The Nordic Diet is quickly gaining popularity and traction in the nutrition world, with many individuals comparing it to the Mediterranean diet. Why not follow the diet of people from the countries consistently rated the happiest in the world?
As the Nordic Diet is relatively new, there is only a small number of studies researching its benefits and effectiveness in improving health. The NORDIET (2011) study found that following a healthy Nordic diet for 6 weeks where individuals ate as much as they wanted, resulted in improved cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity in individuals with high cholesterol.  In addition, The EPIC- Potsdam (2018) study highlighted that the Nordic diet may reduce the risk of heart attacks in both women and men. 
What is the Nordic Diet?
The Nordic diet is an environmentally conscious diet that focuses on locally sourced, minimally processed, and traditional foods in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. Similar to the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet focused on plant-based foods with small amounts of eggs, seafood, and dairy included. It focuses on foods that are in season, locally sources and organic.
Macronutrient distribution recommended in the NORDIET study (based on the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2004) 
What is the recommended macronutrient distribution?
- 50-60% of total energy from high- quality carbohydrates from foods rich in fibre (aiming for 25- 35g of fibre per day):
- Limit refined sugars to max 10% energy intake
- 10-20% protein:
- 25-35% total fat
What can I eat?
As you can see in the figure, these foods include:
Core, everyday foods:
- vegetables (beans, carrots, mushrooms, parsnips, cauliflower, cabbage, zucchini)
- fruits (berries, plums, apples, pears)
- wholegrain cereals (oats, rye, barley, dense sourdough rye bread)
- legumes and beans
- nuts and seeds
Eat moderate amounts (2-3x per week)
- fish (salmon, sardines, herring, cod, mackerel) – fermented fish often included.
- meat and poultry (include game meats that are much leaner than beef founds in our supermarkets e.g. venison, deer, bison and caribou)
- low-fat or fat-free dairy (milk, sour milk, yoghurt, cheese)
- rapeseed oil (canola) or margarine
What should I avoid?
- animal fats (butter)
- processed meats (sausage, salami, ham)
- chocolate, sweets, pastries
Nordic Diet Pros & Cons
- The Nordic diet is high in fibre and fermented foods. This combination is extremely beneficial for gut health. Fibre-rich foods also have the bonus benefit of improving cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity and can also help with satiety and weight loss. 
- Rich in omega 3s fatty acids which is important or brain health. In particular, these foods within the Nordic diet are high in omega 3 fatty acids: seafood, rapeseed oil (canola oil), nuts and seeds.
- Focusing on local produce and plant-based foods is good or the environment and your health!
- The Nordic diet can be quite expensive when replicating it in a different country. For example, the main fruit emphasized in the Nordic diet is berries. When these are not in season locally, they are often more costly than other fruits. Therefore, focusing on locally-grown and in season fruits in the country you’re living in will likely yield similar benefits (even if these fruits and vegetables aren’t commonly eaten or specified in the Nordic Diet).
- Options such as game meats (venison, deer, bison and caribou) are not readily available and accessible in Australia. This makes the diet harder to replicate outside Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland.
- It may be impractical for individuals who are time-poor and/or don’t enjoy cooking. The Nordic diet emphasizes home-cooked meals which may not be feasible for everyone. Luckily, there are many meal prep and meal kit companies available that focus on healthy foods including Youfoodz and HelloFresh.
How do I get started?
Instead, choose a grainy, sourdough rye bread. It’s filled with heart-healthy wholegrains that provide antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals. In particular, sourdough rye bread is higher than other types of breads in potassium, zinc, magnesium and phosphate. It’s also a low glycaemic carbohydrate and has been shown to cause a smaller rise in blood sugar levels compared to whole wheat and white bread. 
Swap out one meat-based meal a week for fatty fish, legumes or beans to get a good dose of omega 3 fatty acids. Salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and shrimp are animal sources of the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Soy beans, kidney beans, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts are great sources of the plant-based omega 3 fatty acids ALA.
Make home-made “cooking” easy by cooking your grains in advance. For example, cooking rice in the rice cooker at the beginning of the dayso you come home to fresh, aromatic rice. Put the leftovers in an airtight container in the frudge and reheat the next day to increase the resistant starch (a type of fibre that your body cannot digest) and reduce the calories! You can also bulk prepare overnight oats for the week in small containers or jars. Add low-fat milk, yoghurt, nuts and seeds to increase the protein. You can easily change the flavours so you never get bored! My two favourite overnight oats flavours are:p eanut butter with chia seeds, and pumpkin spice.
Eating the skin of fruit and veggies also increases your overall fibre and micronutrient intake as the peel is often filled with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Changing the fresh produce that you eat seasonally supports local farmers and reduces your carbon footprint as your food has travelled less resulting in less pollution and often less packaging. In addition, it creates variety in your diet and exposes your gut to different prebiotics (foods that promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut).
The American Gut Project is a research initiative that aims to understand human’s gut microbiome. It found that having more diversity in plant foods resulted in a more diverse gut microbiome. Individuals who had 30 different plants per week had more diverse bacteria in their gut and more bacteria that produced short chain fatty acids. These short chain gatty acids are associated with many health benefits including improved immunity, reduced inflammation, in addition to better mental health. 
Challenge yourself to include one fermented food during your next grocery shop! While fermented fish is not readily available in Australia, some healthy fermented options that are accessible in most places are tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. You can also easily make your own fermented vegetables at home with cabbages, radishes, turnips or carrots. The reason why fermented foods are so healthy is that they naturally contain probiotics (healthy bacteria that help the good bacteria in your gut thrive).
The Nordic Diet is a nutritionally balanced diet. It provides guidelines that can help reduce risk of chronic disease and minimise your impact on the environment. While there is still research being conducted on the Nordic diet, it is quite similar to the Mediterranean diet that is strong body of research. The main difference between the two diets it that the Mediterranean diet uses olive oil, whereas the Nordic diet uses rapeseed (canola oil). While I personally prefer to use olive oil, the Heart Foundation also lists canola oil as a heart-healthy oil.
The main benefits from the Nordic diet are derived from eating minimally processed, whole foods. Therefore, I would highly recommend you focus on increasing home-cooked meals made with whole foods from each food group in the Nordic diet.