Make Room, Mediterranean Diet: There’s a New Diet in Town

The Mediterranean diet is certainly popular now, and rightly so. This healthful lifestyle, based on the cooking and eating habits of the Mediterranean region, emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and fish. Furthermore, research backs up its proclaimed health benefits: a reduced risk of heart disease, a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer, and a reduced risk of developing Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases. It’s hard to compete with that!

But when it comes to nutrition and health, there’s generally more than one way to eat healthfully. Another diet that has recently made its way onto the scene is the Nordic diet.

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What’s the Nordic diet?
As the name implies, the Nordic diet is based on the eating habits of Scandinavians. Yes, it may seem odd that cuisine from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, or Iceland would be considered healthful. In fact, aside from Swedish meatballs, how much does anyone really know about Nordic food in the first place? Well, you’re about to be introduced!

The Nordic diet, or, more precisely, the “New Nordic Diet,” was “developed” back in 2004 by food experts and chefs who convened to develop a healthier way of eating for the Nordic countries. This “diet” (which is really more of a way of eating rather than rigid guidelines to follow) emphasizes healthful, whole foods that are both local and seasonal.

What foods are part of the Nordic diet?
It’s unlikely that you’ll find olive oil on a Nordic diet food list, as it’s not regional to Nordic countries. But, should you choose to accept the “challenge” of becoming a Nordic diet follower, you may very well find yourself eating the following:

• Root vegetables, such as turnips, beets, carrots, potatoes
• Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower
• Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard
• Beans and legumes such as brown beans and split peas
• Berries, such as lingonberries and bilberries
• Pears and apples
• Whole grains, such as rye, oats, and barley
• Fish, such as salmon and herring
• Wild meat, such as elk
• Other plant foods, such as seaweed, moss, mushrooms, and nettles
• Healthy fats, such as canola oil
• Herbs, including dill, fennel, and chives

“Followers” are encouraged to choose organic versions of these foods, as well, to emphasize environmental sustainability.

What are examples of meals or dishes one would eat on the Nordic diet?
It might be hard to picture eating elk meat or lingonberries on a regular basis. Luckily, you can now find cookbooks and plenty of information on the Internet to help you with Nordic meal planning. Some examples of typical meals that one might eat include:

• Oat or barley porridge mixed with berries and organic milk
• Seaweed or kale pesto served over new potatoes or whole-grain bread
• Fishcakes or venison patties served with beets or carrots
• Slow-cooked elk roast with pea soup and marinated cucumbers

Sound appealing yet?

What are the health benefits of the Nordic diet?
The Nordic diet isn’t just another fad diet to come down the pike. Like the Mediterranean diet, this eating style has been studied, and researchers have found that this way of eating can provide a number of health benefits, including:

• A lower risk of colorectal cancer
• A 21% reduction in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
• A 6% drop in systolic blood pressure
• A drop in insulin levels and insulin resistance of 9%
• A 4% reduction in body weight
• Reductions in hip and waist measurements

Should you try the Nordic diet?
Is the Nordic diet for you? It’s a great question, and one that you’ll need to decide for yourself. Some of the foods on the list may not be completely familiar to you, such as elk meat and seaweed. On the other hand, you may already be eating root vegetables, oats, and salmon. As with any type of diet or eating plan, one of the keys to success is making it work for you. Learn more about the types of foods and arm yourself with recipe ideas, then give it a try. To be on the safe side, talk over any eating plan before you start it with your doctor or dietitian. Changes in food type and amounts can impact your blood sugar levels, and you may need to adjust any diabetes medication that you take. Also, checking your blood sugar more than usual at the onset of a new eating program is a good idea.

To learn a little more about the Nordic diet, visit these web pages:

http://nutrition.about.com/od/changeyourdiet/fl/Go-Scandinavian-with-the-Anti-inflammatory-Nordic-Diet.htm

http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-recipes/nordic-diet-recipes

http://www.academia.edu/9552978/Guidelines_for_the_New_Nordic_Diet

Or, look into the book The Nordic Diet: Using Local and Organic Food to Promote a Healthy Lifestyle, by Trina Hahnemann.

In the meantime, skal (which means, “to your health”)!