- Foods like fish, nuts, and seeds may benefit blood sugar and cholesterol levels, research suggests.
- The traditional Nordic diet based on those foods may be good for you regardless of weight loss.
- Swapping out processed foods and saturated fat for healthy fats and fiber may explain the benefits.
Eating more fish, whole grains, seeds, and berries may help improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, regardless of whether you
according to a study published February 1 in the journal Clinical Nutrition.
A team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen and other universities in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland, wanted to test the health benefits of the Nordic diet, based on traditional eating habits in those countries.
The Nordic diet focuses on whole foods such as whole grain breads with rye or oats, seafood like fatty fish, berries, and root vegetables. Previous research has shown the Nordic diet may have benefits for weight loss, and subsequent improvements in health.
Researchers collected data from 200 older adults with a higher body mass index during a six month study period. Half of participants were instructed to follow the Nordic diet, eating enough to maintain their current weight. The other participants were asked to stick to their typical eating habits.
By the end of the study, the Nordic diet group was “significantly healthier,” according to Lars Ove Dragsted, senior author of the study and researcher at the University of Copenhagen.
The Nordic dieters had lower cholesterol, lower levels of saturated fat, and better blood sugar control, the data showed, even though they did not lose weight.
“It’s surprising because most people believe that positive effects on blood sugar and cholesterol are solely due to weight loss,” Dragsted said in a press release. “Other mechanisms are also at play.”
The benefits of a Nordic diet may be linked to healthy fat sources like fish, nuts, and seeds
Researchers theorized that part of the benefit of the Nordic diet likely comes from cutting back on processed foods, linked to higher risk of heart disease. The diet is also rich in fiber, which experts say can help manage blood sugar and lower cholesterol.
Foods like fish, nuts, and seeds are also a great source of healthy fats, including omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, and may be especially healthy when they replace animal foods high in saturated fat, Dragsted said.
“We can only speculate as to why a change in fat composition benefits our health so greatly. However, we can confirm that the absence of highly processed food and less saturated fats from animals, have a very positive effect on us,” he said in the press release.