A Swedish Twist on Eating More Plants
Well, another well-done study has been published that found that eating lots of animal fats was directly to blame for higher blood cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. This one, a 25 year Swedish study, tracked a large group as they followed the trends: eating less fat in the 80’s and 90’s, then switching over to the lower carb, higher fat diet trend in 2004. Across the board, men and women all saw serum cholesterol go up as their sat fat intake went up. Their weight also steadily increased over the 25 year study.
The 2004 switch to a high-fat diet was due to “positive media support” for the low-carb diet, according to the researchers. The Swedes followed the trend and switched over, and their heart health paid the price. To add insult to injury, they all gained weight anyway.
This is serious business, since the Swedes had some of the highest rates of cardiovascular disease in the world in the 1970’s. That was the reason that the study was initiated, along with large-scale intervention programs sponsored by the government. Citizens could participate in cooking classes, nutrition counseling, and other programs designed to reduce their risks.
The traditional diet of the Swedish people is known for being big on meat and dairy, with lots of roast meat and game, sour cream and butter, and a love of potatoes and pastry. Long winters mean fresh veggies were always scarce, and a reliance on overwintered veggies like turnips, beets and cabbage was just part of the lifestyle.
You can see the study here in Nutrition Journal.
Will this be the end of the debate? Heck no. We know very well that this diet persists in newer forms all the time. From Atkins and Zone to Paleo and Neanderthal, we have plenty of books happy to tell you that the real reason your cholesterol is high is wheat, or sugar, or the carbs in fruit. Let’s be clear, it is true that refined white foods like sugar, white flour and high fructose corn syrup are also associated with cardiovascular disease, with an extra bonus of diabetes and obesity.
But let’s be reasonable. Kick the white foods, cut way back on animal foods, eat more whole grains and vegetables, and yes, fruits. Within that you can work it out however you want. Want higher protein? Pile on the high-pro tofu, beans, nuts, seeds, and if you think you need more, find a good, unrefined protein powder and have a smoothie. You can balance your diet to suit you, but remember the Swedes.
In honor of the Swedes who tested out the high-protein trend so that we could learn from their experience, I made this potato salad. Potatoes, welcome back. We knew you weren’t to blame.
Swedish Potato Salad with Tofu and Dill
OK, this is Swedish-ish, tofu is hardly a traditional food in the land of herring and reindeer steaks. But, I figured that some healthful, unpeeled yukon golds, drizzled in vinaigrette and layered with tofu and dill would be a good summer way to eat.
Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a meal
1 pound yukon golds, boiled whole until tender, then cooled and sliced in rounds
4 ounces extra firm tofu, sliced
1/2 medium cucumber, sliced
several sprigs of fresh dill, 2 tbs for chopping
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches coarse salt
cracked black pepper
1. Arrange the potato slices as shown in the picture, then spiral the tofu slices in the center, cucumber around the rim. You can just put it all on a platter and toss it, too. Garnish with dill sprigs, reserving chopped dill.
2. In a cup, whisk the vinegar and oil with salt. Drizzle over the potatoes, tofu and cucumber. Sprinkle with reserved dill and cracked black pepper. Serve at room temp or chill until time to serve.