The Well being Advantages of the Nordic Food plan

What’s the Nordic eating regimen, and the way can it promote optimum well being? Be taught extra about Nordic eating regimen well being advantages and Nordic eating regimen recipes on this information written by 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 in regards to 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 traditional 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 at present’s grocery shops look remarkably just like American markets, crammed with processed and comfort meals. And Western-style quick meals eating places abound. The Nordic international locations are working exhausting to protect the normal eating regimen sample for a number of causes, together with well being and sustainability. Certainly, extra analysis and recognition has credited the normal Nordic eating regimen—the straightforward healthful consuming type primarily based totally on entire grains, seasonal produce, and seafood—with well being advantages. You may be taught extra in regards to the Nordic eating regimen in my Right now’s Dietitian Webinar on this matter.

Reykjavik, Iceland

What is the Nordic Food plan?

Darkish, hearty rye breads, preserved seafoods, summer season berries, and root greens. These are a few of the key meals of the normal Nordic Food plan, which is a time period used to explain the same but distinctive foodways adopted by Nordic international locations. These international locations embody Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and Greenland. Nordic international locations 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 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 fulfill the individuals’s dietary wants. Thus, the muse 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 season, meant that meals needed to be secured through the hotter months that might 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 essential facets of the eating regimen. Meals, similar to herbs, berries and mushrooms have been foraged through the heaters months, as nicely. Way of life 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 turned very remoted, having to make sure survival by means of their rugged tenacity. Over time, these three components developed right into a cultural eating regimen sample that has been handed down by means of generations. Simply take a look at these meals traditions which have lengthy been celebrated in Nordic international locations: pickled herring is consumed at many holidays, crayfish events pop up within the summertime when this shellfish is broadly accessible 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 superb 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 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 afterward. Breads have been baked into long-lasting crispbreads, constituted 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 through the 12 months in dishes, such because the weekly Pea Soup that may be a traditional customized in Sweden. The tip outcome was a eating regimen sample wealthy in foraged, seasonal, native meals, similar to 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 eating regimen patterns in Scandinavia? You may hint this data again to the rising recognition of the Mediterranean eating regimen, as this eating regimen sample highlighted the well being advantages of particular conventional eating regimen patterns. Within the Nineteen Fifties the Seven Nations Research, carried out by Ancel Keys, discovered that Greece had the bottom saturated fats consumption and coronary coronary heart illness threat, whereas the Nordic nation of Finland had the very best saturated fats consumption of all of the European international locations studied, in addition to the very best threat of coronary coronary heart illness. In 1972, in response to the Seven Nations Food plan, the North Karelia Intervention venture instructed the individuals of Finland to cut back saturated fats of their eating regimen by encouraging low-fat dairy and the consumption of entire grains, fruits, and greens, whereas lowering the consumption of butter, animal fats, meats, and egg yolks. These interventions lowered CHD incidents by 82% in males and 84% in ladies. Exceptional certainly!

Native produce in Copenhagen, Denmark

It was throughout this time that scientists began noticing that many elements of the normal Nordic eating regimen have been just like the applauded Mediterranean eating regimen, similar to entire grains, seafoods, and seasonal vegatables and fruits. And there have been alternatives to honor a extra healthful Nordic eating regimen sample steeped in a sustainable, extra conventional approach of consuming (now known as the New Nordic Food plan or the Wholesome Nordic Food plan). As a substitute of encouraging Scandinavians to devour the Mediterranean eating regimen, which relies on meals not accessible domestically, why not revitalize the healthiest elements of the Nordic conventional eating regimen?

Complete grain crispbread is a part of the wholesome, conventional Nordic eating regimen

A Nearer Take a look at the Conventional Nordic Food plan Plan

The next meals are a part of the normal Nordic eating regimen 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: Hen and turkey
  • Dairy Merchandise: Low-fat or fermented milk and cheese
  • Fish: Herring, mackerel, and salmon
  • Grains/Cereals: Complete 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 eating regimen sample has commonalities with the Mediterranean eating regimen, but it’s culturally and geographically higher suited to the Nordic international locations.

Key MealsMediterranean Food plan Nordic Food plan
GreensNative greens (legumes, leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant)Native greens (roots, cabbage, legumes.)
FruitsNative fruit (bananas, apples, oranges, pomegranate, figs)Wild berries and native fruits (apples, pears, and many others.)
GrainsComplete grain wheatComplete grain rye, oats, and barley
NutsPistachios, almonds, walnutsWalnuts, hazelnuts
FishSalmon, tuna, and halibutSea and lake fish
MeatPoultry carefullyRecreation, low fats meat, and poultry carefully
AlcoholWine carefullyNo advice, could be consumed carefully
Dairy merchandiseCheeseLow-fat milk merchandise and cheese
Farm in Iceland

Evaluating the Wholesome Nordic Food plan

So, simply how wholesome is the Nordic eating regimen? 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 plan sample, described above, varies from the common eating regimen in these international locations, as a result of it meets the requirement for micronutrients and is larger in plant meals, fish, eggs, vegetable fat, and fiber, and decrease in meat, dairy, sweets, sodium, and alcohol, in comparison with the common eating regimen. This highlights that many individuals within the Nordic international locations have strayed away from the healthful Nordic eating regimen sample in direction of a extra Western type of consuming, which is excessive in purple 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 eating regimen sample embody decrease threat 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 research individuals. 

Clasic Swedish Pea Soup

Proteins within the Wholesome Nordic Food plan

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

  • Legumes (brown beans, yellow and inexperienced peas)
  • Fish, shellfish (herring, mackerel, salmon, white fish)
  • Free-range livestock (beef, pork, lamb)
  • Poultry (hen, turkey)
  • Recreation (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 characteristic is that this healthful eating regimen 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 plan

Complete grains are additionally extra prevalent within the extra healthful eating regimen sample, similar to the next:

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

Environmental Advantages of the Nordic Food plan

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

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

  • Food plan composition: Discount of meat, fish, and dairy consumption in comparison with the common eating regimen.
  • Native: Consuming native vs. imported commodities within the Nordic international locations 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 plan for Different Areas

So, chances are you’ll surprise if the Nordic eating regimen has advantages for you in your personal neighborhood? Identical to the Mediterranean eating regimen, you’ll be able to apply just a few key classes from the wholesome Nordic eating regimen that will swimsuit your personal 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 (when you eat dairy; oat milk is domestically produced in Scandinavia when you keep away from dairy merchandise).
  • Keep away from processed meats and scale back purple meat consumption; when you eat meat, prioritize grass-fed, wild meat.
  • Embrace unsaturated fat from nuts and vegetable oils.
  • Concentrate on entire grains, together with completely different varieties (similar to oats, rye, barley).
  • Train day by day.
  • Get pleasure from meals with family and friends.
Vegan Jansson’s Temptation (Swedish Potato Casserole)

My Tips about Find out how to Apply Nordic Meals Traditions at Residence
Listed here are just a few cooking tips about learn how to apply wholesome Nordic traditions in your personal kitchen.

  1. Incorporate entire 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.

Nordic Food plan Recipes

Strive conventional plant-based Nordic dishes at residence with my favourite Scandinavian recipes.

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

Be taught extra about my tackle the well being Nordic eating regimen on this Right now’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 Research. U.S. Nationwide Library of Drugs. 2012.
  4. Anja Olsen, Rikke Egeberg, Jytte Halkjær, Jane Christensen, Kim Overvad, Anne Tjønneland, Wholesome Points of the Nordic Food plan Are Associated to Decrease Whole Mortality, The Journal of Diet, Quantity 141, Concern 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 Drugs. 2013.
  6. Saxe, H. The New Nordic Food plan is an Efficient Device in Environmental Safety: It Reduces the Related Socioeconomic Price of Diets. The American Journal of Scientific Diet. 2014.

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