The so-called Mediterranean diet is considered the gold standard for healthy eating, but there’s another eating plan that’s packed with just as many nutrients, experts explain.
The Nordic diet emphasizes more fruit, berries, vegetables, whole grains, fish and game and less dairy, meat and poultry.
The key is to eat foods that are in season in cold climates, like berries in spring, zucchini in summer, and chard in winter. Small amounts of saturated fats and processed meats are also allowed in moderation.
The Nordic diet emphasizes greater consumption of fruit, berries, vegetables, whole grains, fish and game and less consumption of sweets, dairy, meat and poultry. It’s a healthy choice and if you use it wisely, it can be a much cheaper way to live
Lola Biggs, Nutritionist at natural supplements brand Together Health (togetherhealth.co.uk) points out that both the Mediterranean diet and the Nordic diet contain good amounts of omega-rich, fatty fish like sardines, which are heart-healthy .
WHAT THE NORDIC DIET CONSISTS OF
- vegetables: Carrots, kale, collards, radishes, green beans
- fruit & berries: apples, pears, plums, blueberries, cranberries
- full grain: Oats, whole wheat, rye, barley
- fishes: salmon, trout, cod
- legumes: Beans, peas and lentils
- Unsaturated Fats: Nuts, seeds, canola oil, oily fish
She explains that the differences are due to the types of fruit, vegetables and fish.
The Nordic diet consists of hearty foods grown in colder climates, such as root vegetables like turnips, carrots and turnips, fruits like plums, apples and berries, and fish like herring.
This diet also includes more fermented foods like dairy (kefir) and fermented fish, which can provide good gut-friendly probiotic bacteria.
While a typical Mediterranean diet uses warmer weather and antioxidant foods like figs, melons, eggplant, juicy ripe tomatoes, and red peppers.
Lola said: “Both diets are generally healthy as they tend to limit processed foods and saturated fats. One of the biggest differences between the two diets is the oil used.
“The Mediterranean diet uses extra virgin olive oil, while the Nordic diet uses canola oil from the canola plant. Both are excellent sources of heart-healthy unsaturated fats and increase good cholesterol.’
Lola added, “Not only is it balanced, but it can also be affordable since you’re making meals mostly from whole grains, beans or lentils and plants, which can be versatile and cheap.”
The Nordic and Mediterranean diets share many similarities, as both rely heavily on plant-based foods, which include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as grains, nuts and legumes
HOW TO EAT NORDIC
The most important thing to consider when starting a Nordic diet is what’s in season. In theory, seasonal foods are grown, picked, and sold at the peak of their season.
This means it retains most of its health benefits and contains fewer growth factors. It’s also at the peak of its supply, so it’s cheaper for farmers – and therefore cheaper for you.
Avoid processed foods
Tamara Willner, nutritionist at NHS-backed healthy eating plan Second Nature, says the biggest benefit of the Nordic diet is that it excludes ultra-processed foods like cakes, chips, chocolate and fizzy drinks.
How it works on a budget
Root vegetables are cheaper
Seasonal vegetables tend to be cheaper because they are not imported. It’s also worth thinking about growing your own produce if you have the space and time.
The winter vegetables recommended in the Nordic diet, such as cabbage, kale and broccoli, tend to cost less than summer vegetables.
Use your freezer
If you shop seasonally, you can afford to stretch your money further, so why not buy summer berries in bulk and then freeze them for the winter.
Freezing fruits and vegetables is a good trick because the produce retains its vitamins and minerals.
Think canned fish
Canned fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines are great flavorful choices.
They provide the same healthy omega-3 fats you need at a much lower price. Also consider frozen fish.
Look at your carbs
The cost of pasta is up 50 percent this year, so it’s worth considering other forms of carbs.
The Nordic diet relies on whole grains, beans/lentils and plants, all of which are high in fiber, keeping you fuller longer and costing less.
“Any diet that excludes these foods and focuses on building meals from whole foods will be a healthier option than the average Western diet that we consume,” she said.
Accept fermented foods
Scandinavia is known for its fermentation. The first evidence of fermentation was found between 3000 B.C. and 6000 B.C. found on the east coast of Sweden.
Fermented foods are currently receiving a lot of attention from nutritionists for their connection to gut health.
Tamara explained: “Our gut is home to a large number of gut microbes that feed on the food we eat and produce more bacteria.
“As a good general rule of thumb, the more variety of plant-based foods we eat, the happier our gut is (unless you have irritable bowel syndrome or are on a low-FODMAP diet).”
From pickled fish to fermented milk products, there are a plethora of options. Sweden has a fermented milk called Filmjölk that resembles yogurt, and Iceland has skyr.
Other fermented foods include sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, kombucha, miso, tempeh, and yogurt.
A diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein, while maintaining moderate intakes of saturated fat, processed red meat, added sugar, and sodium, has been shown to have many health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease -Reduces vascular diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Signe explains: “By choosing unsaturated fat sources (like nuts, seeds, oily fish) over saturated fat sources (cream, butter and other animal fats), you also lower LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels – and in turn reduce that Risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Proteins (found in fish and legumes) are important for many bodily functions such as cell growth, the immune system and enzymes.
“By reducing your intake of processed red meat and fatty animal protein sources and instead choosing leaner protein sources (fish, poultry) or plant-based options (tofu, beans, or lentils), you can lower your risk of certain cancers.”
He adds: “The Nordic diet also offers a wide variety of foods without strict restrictions, which are key to a sustainable diet.
“Having too many restrictions or banned foods in your diet is short-lived and not a sustainable lifestyle.”