Move over Mediterranean diet, the traditional Nordic diet could be key to losing weight

Local, seasonal, and foraged foods were all important in the study of the diet

Ben Tufft
Tuesday 02 September 2014 18:03

Instead of following faddy diets, those looking to lose weight and keep their blood pressure in check should begin eating typical Nordic fare, according to a new study’s findings.

Overweight participants in the study, who ate traditional Danish foods such as berries, nuts, grains and fish, lost three times as much weight as their counterparts who stuck to an ordinary Westernised Danish diet.

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen sought advice for the menus and recipes from the world’s best restaurant, Noma, handily located on their doorstep, precisely because of its distinct Nordic identity.

The diet was developed after many Danes complained of how difficult it was to integrate ‘healthy’ Mediterranean foods into their regular eating habits. Indeed, a key theme of the special diet was to ensure that only local and in-season foods were chosen.

Recipes included baked cod with celery, sweet water pike grilled with summer cabbage and turbot in bread crumbs. This mouth-watering food came at a price though, the Nordic diet cost around £4.75 a day, about a quarter more costly than normal.

Dr Thomas Meinert Larsen, who led the study, said:

"Our view is that eating foods in accordance with the seasons makes us less dependent on transportation. There’s particular emphasis on foraged foods because they taste better, and usually contain greater amounts of vitamins and minerals than conventionally grown plants."

As part of the study 181 obese men and women were chosen and were then asked to follow one of two diets for a period of six months. While 68 people were assigned to an ordinary diet of mainly imported foods, the other 113 ate the from the new Nordic menus. Participants were allowed to eat until they were full and calories were not counted, although portion sizes were monitored.

Results of the study, presented by Dr Larsen at the European Society of Cardiology, which met in Barcelona, found that that the mean weight change was a loss of 4.7kg for the Nordic diet group and a loss of 1.5kg for the Danish group. Further, the Nordic diet produced greater reductions of systolic and diastolic blood pressure, both down 5.1 mmHg and 3.2 mmHg respectively, than the ordinary diet.

Until recently Danes had one of the world’s worst records for heart disease, this changed when the country banned the addition of trans fat acids to processed food in 2003 and heart-related deaths began to fall dramatically. Ordinarily, Danish diets usually consist of pasta, bread, pizza, potatoes, rice and dairy products.

Dr Larsen noted at the symposium that the concept of a healthy, regional, sustainable, seasonal and tasty diet could in principle be applied anywhere in the world, not just Nordic countries. He suggested that in time that it could challenge the Mediterranean diet for the the title of world’s healthiest.

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