The Nordic Diet Decoded . Find out more in this article.

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Nutrition Blog

The Nordic diet is one way of eating which concentrates on locally grown foods in the Nordic countries — Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland as well as Iceland. It was designed in 2004 by a group of nutritionists, scientists, and chefs in order to address increasing obesity rates and unsustainable farming practices in the Nordic countries.

It may be a great choice from an environmental perspective, as it emphasises foods that are locally sourced and sustainably farmed. As compared to an average Western diet, it contains less sugar and fat but twice the fibre and seafood.

The Nordic diet is quite comparable to the Mediterranean diet. However, one difference is the kind of oil each diet utilises:

  • The Mediterranean diet focuses on utilising extra-virgin olive oil, while
  • The Nordic diet promotes canola oil.

Canola oil has far less saturated fat than extra-virgin olive oil. In addition, it can be utilised in cooking and baking at a higher temperature than olive oil. It should be noted that most canola oils which are available are processed and lacks antioxidants compared to olive oil.

Generally speaking both are good unsaturated, healthy anti-inflammatory oils. The Nordic diet encourages people to eat less sugar and twice the amount of fibre and seafood as opposed to traditional Western diets.

What Can You Eat When Following The Nordic Diet?

This style of eating is based on these guidelines:

  • More fruits, vegetables, and seasonal and organic foods when possible,
  • More whole grains,
  • More food from seas, lakes, and the wild,
  • Higher-quality meat and less of it,
  • Less processed, less sugary foods,
  • Cook at home more, and
  • Waste less.

More specifically, Nordic diet staples include:

  • Whole-grain cereals – for example rye, barley and oats;
  • Berries and other fruits;
  • Vegetables (particularly cabbage and root vegetables like potatoes and carrots);
  • Fatty fish – for example salmon, mackerel, and herring; and
  • Legumes (beans and peas).

In addition, the Nordic diet emphasises high-quality carbohydrates. Examples are cereals, crackers, and breads which are made with whole-grain barley, oats, and rye. These whole-grain foods offer a wealth of heart-protecting nutrients, including fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Eating lots of berries is another unique aspect of the Nordic diet that may account for some of its health benefits. Research has linked eating plentiful amounts of berries (such as blueberries and strawberries) to lower levels of weight gain and a lower risk of having a heart attack. Berries are excellent sources of plant chemicals known as anthocyanins, which seem to lower blood pressure and make blood vessels more flexible.

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Does The Nordic Diet Aid Weight Loss?

A number of studies have evaluated the weight loss effects of the Nordic diet:

  • In one of the studies, in 147 obese people were instructed not to restrict calories. Those who followed a Nordic diet lost 4.7 kg, while those eating a typical Danish diet lost only 1.5 kg.
  • However, in a follow-up study which took place a year later, the Nordic-diet participants had gained most of the weight back.

These results are quite typical for long-term studies on weight loss. Individuals lose weight in the beginning however then gradually gain it back over one to two years.

Another six-week study supports the weight-reducing effects of the Nordic diet, as the Nordic diet group lost 4% of their body weight — significantly more than those on a standard diet.

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