Every month there seems to be a new diet doing the rounds online. One of the latest is the Nordic diet, which some claim could be better for your health than the Mediterranean diet.
The Nordic diet is based on the traditional foods available in Nordic countries. The core foods it comprises are whole grains (particularly rye, barley and oats), fruits (especially berries), root vegetables (such as beets, carrots and turnips), fatty fish (including salmon, tuna and mackerel), legumes and low-fat dairy.
But unlike the Mediterranean diet which has a long heritage and the health benefits of which have been consistently observed in population studies and investigations, the Nordic diet was actually developed by a committee of nutrition and food experts, alongside chefs, food historians and environmentalists. The motivation for creating it was to improve dietary guidelines in Nordic countries in a sustainable way, while also seeking to create a local identity linked to food and culture.
How different is it to the Mediterranean diet?
The Nordic Diet shares a number of similarities with the Mediterranean Diet, in that it consists of more wholefoods and less or no highly processed foods. It also encourages eating more plant foods and less meat.
Although the bulk of both the Nordic diet and Mediterranean diet are made up of plants, the type of plants are very different. For example, people following the Nordic diet will be encouraged to eat foods like seaweeds and kelp (which are rich in nutrients such as iodine, omega-3 fatty acids and even vitamin D), as well as other locally available vegetables and fruits. For the Mediterranean diet, people would include leafy vegetables such as spinach, as well as onions, courgettes, tomatoes, and peppers, which are all local to the region.
What does the evidence say?
The Nordic diet is still relatively new, being first published in 2010. This means it’s probably too early to tell if it reduces the risk of chronic diseases.
The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, has been studied by researchers since the 1950s and 60s – meaning we have a much better understanding of its links to lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But some studies which have looked retrospectively at peoples’ eating habits have found that people who ate diets similar to what is now known as the Nordic diet tended to be healthier. These studies found that Nordic eating patterns were associated with a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in people from Nordic countries.
However, the relationship between lower risk of disease and Nordic diets is less strong in people from other countries. The reason for this currently is unclear.
The difficulty with these population studies is that they looked at a dietary pattern that technically did not exist – as it had not been defined until after they took part in these studies. This means that the participants may not have followed the Nordic diet deliberately – making it hard to truly know if the health benefits they say were due to the Nordic diet itself.
While it’s perhaps too early to say if the Nordic diet is healthier than other well-known diets out there – such as the Mediterranean diet – it might help inspire us to look at how we can adapt diets to focus more on consuming whole foods available and grown locally.
However, eating more of the foods common to both Mediterranean and Nordic diets – such as vegetables, seeds, legumes, wholegrains and fish – alongside consuming less red and processed meat, is likely to be the basis of a healthy diet. This, alongside eating a variety of foods and trying to be primarily plant-based is more important for health than following a particular named diet.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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