Danish Smørrebrød

Nordic Food Patterns Going Global for Health

Admittedly, we’ve fed you many glowing words about the Mediterranean diet. So if you’re looking for something different, consider The Nordic Way. Like the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet is a satisfying way of eating, with deep roots in culture. And it has an impressive body of science to document health benefits. Arne Astrup, Jennie Brand-Miller, and Christian Bitz have just published a fine volume on the subject.

An Underdog Generating Some Buzz

Compared to the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet is barely a blip in popular culture. But among foodies, it’s beginning to generate some buzz. Some of the iconic foods of this Scandinavian food culture – whole grain rye, unsweetened yogurt, wild berries, root vegetables, herbs, and healthful fatty fish – are becoming favorites for avant-garde chefs.

Beyond the distinctive flavors of this cuisine, you can find some solid evidence for health benefits. In January, a Danish cohort study found a 14% reduction in stroke associated with following a healthy Nordic diet. The whole grains abundant in the Nordic diet help to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

A Surprising Collaboration

The collaboration behind this latest volume on the Nordic diet is a bit of a surprise. It started with a scientific feud. Brand-Miller, a distinguished nutrition scientist from Sydney, took issue with a small study published by Astrup and others in 2004. On the opposite side of the world in Copenhagen, Astrup had suggested that the benefits of low-glycemic diets might be overstated. Brand-Miller – a pioneering researcher on glycemic index – wrote a sharp response in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Though Astrup’s findings were “useful,” she said, “the conclusions should be tempered.”

From that disagreement, a collaboration was born. Astrup embarked upon the largest clinical study of low GI diets ever. Based on the results, he reversed his views.

Thanks in part to that skirmish, we now have an excellent book of good insights on the Nordic diet. It covers the science. It explains how to make it work. And most of the book is devoted to some beautiful recipes.

Seeing good science translated into something that can enhance both life and health is a true delight.

Click here for the book and here for more on the Nordic diet.

Danish Smørrebrød, photograph © Alex Berger / flickr

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April 16, 2017