The Nordic Diet: An Evidence-Based Review

The Nordic Diet: An Evidence-Based Review

The Nordic diet comprises foods commonly eaten by people in the Nordic countries.

Several studies reveal that this method of eating may lead to weight loss and enhance health markers — at least in the brief term.

This report reviews the Nordic diet, including foods to eat and avoid, as well as potential health benefits.

What’s the Nordic Diet?

The Nordic diet is a way of eating that focuses on locally sourced foods in the Nordic countries — Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland.

It was created in 2004 with a group of nutritionists, scientists, and chefs to tackle growing obesity rates and unsustainable farming practices in the Nordic countries.

It might be a good choice from an environmental perspective, as it emphasizes foods that are locally sourced and sustainably farmed.

In comparison to an average Western diet, it contains less sugar and fat but twice the fiber and fish.

The Nordic diet: how does it work, and how could it benefit you?

Foods to Eat and Avoid

The Nordic diet highlights traditional, sustainable, and locally sourced foods, with a significant focus on those considered healthy.

  • Eat often: fruits, berries, vegetables, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, rye bread, fish, fish, low-fat legumes, herbs, spices, and rapeseed (canola) oil
  • Eat-in moderation: match legumes, free-range eggs, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Eat rarely: other red meats and animal fats
  • Do not consume: sugar-sweetened drinks, additional sugars, processed meats, food additives, and processed fast foods

The Nordic diet is quite much like this Mediterranean diet. The largest difference is the fact that it highlights canola oil rather than extra virgin olive oil.

As critics correctly point out, some of the foods around the Nordic diet did not exist in the Nordic countries centuries past.

These include low-fat dairy and canola oil, which are modern foods. Most fruits also don’t grow well in the north — except for apples and many kinds of berries.

Still, the Nordic diet was not designed to reflect the diet Nordic people hundreds of years ago. On the contrary, it highlights healthy foods that are sourced locally in modern-day Scandinavia.

The Nordic diet emphasizes the foods of the Nordic countries. It’s like the Mediterranean diet also heavily emphasizes plant foods and seafood.

Does It Aid Weight Loss?

Several studies have assessed the weight loss effects of this Nordic diet.

In one study in 147 obese people instructed to not limit calories, those on a diet lost 10.4 pounds (4.7 kg), while those eating a typical Danish diet lost just 3.3 pounds (1.5 kg).

However, in a follow-up study a year after, the Nordic-diet participants had obtained most of the weight.

These outcomes are very typical for long-term research on weight loss. People lose weight at the beginning but gradually gain it back over 1–2 decades.

Another 6-week analysis supports the weight-reducing effects of the Nordic diet, as the Nordic diet group lost 4 percent of the body fat — significantly more than those on a standard diet.

The Nordic diet appears to be effective for short-term weight loss — even without limiting calories. Still — as with many weight-loss diets — you may regain lost weight over time.

Potential Health Benefits

Healthful eating goes beyond weight loss.

In addition, it can lead to significant improvements in metabolic health and decrease your risk of many chronic ailments.

Several studies have analyzed the impacts of the Nordic diet on health markers.

Blood Pressure

In 6-month research in obese individuals, the Nordic diet reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 5.1 and 3.2 mmHg, respectively — in comparison with a control diet.

Another 12-week study found that a significant decrease in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number of a reading) in participants with metabolic syndrome.

Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Even though the Nordic diet is high in many heart-healthy foods, its effects on triglycerides and cholesterol are inconsistent.

Some — but not all — studies discover a reduction in triglycerides, but also the effects on LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol have been statistically insignificant.

Still, one study found a moderate reduction in non-HDL cholesterol, as well as the LDL-c/HDL-c and Apo B/Apo A1 ratios — all of which are strong risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Blood Sugar Control

The Nordic diet doesn’t seem to be rather effective at lowering blood glucose levels, though one study noted that a little reduction in fasting blood glucose.


Chronic inflammation is a major driver of many serious diseases.

Studies on the Nordic diet and inflammation give mixed results. One study found a reduction in the inflammatory marker CRP, although others observed no statistically significant consequences.

Another study showed that the Nordic diet decreased the expression of genes related to inflammation inside your own body’s fat tissues.

The Nordic diet seems to be good at reducing blood pressure. The effects on cholesterol, blood glucose, blood sugar levels, and inflammatory markers are both inconsistent and weak.

The Most Important Thing

The Nordic diet is healthy because it replaces processed foods with whole, single-ingredient meals.

It may cause short-term weight loss and some decrease in blood pressure and inflammatory markers. On the other hand, the evidence is inconsistent and weak.

Ordinarily, any diet that emphasizes whole foods rather than regular Western junk food is very likely to lead to weight reduction and health improvements.

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