Nutritionists have been praising the benefits of Mediterranean cuisine for years. It protects the heart and circulation – this has been scientifically proven. But the Mediterranean cuisine has local competition: “Nordic Diet” is the name of a relatively young trend, in German “Nordic nutrition”, also “Norwegian” or “Viking diet”. What’s behind it?
It’s the content that counts: fiber, antioxidants
“The Mediterranean diet is a study winner because it contains certain nutritional elements,” says nutrition doc Matthias Riedl. In terms of health, it is not pizza or pasta that score points, but ingredients such as olive oil with its favorable fatty acid composition or the high value of fresh vegetables and herbs, which provide us with fiber and antioxidants.
Good things from fields, forests, rivers, and sea
Scandinavian food and environmental experts have been investigating which of these healthy elements can be found in the traditional, regional cuisine of the Nordic countries in recent years. For example, Atlantic fish, which has more omega-3 fatty acids than Mediterranean fish, as well as yogurt, quark, nuts, linseed, and rapeseed oil were on their list.
The north knows oats, buckwheat, and rye as a healthy alternative to wheat, and sourdough instead of yeast bread. High-fiber root and tuber vegetables, as well as berries and cabbage with their valuable plant substances, which are said to have a cancer-preventing effect, are also native. Fresh herbs and wild herbs give the body vitamins, minerals, and secondary plant substances. Northern Europeans find high-quality protein, for example, in the “meat of the forest”, the mushrooms.
The Nordic nutrition plan at a glance
- Plenty of vegetables, plus berries and other local fruit
- Potatoes, rice, and pasta if possible as a whole grain variant and only to a small extent (proportionally about 15 percent)
- Meat only in moderation (“Sunday roast principle”), preferably game or from species-appropriate husbandry, but fish three times a week
- Use traditional cooking methods, such as gentle cooking in the oven/dutch (low temperature) or fermenting fish and vegetables (lactic acid fermentation)
- Avoiding butter and high-fat dairy products
- Sausages in moderation.
Foods with a low effect on blood sugar
The Nordic Diet contains regional foods with a low glycemic index (abbreviation: GI, see box). This makes it a “lean” diet. The main components are therefore plant-based, fiber-rich foods. In addition, there is a high proportion of protein: a quarter of the daily menu should include protein-rich foods that fill you up.
Nordic nutrition improves blood levels and helps with weight loss
The above selection is based on the world’s largest nutrition study “Diogenes”. “You certainly don’t have to let go of butter and high-fat dairy products completely. Nevertheless, these were the facts of the study and the results are excellent,” says nutrition doc Silja Schäfer.
Further studies have confirmed the health benefits of the Nordic diet plan: it brings about positive changes in blood sugar, and blood lipids and prevents cardiovascular diseases – just like the Mediterranean diet. Eating Nordic food can therefore counteract high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol levels as part of a healthy lifestyle. If you like the Nordic diet, it can help you lose weight and keep it off in the long run.
Nordic elements as a healthy long-term diet
In any case, a long-term, permanent change is decisive for weight loss success. “Everyone should decide for themselves which recommendations they personally get along with best,” advises Schäfer, after all, food is primarily a matter of taste. And nutrition doc Matthias Riedl explains: “There is a ‘Mediterranean diet’ all over the world – fresh vegetables, therefore lots of fiber, healthy oils, little meat, sugar, salt. You can also live to a hundred in the north without olives and avocados. We have super healthy condiments like mustard seeds, nuts, fish.” What ultimately counts is the basic concept: species-appropriate nutrition.
The sustainability factor of regional products is a plus
In the basic concept of Nordic nutrition, value is also placed on unpackaged, seasonal-regional, wild-growing, or organically produced products. Because regional production avoids long transport routes, and the seasonal cuisine is environmentally friendly: seasonally available products save the operation of heated greenhouses.
They usually taste fresher and better.