Have you heard of the Nordic Diet? It’s one of the hottest diet trends of 2022, but it’s more than just a passing fad.
The Nordic diet was created in 2004 by a group of chefs, nutritionists, and scientists to boost public health and address unsustainable farming practices in Nordic countries. Scientists at the University of Denmark in Copenhagen brought in the co-founder of the world’s best restaurant, Noma, for a multi-year project. Noma is known for its focus on foraging and the modern cuisine of Scandinavia. With a world renowned chef at the helm, it may come as no surprise that the diet focuses less on weight loss and more on consuming delicious, healthy foods that are local to you.
The Nordic Diet Defined
The Nordic diet is very similar to the increasingly popular Mediterranean diet in that it borrows the eating habits of one particular region. Much like the cuisine of the Mediterranean, it emphasizes the consumption of seafood, whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, while discouraging the consumption of processed and packaged foods, added sugars, and red meat.
In this post we’ll explore the pros and cons of the Nordic Diet and highlight some of the key differences between the Nordic Diet and the Primal Diet.
What to Eat on a Nordic Diet
Foods to Eat Liberally
- Fish—especially fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring
- Fruit—particularly berries
- Vegetables—especially those that grow well in mild climates, such as potatoes and other root vegetables
- Whole grains like rye, barley, and oats
- Chickpeas and other legumes
- Low-fat dairy
- Fermented foods
Foods to Eat in Moderation
- Free-range eggs
- Game meats
- Canola oil
Foods to Limit
- Red meats other than game
- Whole fats such as butter and other animal fats
Foods to Avoid
- Sugar-sweetened beverages
- Processed and packaged foods
- Food additives
- Grilled, smoked, and processed meats
- Refined fast foods
- White breads and refined flours
Pros of the Nordic Diet
With an emphasis on local foods and an origin rooted in addressing unsustainable farming practices, the Nordic diet offers a big nod to the planet. Diets that emphasize plant consumption typically require fewer natural resources and create less pollution than diets reliant on large-scale commercial farming. Sourcing local, organic, and seasonal foods cuts the carbon footprint and brings us back to basics.
Potential Health Benefits
A 2014 study found that the Nordic diet reduced blood pressure in obese people. A separate study conducted that same year found a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure in those with metabolic syndrome.
A recent study showed a healthy Nordic diet reduced inflammation compared to a control diet by reducing the expression of genes related to inflammation in fat tissues.
A study conducted at the beginning of 2022 revealed beneficial effects of the Nordic diet with blood sugar—just 6 months of compliance could possibly lower glucose in the blood.
Diversity & Balance
The Nordic diet calls for the consumption of a large variety of foods leaving little room to feel deprived or bored. This allows for a sense of satiety given the robust intake of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates from seafood and vegetables. Not to mention, local, real food tastes good! The diet is well-balanced, including all food groups and in reasonable proportions.
Cons of the Nordic Diet
Will you lose weight? Possibly. Will you keep it off? Results aren’t promising. In one recent study, participants dropped more pounds while following a Nordic diet compared to those following the standard Danish way of eating. However, a subsequent study conducted one year later found that those following the Nordic diet gained most of the weight back. The sustainability of weight loss on the Nordic diet is uncertain.
As with any diet with rigid guidelines, eating out and finding pre-made food isn’t always easy. To commit to this way of eating requires planning, shopping, and time in the kitchen. Sourcing local food may prove difficult as well. Popping by your local grocery store to pick up some arugula for dinner may turn into a farmer’s market trip in order to ensure it’s local.
In an ideal world, healthy, organic, and local food would be more affordable than packaged goods. Until we reach that point, following a clean diet full of high-quality produce and animal products may require some redistribution of your budget.
The Nordic Diet Compared to the Primal Diet
Both the Primal diet and Nordic diet agree on many aspects of what constitutes a healthy way of eating, and one big component in particular—the consumption of real, whole foods and the absence of packaged foods and sugar. High-quality animal products and organic produce is a focus of both diets as well as a shunning of additives, refined, and processed, foods. Both diets recommend consuming wild fish and shellfish, antioxidant-rich berries, fiber-packed vegetables, nuts and seeds, fermented foods, herbs and spices, high quality eggs, and game meats.
The two ways of eating disagree in several important areas. Grains and legumes are a definitive no in the Primal world yet are emphasized in the Nordic diet. While the Nordic diet suggests moderating the consumption of free-range eggs and game meats, the Primal diet places no limitations on these categories. The Nordic diet also suggests limiting the consumption of red meats and other animal fats, while the Primal diet encourages them. Another point of contrast is the Nordic diet’s recommendation of low-fat dairy. The Primal diet places dairy in an area of limbo but prioritizes full-fat and raw varieties.
The preferred cooking oil used in the Nordic diet is canola. The Primal lifestyle stays on top of new data and perspectives and has updated its stance on vegetable oils over the years. However, canola oil is not on the list of recommended Primal foods for several reasons, including the extraction process and prevalence of genetically modified seed varieties. As of 2013, GMO canola made up 95% of canola planted.
While there are many healthy aspects to the Nordic diet, it is not inline with the Primal way of eating in several key areas. As new diets and trends are perpetually emerging, one foolproof method to ensure you meet your nutritional needs is to stick to real, whole, unprocessed foods, and healthy fats. While trial and error is a solid approach to figuring out what works best for you, personalized nutrition and health coaching, as offered in our myPrimalCoach program, is an excellent tool to help guide you in figuring out what makes you feel your best and will be sustainable.