Have you ever wondered why Swedish people have that healthy glow? It turns out the Nordic diet is not only easy on the eye, it is also good for your heart. The same goes for the mega-healthy superberries that are there for the picking in Sweden’s forests and meadows. And with more Swedes declaring themselves vegetarians and vegans than ever before, Swedish companies have been quick to take the lead in developing delicious, nutritious meat-free, gluten-free and lactose-free alternatives to traditional foods that are both healthy and sustainable.
These days, one in five Swedes under the age of 30 is a vegetarian, while the vegetarian population of the world is close to 400 million. Meanwhile, there is a growing movement, even among non-vegetarians, to reduce meat consumption. Vegan meat alternatives allow us to cut down on meat while still enjoying its flavour and texture. Sweden is home to some of the world’s top vegan meat producers, including Oumph!, which has already gained quite a reputation for its 100 % plant-based, gluten-, dairy-, and nut-free, meat substitute.
You do not have to suffer from coeliac disease to appreciate the benefits of gluten-free products. Gluten-free pasta made from ingredients such as beans, quinoa, beetroot, or lentils, boasts a nutritional profile significantly more protein and fibre compared with the equivalent product made from refined flour.
Data compiled by market-research company Nielsen shows that sales of plant-based foods have risen 8.1% in 2017, with vegan milk alternatives like oat milk accounting for a large chunk of that increase*. Swedish company Oatly has quickly established itself one of the leaders in the booming vegan milk market. Its oat milk is made from 100% GMO-free Swedish oats, and contains a healthy combination of carbohydrates, proteins and unsaturated fatty acids.
Functional foods reinforced with health-promoting components may be the greatest health food trend of our time. Probiotic juice from Sweden is a good example of this. Probiotics are good bacteria that calm upset stomachs and increase the ability of the body to withstand the effects of antibiotics and chemotherapy.
Blueberries and other superberries
Blueberries are not only delicious, they are also incredibly good for you. The Nordic blueberry, or bilberry, is a different species to the one from North America and contains up to four times more anthocyanin – a substance that prevents cancer and diabetes and slows the sings of aging. Other superberries that grow in the wild in Sweden include lingonberries, cloudberries and wild strawberries. Enjoy them au naturel or in a sweet, delicious jam smothered on toast.
Typically made from rye flour, knäckebröd, or Swedish crispbread contains lots of dietary fibre and very little fat. Back in the day, crispbread was considered a poor man’s food but, these days, it can be found in the cupboards of some 85% of Swedish homes. Filling but comparatively low in calories, it’s also a great way to ward off the hunger demons when you are on a diet – and still tastes amazing.
What is more quintessentially Swedish than a jar of sill, or pickled herring? Swedes have been pickling herring for more than two centuries, which might explain why they are so good at it. Herring is a great source of Vitamin D, as well as Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which promote a healthy heart, regulate blood pressure, reduce blood clotting and strengthen the immune system.