The Nordic Diet Lowers Cholesterol and Blood Sugar – Should You Try It?

By Jiri Kaloc

Have you heard about the Nordic Diet? Research shows it can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol and assist with weight loss. It relies on whole, locally accessible ingredients and can be really tasty. Let’s take a look at what it is and what can you expect if you give it a try.

What is the Nordic Diet?

The Nordic Nutrition Recommendations were established in 2012 mainly for countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland. The diet is based on ingredients that are produced locally in these regions and are thereby sustainable. Here is what you should and shouldn’t eat when you follow this way of eating.

  • Eat often: fruits, berries, vegetables, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, rye bread, fish, seafood, low-fat dairy, herbs, spices
  • Eat in moderation: game meats, free-range eggs, cheese, yoghurt
  • Eat rarely: other red meats and animal fats
  • Don’t eat: sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meats, food additives, refined fast foods
We were told that fats are bad for us for a long time, so it’s understandable that we are subconsciously still trying to limit them. But with new research, we now know that many types of fat are beneficial and pretty much all natural fats are safe to consume.

Benefits of the Nordic Diet

Several studies have shown that the Nordic Diet is effective for weight loss when compared to a typical diet eaten in Nordic countries. A new analysis conducted by University of Copenhagen researchers adds something new. It seems that the Nordic Diet has positive health benefits even without weight loss.

“It’s surprising because most people believe that positive effects on blood sugar and cholesterol are solely due to weight loss. Here, we have found this not to be the case. Other mechanisms are also at play. The group that had been on the Nordic Diet for 6 months became significantly healthier, with lower cholesterol levels, lower overall levels of both saturated and unsaturated fat in the blood, and better regulation of glucose, compared to the control group. We kept the group on the Nordic Diet weight stable, meaning that we asked them to eat more if they lost weight. Even without weight loss, we could see an improvement in their health,” said Lars Ove Dragsted, a researcher and Head of Section at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports.

Diet rich in healthy fats

Instead of weight loss alone, the researchers point to the unique composition of fats in the Nordic Diet as a possible explanation for the significant health benefits. Fats in the Nordic Diet come mainly from fish, nuts, flaxseeds, and sunflower and rapeseed oils.

“We can only speculate as to why a change in fat composition benefits our health so greatly. However, we can confirm that the absence of highly processed food and less saturated fats from animals have a very positive effect on us. So, the fat composition in the Nordic Diet, which is higher in omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fats, is probably a considerable part of the explanation for the health effects we find from the Nordic Diet, even when the weight of participants remains constant,” concludes Lars Ove Dragsted.

Should you try it?

The Nordic diet is healthier than the average Western Diet because it replaces processed foods with whole, single-ingredient foods. It can help with weight loss as well as improvements in several key health markers. And it can even be friendly to the environment and your wallet. That’s because seasonal, locally sourced produce that the Nordic Diet recommends is typically a bit cheaper and doesn’t have to be transported far. It seems to be a solid choice for anyone wanting to eat better.