The New Nordic Diet: Why you should eat like a Viking

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published February 28, 2019

Key Takeaways

What diet is designed to provide all the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and energy you need without calorie counting? The answer is the New Nordic Diet (NND). Let’s take a look at this diet option that promises not only weight loss, but a variety of health benefits as well.

First of all, the NND is not really “new.” It was developed in 2004 by a panel of food professionals and chefs from the five Nordic countries who sought to define a new regional cuisine that would be healthier. The “new” moniker was designed to differentiate this newer form of the diet from the previous Nordic diet.

Ultimately, the NND was designed with an emphasis on seasonality, sustainability, minimal waste, and no food additives. Although somewhat similar to the Mediterranean diet, the NND specifies a preference for rapeseed oil (canola oil) over olive oil, which is also high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Another difference between the two diets lies in the preferred produce outlined in each.

The NND includes those vegetables and fruits that can be optimally grown in the climate, soil, and water of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Approximately 80% of the foods consumed should be possible to grow in these Nordic countries, and organically grown, if possible, according to the diet specifics. Low-temperature cooking methods are preferred, including baking in an oven or boiling.

Here’s what the NND includes:

  • Small amounts of dairy, with a focus on low-fat milk products
  • Oily fish, including salmon and herring
  • Wild game, such as low-fat elk
  • Vegetables, including root and cruciferous
  • Dark greens
  • Apples and pears
  • Berries, including lingonberries and bilberries
  • Whole grains, including rye, barley, and oats

Since the introduction of the NND, researchers have devoted a lot of study time to unraveling its benefits, which seem to hinge on lowered cholesterol and blood pressure levels, reduced cardiovascular risk, and weight loss.

In assessing the effects of the NND on cholesterol, researchers demonstrated improved lipid profiles and reduced inflammation in subjects with metabolic syndrome in two studies respectively published in the Journal of Internal Medicine and the Journal of Nutrition.

Significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels were also seen with the NND compared with a standard Danish diet in a 26-week study done in centrally obese subjects. In this same study, researchers also found that both prediabetic and normal control subjects lost more weight with the NND.   

In yet another study done in mildly hypercholesterolemic subjects, Swedish researchers found that following the NND not only improved serum lipids and insulin sensitivity, but lowered blood pressure as well.

So, if you want to eat like a Viking, here are the NND’s 10 rules of what to eat:

  1. More fruits and vegetables
  2. More homemade foods
  3. More whole grains, particularly whole-grain oats, rye, and barley
  4. More seafood
  5. Less meat
  6. Organically grown foods
  7. Foraged foods, gathered in the wild
  8. Foods with no additives
  9. Foods according to season
  10. Foods with less packaging

Unlike many fad diets, the NND doesn’t count calories or force you to combine foods in strange ways, eat only liquids, or restrict the times during the day that you can eat. It’s more like a healthy eating plan. And unlike many fad diets, it doesn’t promise miraculous weight loss in a miraculous amount of time. What it does promise is a healthy approach to eating that could help you lose weight and become healthier.

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