The Nordic Diet vs. The Mediterranean Diet: Two Peas in a Pod

I am a huge proponent of the Mediterranean Diet and the Nordic Diet, which are quite similar. Both plans emphasize a plant-based diet (high in fruits, veggies, nuts, and legumes), moderate amounts of fish (two to three servings a week), eggs, and a small amount of dairy foods. Both plans also limit processed foods, sweets, and red meat. One of the significant differences between the two is the type of oil that is encouraged; the Mediterranean diet recommends olive oil, while the Nordic diet suggests canola oil. Both plans steer followers towards social dining – encouraging people to enjoy leisurely meals with family and friends at home. The Nordic diet explicitly emphasizes choosing organic produce, eating more wild foods, promoting animal well-being, and generating less waste more than the Mediterranean diet. However, some people have stated that the Mediterranean diet also implicitly makes these recommendations. 

The staples of the Nordic diet include:

  • cereals, crackers, and bread made from rye, barley, or oats high in soluble fiber
  • berries (a traditional Nordic diet emphasizes lingonberries and bilberries)
  • other fruit, especially apples, plums, and pears 
  • vegetables, especially cabbage, kale, potatoes, beets, turnips, and carrots
  • fatty fish
  • legumes

“New Nordic” cuisine defined by Claus Meyer, owner of the Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, aims to encourage others to use foods native to the Nordic region, including fungi, beech leaves, birch juice, reindeer, and chickweed.

The vegetables and fruit featured in the Mediterranean diet are salad greens, tomatoes, eggplants, pomegranates, figs, and dates. The grains recommended on the Mediterranean diet are farro and whole-wheat bread and pasta, which are higher in insoluble fiber. On the Mediterranean diet, you’ll probably eat low-fat Greek yogurt, as opposed to the low-fat skyr yogurt on the Nordic diet.

Both the Mediterranean diet and the Nordic diet are associated with reduced all-cause and cause-specific mortality, including deaths from cancer and heart disease. Both diets reduce the risk of diabetes and stroke. At the end of the day, we are merely comparing two very well-balanced diets that emphasize whole foods and encourage people to eat the foods that grow in their geographic region. Some wise individuals have recommended following the Nordic diet in the winter and the Mediterranean diet in the summer if you want to buy more locally-produced foods and have more control over food costs. 

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