Defenders of the Mediterranean diet no longer have barbarians at the gates.
They have company.
Bolstered by the results of an 12-year study that finds a diet rich in traditional Scandinavian foods significantly reduces mortality rate, the Nordic diet has encroached on Mediterranean cuisine’s reputation for healthy, geographically inspired grub.
Danish researchers recorded health and social factors of nearly 60,000 people. In particular, subjects were asked to estimate their average intake of different foods and beverages in the preceding year. These included the foods considered to be staples of the Nordic lifestyle: ﬁsh, cabbage, whole grain rye, whole grain oats, apples, pears, and root vegetables.
Over the following decade, those who followed to the Nordic diet most strictly enjoyed the greatest health benefits—and had a lower mortality rate. These findings rank the Nordic diet on par with Mediterranean meals in terms of life-extending fare.
What’s to credit for the health-boosting effects? Fish is an important source of fatty acids that have been related to lower incidence of heart disease. Whole grain cereals (both rye and oats) are recognized for their ability to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Apples and pears possess important phytochemicals which help inhibit cancer cell proliferation and lower cholesterol. Cabbages contain isothiocyanates that aid in the detoxification. Finally, root vegetables, especially carrots, are high in beta-carotene.
For Americans, the Scandinavian culture may possess the makings of a much needed diet-redux. A global 10-year study by the International Obesity Task Force found that while the United States ranked last with an obesity rate of 33.9 percent, Denmark’s 14.6 percent obesity rate was the best in the world.
The results will be published in a forthcoming issue of The Journal of Nutrition.