The Mediterranean diet is known as one of the healthiest diets on the planet, and research supports its use for a number of health issues including cardiovascular disease and kidney disease. But, like all diets, the Mediterranean diet isn’t for everyone. Comparable plans, however, are difficult to find.
People looking for an alternative to the Mediterranean diet might be in luck. According to nutritional experts, there is another diet–the Nordic diet–that has shown promise in the prevention of certain diseases.
The Nordic diet is practical for people who don’t have access to olive oil, one of the staples in the Mediterranean diet. It was also specifically designed by researchers looking at Nordic foods and how they can be combined into a preventative dietary plan. The Mediterranean diet was not formulated in a lab and is considered a lifestyle more than an actual diet program; it has many varying protocols based on the region of the Mediterranean it comes from.
The Nordic diet is the end result of collective research from Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. It is centered around locally produced food items in those regions, like herring, rapeseed oil (canola oil) and bilberries (a relative of the blueberry). Individuals in a research study while the diet was being developed ate mostly berries (currants, bilberries and strawberries), canola oil, whole grains, root vegetables and three fish meals (preferably fatty fish like salmon and mackerel) per week, while avoiding any added sugar. During their other meals of the week, participants were able to eat vegetarian, poultry or game, but no red meat.
According to Medical Daily, the core principles of the diet include:
- Whole grains like rye, barley, and oats making up at least 25 percent of the daily diet
- Vegetables, including cabbage, legumes, and root vegetables
- Fruits like apples, pears, and plums
- Berries, including strawberries, black currants, and bilberries
- Rapeseed oil (also known as canola oil) for cooking and flavoring
- Low-fat dairy products
- Fish in more than 3 meals per week
- Poultry and other low-fat white meat, or game meat
- No sugar-sweetened drinks
Those individuals who followed the Nordic diet in the research experienced an improvement in the ratio of bad cholesterol to good cholesterol, and thus experienced an improvement in inflammation markers throughout the body. There was not, however, any evidence that the Nordic diet changed blood pressure or insulin sensitivity in those who adhered to it.
Looking to try the Nordic diet? Here are some recipes from The Guardian:
Smoked mackerel salad on rye bread
- ½ smoked mackerel
- ½ cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 bunch of chives, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
- 1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
- 100g frisée leaves
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 slices of rye bread
- 5-6 radishes, chopped
Carefully remove and discard all bones and skin from the mackerel and break up the mackerel meat into small pieces. Mix the mackerel, cucumber, onion, chives, capers, egg and frisée leaves in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the mixture on rye bread, topped with chopped radishes.
Smørrebrød with salmon tartare
- 400g very fresh salmon fillet, skinned
- 2 cucumbers, halved and deseeded
- 2 tbsp grated fresh horseradish
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 6 tbsp chopped chervil, plus 4 sprigs to decorate
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 slices of rye bread
- 8 crisp lettuce leaves
Cut the salmon fillet into small squares and place in a bowl. Cut the cucumbers into cubes. Add to the salmon with the horseradish, lime juice, vinegar and chopped chervil. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Place a slice of bread on each plate, place two lettuce leaves on each slice of bread, then spoon the salmon salad on to the lettuce leaves. Sprinkle with pepper and top with a sprig of chervil.