconomic Value of Diets. The American Journal of Scientific Diet. 2014.


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