What Is The Nordic Diet And Is It Healthy?

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A Viking diet is the best way to keep the brain healthy and may fight off dementia” parped the Mail Online this week, with the TimesIndependent and others following suit. The news came out of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference and while the headlines were based on a Swedish study of 2,000-odd people, the presentation at the conference drew conclusions from four studies that also looked at the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet (which focuses on ten of the most brain-healthy foods including leafy green veg, fish and poultry).

Still, it did say that following one of these diets “long known to contribute to cardiovascular health” help to keep brains working in later life. Dementia-wise, the scientists placed the emphasis firmly on may.

All the same, now the seed’s been planted in our minds we want to eat like Vikings. So what the hell is the Nordic diet?

It shares many principles with the Mediterranean diet, with a focus on plants and seafoods, but with northern European fare substituted in for its sun-soaked counterparts from the south of the continent. It also places an emphasis on sustainability, with local, seasonal produce pushed to the fore, something which, in our opinion, isn’t recommended enough.

Is The Nordic Diet Healthy?

The name might conjure up images of Vikings roasting entire elks over huge bonfires but the diet plan itself is actually a very modern creation. In 2004, nutrition experts, scientists and chefs got together in Copenhagen to create the plan, which is based on mainstream dietary advice.

As a result, it ticks all the healthy boxes, with less sugar and fat than a normal Western diet, more whole foods (as opposed to processed foods) and fibre, and substantial amounts of oily fish and vegetables. Everything a growing boy needs, in short.

In the past studies have found it can lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems.

Given the location and climate of the Nordic countries, the diet plan should be even easier for people in the UK to follow than the Mediterranean diet. Here’s how to do just that.

Eat More Of These

For your five (or more) a day focus on root (parsnips, carrots) and cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli), berries, apples and pears. Wholegrain cereals like rye, barley and oats are also a staple food of the Nordic diet. Oily fish like salmon, mackerel and herring should be eaten regularly, while lean meats, eggs and dairy should be eaten in moderation.

When it comes to healthy fats, the Nordic diet opts for canola or rapeseed oil rather than the classic Mediterranean olive oil. Like olive oil, canola oil is high in monounsaturated fats and also contains alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based omega 3 fatty acid.

Avoid These

The Nordic diet recommends limiting your intake of red meat, sweets and highly processed foods. Nothing especially controversial there. The diet also advocates opting for seasonal and local foods, so avoid anything too well-travelled or over-fished. This will probably save you a bit of cash because out-of-season fruit and veg is often more expensive.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.