The World's Healthiest Diets
Week Three: The Nordic Region
People in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have long had one of the lowest obesity rates in Europe. Only 13.4 percent of the Danish population and 10 percent of Norwegians are obese, and Icelanders have a 50 percent lower death rate from heart disease and diabetes than North Americans, Dr. Miller says.
Better your bread. In Scandinavia the most beloved loaf is rye. "There are two types of fiber: soluble, found in rye, and insoluble, found in wheat," explains Katherine Tallmadge, RD, the author of Diet Simple. "Both make you feel full, but the soluble kind also lowers cholesterol and glycemic response, causing less glucose in the bloodstream, which means fewer blood sugar spikes and cravings." When I ate my turkey sandwich on a single slice of rye (a typical Scandinavian sammie is open-faced), the bread was so substantial that I didn't miss the second slice.
Go fish. Danish people consume more than twice as much fish as Americans, says Arne Astrup, MD, PhD, the nutrition department head at the University of Copenhagen. "Seafood is lower in calories and fat than other protein sources," Scritchfield says. And much of the fat in the fish that's popular in Scandinavia -- herring, tuna, salmon, mackerel, and cod -- is heart-healthy omega-3s. In an eight-week study, researchers from the University of Iceland found that overweight people who ate three to five servings of cod a week lost more weight than those who scorned seafood. So I ate tuna salad (made with salsa instead of mayo) for lunch a couple of times a week, and I grilled salmon frequently.
Hit the farmers' market. But not just in the summer. The Nordic diet is full of cold-climate vegetables -- cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and brussels sprouts -- and mushrooms, the kind of produce that is loaded with flavor and makes a lean meal feel heftier, Dr. Astrup says. I've typically drenched them in salt and creamy dressing, but I loved Scritchfield's suggestions: roasted beets with grapefruit and basil, and stir-fried brussels sprouts with low-sodium soy sauce and honey.
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