What’s the Nordic food regimen, and the way can it promote optimum well being? Study extra about Nordic food regimen well being advantages and Nordic food regimen recipes on this information written by knowledgeable Sharon Palmer.

On a farm in Iceland.

Scandinavia is a land blessed with pure magnificence—rugged fjords, hundreds 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. Provided 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 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 entire meals, whereas immediately’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 arduous to protect the normal food regimen sample for a number of causes, together with well being and sustainability. Certainly, extra analysis and recognition has credited the normal Nordic food regimen—the easy healthful consuming model based mostly totally on entire grains, seasonal produce, and seafood—with well being advantages. You possibly can be taught extra concerning the Nordic food regimen in my Right now’s Dietitian Webinar on this subject.

Reykjavik, Iceland

What is the Nordic Weight loss program?

Darkish, hearty rye breads, preserved seafoods, summer season berries, and root greens. These are a few of the key meals of the normal Nordic Weight loss program, 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, akin to 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 tough to make sure securing sufficient meals to fulfill the folks’s dietary wants. Thus, the muse of the Nordic Weight loss program 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, akin to oats, rye, beets, carrots, cabbage, and potatoes, changing into essential features of the food regimen. Meals, akin to herbs, berries and mushrooms had been foraged through 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 their rugged tenacity. Over time, these three components advanced right into a cultural food regimen sample that has been handed down by 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 you need to pass over 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 Weight loss program. Within the mountains, milk is preserved as cheese and butter for the winter. Different examples of meals preservation embody fish traditions, akin to dried cod, pickled herring, Norwegian lutefisk, and Icelandic fermented shark. Greens, akin to cabbage and beets, had been pickled. Berries had been cooked down into concentrates to rehydrate with water afterward. Breads had been baked into long-lasting crispbreads, produced from freshly harvested grains. Root cellars helped maintain greens, like cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and rutabagas, edible for months. Pulses, like beans and peas, might be dried and consumed through the 12 months in dishes, such because the weekly Pea Soup that could be a basic customized in Sweden. The tip outcome was a food regimen sample wealthy in foraged, seasonal, native meals, akin 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 Weight loss program

What fed into the idea of the well being advantages of the food regimen patterns in Scandinavia? You possibly can hint this information again to the rising recognition of the Mediterranean food regimen, as this food regimen sample highlighted the well being advantages of particular conventional food regimen 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 threat, 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 threat of coronary coronary heart illness. In 1972, in response to the Seven Nations Weight loss program, the North Karelia Intervention undertaking instructed the folks of Finland to scale back saturated fats of their food regimen 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 parts of the normal Nordic food regimen had been just like the applauded Mediterranean food regimen, akin to entire grains, seafoods, and seasonal fruit and veggies. And there have been alternatives to honor a extra healthful Nordic food regimen sample steeped in a sustainable, extra conventional means of consuming (now known as the New Nordic Weight loss program or the Wholesome Nordic Weight loss program). As an alternative of encouraging Scandinavians to eat the Mediterranean food regimen, which relies on meals not out there domestically, why not revitalize the healthiest elements of the Nordic conventional food regimen?

Entire grain crispbread is a part of the wholesome, conventional Nordic food regimen

A Nearer Take a look at the Conventional Nordic Weight loss program Plan

The next meals are a part of the normal Nordic food 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: 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 Weight loss program to the Nordic Weight loss program

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

Key Meals Mediterranean Weight loss program Nordic Weight loss program
Oils Olive Rapeseed
Greens Native greens (legumes, leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant) Native greens (roots, cabbage, legumes.)
Fruits Native fruit (bananas, apples, oranges, pomegranate, figs) Wild berries and native fruits (apples, pears, and so forth.)
Grains Entire grain wheat Entire grain rye, oats, and barley
Nuts Pistachios, almonds, walnuts Walnuts, hazelnuts
Fish Salmon, tuna, and halibut Sea and lake fish
Meat Poultry carefully Recreation, low fats meat, and poultry carefully
Alcohol Wine carefully No advice, may be consumed carefully
Dairy merchandise Cheese Low-fat milk merchandise and cheese
Farm in Iceland

Evaluating the Wholesome Nordic Weight loss program

So, simply how wholesome is the Nordic food regimen? In 2011, the Wholesome Nordic Meals Index (HNFI) was printed by Olsen, et al. The HNFI was created to judge the impact that Nordic meals teams have on well being and mortality. This analysis confirmed that the wholesome Nordic Weight loss program sample, described above, varies from the common food regimen in these nations, as a result of it meets the requirement for micronutrients and is increased in plant meals, fish, eggs, vegetable fat, and fiber, and decrease in meat, dairy, sweets, sodium, and alcohol, in comparison with the common food regimen. This highlights that many individuals within the Nordic nations have strayed away from the healthful Nordic food regimen sample in the direction of a extra Western model 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 might be.

Science-based advantages from the wholesome Nordic food regimen sample embody decrease threat for colorectal most cancers, which is primarily related to a better consumption of fruit and grains, average alcohol consumption, and a decrease consumption of processed meat. Nevertheless, extra analysis is required to determine extra conclusive outcomes as advantages weren’t constant for all examine contributors. 

Clasic Swedish Pea Soup

Proteins within the Wholesome Nordic Weight loss program

One of many fundamental variations within the wholesome Nordic food regimen sample pertains to protein selections. Listed below are the first protein selections on this food 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 Weight loss program

One other key function is that this healthful food regimen sample is richer in produce, akin 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)
Entire grain rye bread from Sweden

Entire Grains within the Wholesome Nordic Weight loss program

Entire grains are additionally extra prevalent within the extra healthful food regimen sample, akin to 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 Weight loss program

Our meals selections and sources additionally significantly impression the setting. The New Nordic Weight loss program (or the wholesome Nordic food regimen sample) has helpful results on soil construction, carbon storage, eutrophication, biodiversity, ecosystems, and people, based on analysis.

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

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

Classes from the Nordic Weight loss program for Different Areas

So, it’s possible you’ll marvel if the Nordic food regimen has advantages for you in your individual neighborhood? Identical to the Mediterranean food regimen, you possibly can apply just a few key classes from the wholesome Nordic food regimen which 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 (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 pink meat consumption; when you eat meat, prioritize grass-fed, wild meat.
  • Embody unsaturated fat from nuts and vegetable oils.
  • Concentrate on entire grains, together with completely different varieties (akin to oats, rye, barley).
  • Train every day.
  • Get pleasure from meals with family and friends.
Vegan Jansson’s Temptation (Swedish Potato Casserole)

My Recommendations on Methods to Apply Nordic Meals Traditions at Dwelling
Listed below are just a few cooking tips about the right way to 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.

Nordic Weight loss program Recipes

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

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

Study extra about my tackle the well being Nordic food 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. https://journals.openedition.org/aof/7014
  2. Kolehmainen, M. The Nordic Weight loss program. Ernaehrungs Umschau Worldwide. 2013. https://www.ernaehrungs-umschau.de/fileadmin/Ernaehrungs-Umschau/pdfs/pdf_2017/01_17/EU01_2017_englisch_Nordic_Diet.pdf
  3. Adamsson, V. What’s a Wholesome Nordic Weight loss program? Meals and Vitamins within the NORDIET Examine. U.S. Nationwide Library of Medication. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3386552/
  4. Anja Olsen, Rikke Egeberg, Jytte Halkjær, Jane Christensen, Kim Overvad, Anne Tjønneland, Wholesome Facets of the Nordic Weight loss program Are Associated to Decrease Complete Mortality, The Journal of Vitamin, Quantity 141, Situation 4, April 2011, Pages 639–644, https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.110.131375
  5. Jense, J. & Poulsen, S. The New Nordic Weight loss program-Shopper Expenditures and Financial Incentives Estimated from a Managed Intervention. U.S. Nationwide Library of Medication. 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3866464/
  6. Saxe, H. The New Nordic Weight loss program is an Efficient Instrument in Environmental Safety: It Reduces the Related Socioeconomic Price of Diets. The American Journal of Medical Vitamin. 2014. https://educational.oup.com/ajcn/article/99/5/1117/4577427

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