There’s been a lot of hype lately around the Mediterranean diet. And for good reason: Studies have shown that a diet rich in olive oil, fish and nuts, like that of the cultures surrounding the Mediterranean sea, can significantly lower the risk of heart disease compared to following a traditional Western diet.
But new research shows that our friends in the Mediterranean aren’t the only enlightened ones when it comes to nutrition. A pan-Nordic study in which Lund University participated has found that following a healthy Nordic diet lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and increases HDL (the good kind), which ultimately means a healthier heart and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
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So, what exactly does a “healthy Nordic diet” consist of? The study was based off a diet rich in produce local to the region, such as berries, root vegetables, legumes and cabbage, in addition to nuts, game (free-range and wild animals as opposed to farm-raised), poultry, fish, whole grains, canola oil and low-fat dairy.
Researchers compared two groups of subjects—one that ate the typical Nordic diet foods, and another that ate butter instead of oil, less berries and vegetables and had no limitations set for how much red meat or white bread they could consume.
In addition to finding healthier cholesterol levels in the first group, followers of this specific eating style also experienced a decline in harmful fat particles in their blood and decreased inflammation (which can contribute to a whole host of problems, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and even some cancers).
YouBeauty Nutrition Expert Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., praises this way of eating, because it’s completely void of processed foods, and instead focuses on ones—like nuts, berries and grains—that have been shown to reduce the risks of many diseases. But she does have one caveat: “Ideally, there would be some recommendations on limiting red meat consumption,” Kirkpatrick says. “Red meat has been associated with increased risk of heart disease, so going overboard on it may offset the great benefits you’ll get from the other dietary components of the Nordic diet.”
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If the heart-healthy benefits alone can’t convince you to incorporate these foods into your diet, maybe knowing the incredible effects it can have on your skin will help. The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in the region’s typical vegetables, such as carrots and rutabagas, contribute to cell renewal and prevent wrinkles. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids found in fish also help bolster the skin membrane and keep skin looking young and wrinkle-free. The anti-inflammatory effects of the diet—which can be traced back to the antioxidant-rich berries that grow abundantly in these areas—help prevent breakouts, rosacea, wrinkles and sagging, which can all be perpetuated by inflammation.