New Nordic Diet rivals Mediterranean Diet for heart health

By Amy Wimmer Schwarb • Published: September 18th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Move over, Mediterranean Diet. There’s something cooler. Several degrees cooler.

People who live in the region surrounding the Mediterranean Sea have long been known for their heart-healthy diet: They eat mostly plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.

The Spanish, French, Italians and Greeks who inhabit the Mediterranean region use olive oil, not butter. For an extra kick of flavor, they are more likely to turn to herbs, not salt. They seldom consume red meat.

And their hearts are so healthy that American doctors urge patients to follow the Mediterranean example when trying to fend off heart disease and strokes.

Still, signing up for Club Mediterranean isn’t easy in all parts of the world. A group of nutrition researchers in the Nordic countries — Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway — have developed a healthy local diet of their own.

The so-called Nordic Diet relies on fish, canola oil and locally grown berries, as well as root vegetables available even during the cold winter months.

The diet was prescribed to patients at risk for diabetes. In the tests, followers of the diet also avoided red meat and sugar — including white bread, usually a common component of a Scandanavian diet.

What did the researchers learn? People on the healthy Nordic diet saw their ratios of bad cholesterol and good cholesterol improve significantly, as well as one marker for inflammation that could result in as much as a 40 percent reduction in the risk for Type 2 diabetes.

The takeaway is that local diets around the world can be altered slightly to accommodate our modern knowledge of healthy eating.

To eat your way to a healthy heart, you don’t have to be Mediterranean. You don’t even have to eat like one.