Whim or wonder, it is time we explored the new fad catching everyone’s fancy
If you’ve heard of the Nordic diet, chances are you’ve thought, “Hey, wait, how is this different from the Mediterranean diet?”
They aren’t that different. Both emphasize eating whole, regional, seasonal plant-based food, lean meats, and seafood. But the critical distinction is that Nordic/Scandinavian food utilizes canola or rapeseed oil as opposed to olive oil, which is higher in saturated fats.
The Nordic diet features foods that have origins in, well, the Nordic nations: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. But it has very little to do with what Scandinavians eat regularly, though. It’s got more to do with acclaimed Copenhagen gourmet restaurant NOMA, which started the New Nordic culinary movement about 15 years ago.
The New Nordic movement isn’t like veganism or paleo, diets people adopt based on worldviews and preferences. Instead, it is an attempt (a very successful one) to transform “…every link in the long chain of how food is produced and consumed, from the dirt up to your dinner table.” It is reaching beyond fine-dining restaurants, making its way into Nordic food policies, supermarket aisles, canteens, and classrooms.
The manifesto for the Nordic diet was written by 12 Nordic chefs in collaboration with farmers, food producers, politicians, home economics teachers, government officials, food scientists, and consumers in 2004.
Principles of the Diet
The 10 items in the official manifesto revolve around three core principles: health, gastronomic potential and Nordic identity, and sustainability.
The Nordic diet includes foods known to combat or prevent lifestyle diseases, including heart problems. The diet is rich in fruits and vegetables (especially berries, cabbages, root vegetables, and legumes), fresh herbs, wild plants and mushrooms, whole grains, nuts, seafood, seaweed, free-range livestock and game meats like bison and rabbit.
Gastronomic Potential and Nordic identity
The Nordic diet should be palatable and consist of foods produced in the Nordic terroir. “Terroir” is a term comprising factors such as soil, climate, and microclimate, location, and form of cultivation.
The Nordic diet focuses on organically and locally-sourced foods to reduce how food transportation impacts the environment. It relies on practices that do not deplete or harm biodiversity. Further, it demands that production processes should reduce waste, using all parts of every food purchased. These include stems, leaves, and other parts that are usually tossed aside.
Adapting the Diet
The Nordic diet, like the Mediterranean diet, is incredibly healthy, based on its principles alone. However, the food needs to be grown in the Nordic terroir, so following it to the T in countries outside the Scandinavian region counteracts the sustainability aspect. Even if Nordic food is accessible outside the area, it comes with an enormous carbon footprint.
Instead of trying to follow the diet in fine detail, it’s better to apply its principles to your micro-region.
Limited Science Backs the Diet
Limited data supports its health claims because the diet is less than 20 years old. However, several studies suggest that a Nordic diet may help reduce weight and blood pressure. According to Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, people who love “…berries, rye bread, and canola oil should go ahead and enjoy a Nordic-style diet rather than waiting 10 years to get more evidence.”