by Sarah Stacey
I love a good breakfast. And so do people in Sweden, ‘one of the healthiest countries in the world’, according to physician and researcher Dr Bertil Marklund, author of international bestseller The Nordic Guide to Living 10 Years Longer. I discovered more about the Swedish way of starting the day at a recent breakfast event at the ambassador’s residence in London.
I foraged happily among bowls of berries (there are more than 20 different types in Sweden), yoghurts, shots of fresh, unsweetened juices including rosehip, which is particularly good for children, hardboiled eggs, oily fish such as pickled herrings (surprisingly nice) and gubbröra, a dish of chopped eggs, anchovies and herbs, eaten on crispbreads.
The chef and sustainable food campaigner Fia Gulliksson (foodinaction.se) told me with gusto that ‘what Swedes love for breakfast is cheese and butter on hard, crisp bread’. When I asked Fia if anyone worried about cholesterol, she gazed uncomprehendingly and said they never talked about it. Later, I asked Dr Marklund for the medical view.
DR MARKLUND’S TOP BREAKFAST IDEAS
– Organic eggs are perfect. Try them with oily fish and crispbreads or wholemeal toast.
– Yoghurt with berries, such as blueberries and raspberries (defrosted from frozen is fine). Add soaked chia seeds, which are wonderful and good for the intestine. Mix in hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and small quantities of seeds, eg, pumpkin and sunflower (not too many as they contain a lot of omega-6 fatty acids)
– For a quick snack, spread butter (avoid margarine) on wholegrain bread and top with a cheese slice, which is much better for you than jam or marmalade
He said: ‘Actually, research shows that you live longer if your cholesterol is higher.’ Dr Marklund’s own cholesterol is above the recommended level, but ‘I think this is good,’ he told me, adding that we must ‘resist’ the advice to bring it right down – ‘except for patients with familial hypercholesterolaemia’ (where inherited high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease).
After his parents died ‘far too early’, Dr Marklund feared he had inherited their multiple health risks, so began to investigate. To his relief, he found that ‘genes only account for around 25 per cent of longevity, with lifestyle coming in at 75 per cent’. So he studied the habits that could ‘potentially add ten healthy years, maybe more, to my life.
‘The important thing is balance – not too much, not too little, which in Sweden we refer to as lagom,’ says Dr Marklund. ‘It’s the small, simple changes that amount to a happier, healthier life. Lagom can be applied to almost any situation, from the amount of coffee you drink – three to four cups of black coffee daily for its health benefits, but not ten – to how much exercise you take. Extreme training has no additional health benefits but increases the risk of injury, including stress fractures.’
So breakfasting Swedish-style does not mean having a blowout, but sampling a delicious range of healthy foods to power you through the day. ‘Think before you eat and remember lagom. Don’t leave the table stuffed. Eat slowly until you are two thirds full,’ reminds Dr Marklund.
For authentic Swedish products, visit totallyswedish.com or the Try Swedish! section on ocado.com. The Nordic Guide to Living 10 Years Longer: 10 Easy Tips to Live a Healthier, Happier Life by Dr Bertil Marklund is published by Piatkus, price £10.99. To order a copy for £8.79 until 6 August, visit you-bookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15