If you’re looking for the best diet for healthy skin, eating like a Viking may not be the first thing that comes to mind.
But the Nordic diet, focused on locally sourced foods from Scandinavian countries, is proving to be one of the most effective for glowing skin – and a number of other health benefits to boot.
Formulated by chefs and health experts in 2004, the Nordic diet is similar to the Paleo diet in terms of its focus on whole, real foods and high-quality animal products and has, since its inception, become increasingly popular.
The Scandinavian approach to health can be summed up by the old expression, ‘everything in moderation’. Scandis are not extremists: we practice ‘lagom’, a term to describe something that is just enough – not too much, or too little. Scandis don't exclude things like bread, dairy or sweets, but simply eat them in moderation.
Originally developed to fight growing obesity rates, the Nordic diet is designed around three guidelines: taking in more calories from plant-based foods and fewer from meat; eating more foods from the sea and lakes; and incorporating more foods from the wild countryside. The result is a plant-heavy, whole foods diet that favors healthy Scandinavian cuisine such as fresh vegetables, fatty fish, whole grains, fermented foods and small doses of low-fat dairy products.
The Nordic diet consists of plenty of fresh fish, vegetables and grains. Photo: Getty
Numerous studies have indicated that the Nordic diet can help to lower blood pressure and improve heart health, as well as support long-term weight loss. A more unexpected by-product, however, is the glowing skin that goes with it.
Of course, no Nordic diet would be complete without a plentiful supply of fresh fish. Salmon, mackerel and herring (all staple foods in Scandinavian countries) and are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help promote healthy, acne-free skin that’s free of acne. Some studies conducted on teenagers have showed that those who ate more fatty fish experienced fewer breakouts.
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables – a staple of the Nordic diet – are rich in the nutrients and antioxidants that keep skin healthy. Carrots and other orange vegetables have beta carotene, for example, which protects skin from UV radiation, while cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and bok choy have phytonutrients that may help reverse and repair skin damage. The Nordic diet also includes lots of wild berries, which are full of antioxidants that fight free radicals to prevent premature aging.
Lingonberries are packed full of valuable vitamins and antioxidants . Photo: Getty
Fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut and yoghurt, all popular among Scandis, are rich in probiotics, which help promote a healthy gut. And though what’s going on in your intestines may not seem directly related to skin health, the Gut-Skin Axis – the relationship between the gut and skin – is crucial.
Meanwhile, the whole grains often found in a Scandi diet – including barley, oats, and rye – are high in selenium, which protects your skin against environmental damage and promotes elasticity to protect against premature ageing.
The Nordic diet can help to promote healthier skin. Photo: Getty
In short, eating a Nordic diet is beneficial for your all-round health and the quality of your skin. Unlike most diets, it’s also easy to follow. Start off by trying a typical Scandinavian breakfast of oatmeal or yoghurt rich in probiotics, topped with wild berries and muesli. For lunch, consider sourdough or rye bread with butter and cheese, topped with fresh vegetables such as cucumber, bell peppers and watercress. The bottom line? The healthier you are, the healthier your skin is bound to look – and if you ask a Scandinavian, the solution needn’t be more difficult than a balanced and delicious diet.