Nordic food is hot. It’s healthy too. A recent study in The Journal of Nutrition found that a Nordic diet — rich in foods like whole grain rye, unsweetened yogurt, wild berries, root vegetables, herbs and fatty fish — can lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, and even lead to weight loss. While you may not make it to restauranteur Claus Meyer’s new Great Northern Food Hall in New York, the popular Minneapolis’ Fika Café or Broder Söder at the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation in Portland, OR, you can certainly discover these delicious ways to enjoy the new Nordic diet.
Canned or jarred fish
Pickled herring anyone? While not typical lunch fare, a Swedish smorgasbord would be incomplete without it. In the Nordic Diet study, people ate two to three servings weekly of fish. And eating fish more often is as easy as opening a jar of pickled herring from IKEA stores or most supermarket deli sections. Herring are mild tasting fish that are often pickled in a vinegary onion and black pepper brine, and are addictive on dark rye crackers topped with red onions, fresh dill and a bit of sour cream. And don’t forget canned sardines, which are harvested in the frigid waters of the Norwegian fjords; these trendy tins are packed with immunity boosters. Norwegian salmon is also an appealing choice; add it to potatoes and greens in our hearty-and-healthy Salmon Hash.
The old technique of pickling vegetables is new again. This is evidenced by the whopping $14 price tag found on a jar of pickled seasonal veggies – and by their appearance on restaurant charcuterie platters. Participants in the Nordic diet study ate a lot of cukes and cabbage. Both would be perfect in this quick pickle recipe.
If you’ve never tasted the Icelandic yogurt known as skyr, get ready to really taste yogurt. With minimal sugar, the true tangy taste of cultured dairy comes through. Skyr is made by culturing non-fat milk and then straining the liquid, which leads to extra creamy cups. Probiotics in yogurt may play a role in heart health. Skyr can be substituted for cream cheese in most recipes, like this one, or try it in savory yogurt bowls.
Dark rye or barley breads
The open-faced sandwich, or Danish smorrebroad is usually anchored by dark rye or barley bread. These whole grains contain healthy fats. In the Nordic diet study, researchers noted that diets high in whole grains like rye, barley and oats can increase a person’s blood level of good fatty acids, like plasmalogen, which helps decrease their risk for inflammation-based diseases, like type-2 diabetes.
Cloud berries are tiny, native Scandinavian berries that grow wild and have become known for their powerful antioxidant profiles – and the outrageous prices they command on the world market. Closer to home, you’ll be lucky to find antioxidant-rich domestic wild berries at summer farmers markets: huckleberries in the West, tiny wild blackberries in the Midwest and the South, and in the East, wild blueberries. Fortunately, many supermarkets now carry frozen wild blueberries from Maine. Generally, the more a wild berry has to struggle to survive, the higher the berry’s antioxidant content. Frozen red raspberries are thought to contain the highest antioxidant amounts among domesticated berries – as they grow in the short, intense growing season of the Northwest. Snack on the whole berries, or blend them up in a quick morning smoothie.
Serena Ball, MS, RD is a food writer and registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing tips and tricks to help families find healthy living shortcuts. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Snapchat.