Eat Like a Viking to Live Longer

herring fillets with onion and lime slices on parchment paper on an oval dish on an old rustic table, close-up

Medically reviewed in July 2021

You've heard about the Mediterranean diet. Now try the Viking diet. Recent research suggests that it, too, could help you live a much longer life.

So what's a Viking diet, exactly? It's one that emphasizes the staples of Nordic cuisine, typically rich in cabbage, rye bread, root vegetables, and other healthful, hearty fare. In a study, diets that emphasized these Scandinavian staples reduced 12-year mortality risk by as much as one-third!

Score One for Cabbage
In the study, researchers assigned people a score from 0 to 6, depending on how closely they adhered to the traditional Nordic eating style. For every point earned, mortality dropped by 4 to 6 percent over the course of the 12-year study. Overall, men with the most points reduced their mortality by 36 percent while top-scoring women lowered their mortality by 25 percent. Cabbage, rye bread, and root vegetables were responsible for most of the longevity benefits. But people also scored points for other Nordic favorites, including fish, oatmeal, apples, and pears.

Gender Gap
When the researchers broke things down by gender, they found some interesting differences. Although both genders enjoyed longer lives if they ate 1½ cups of shredded cabbage each week, only the men appeared to reap significant longevity benefits from eating ample amounts of rye bread while only the women seemed to get a big boost from eating lots of root vegetables. Regardless, we know that all of these Nordic faves are nutritional superstars, which probably explains their overall impact on mortality risk. Rye bread contains vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that keep blood sugar and insulin levels in check. Cabbage is rich in isothiocyanate, which helps rid the body of toxins and carcinogens. And carrots win first place among root veggies as a source of beta carotene. Taken together, all of these nutrients can translate into lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. (Find out how often you should take a break from sitting in order to extend your life.)

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