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Feed your inner Viking: the New Nordic Diet

Feed your inner Viking: the New Nordic Diet

In Copenhagen there is a two-Michelin-star restaurant called Noma which has been ranked Best Restaurant in the World by Restaurant Magazine four times. It was co-founded by René Redzepi, a Dane who had previously worked at world-famous restaurants El Bulli, The French Laundry and Le Jardin des Sens. Redzepi is a pretty serious foodie. Noma has been central in the development of a cuisine known as the New Nordic Diet.

In 2004, Redzepi and fellow Noma cofounder Claus Meyer called a symposium of top chefs from all the Nordic countries to discuss ways to solve a problem. In Redzepi and Meyer’s view, Denmark had become too reliant on processed food and mass-produced meat with additives, and had lost touch with the purity, simplicity and elegance of the traditional foods of the region. This, they opined, needed to change. The assembled gastronomes debated this issue and came up with a reinvention of the traditional Nordic diet with a focus on health and the use of ingredients from one’s locality. It became known as New Nordic.

The Nordic Council of Ministers approved this diet and issued guidelines to the public for healthy eating and weight loss: eat foraged plants, wild meats, more seafood, wholegrains like rye and spelt, lots of root vegetables, leafy greens, nuts and berries. Oil for cooking should be cold-pressed rapeseed oil, which is lower in saturated fat than its Mediterranean alternative, olive oil. A study at the University of Copenhagen in 2014 showed that obese people following this diet lost three times as much weight as those following a conventional diet, and a medical journal has published results that suggest the diet is good for heart health, too.

Since then Redzepi has been a tireless ambassador for the New Nordic Diet through his renowned gastronomic creations, and its focus on healthy eating has made it almost as popular as, but probably more sensible than, the slightly silly Paleo craze of a few years ago. New Nordic has grown beyond the exclusive environment of Noma and entered the Scandinavian home, where homemade dishes of whole grain rye bread, root vegetables, fresh fish, berries and seaweed are now popular. New Nordic is a food culture rather than a diet, with an emphasis on gastronomy, health and the environment. It’s an appealing lifestyle choice for many in Nordic countries and around the world.

Those who want to learn the techniques, ingredient sourcing, science and philosophy behind New Nordic can try this course on Coursera, presented by Professor Arne Astrup from the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen. To explain the rationale for the new food culture it includes details of a major school meal study which examined the effects of the New Nordic Diet on wellbeing, academic performance, body composition and the reduction of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

Image by cyclonebill via Wikimedia Commons