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Sweden touts low-carb diet as key to weight loss

Swedes who want to lose weight fast have been told to cut out the carbohydrates according to a new report by the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment (Statens beredning för medicinsk utvärdering, SBU).

Sweden touts low-carb diet as key to weight loss

The report by the SBU recommends that eliminating carb-rich food such as bread and potatoes will speed up weight loss quicker than a conventional low-fat diet. However, in the long-term there is little difference between how effective various diet plans are says the report.

“What was surprising about the research in our report is that we did not find any health risks associated with reducing your carbohydrate intake. Also, we were unable to establish just what types of fats you should eat,” Jonas Lindblom, project director with SBU told The Local.

Lindblom added that if Swedes are concerned about their weight then they should “cut out the soda” and said the impression that the country is getting fatter may not be accurate.

“There is some evidence that the epidemic is evening out. In Sweden it is estimated that 14 per cent of the population are obese compared with one third in the USA.”

The SBU report provided advice for a healthy diet for adults and children plus how to maintain a reduced weight. He said that quick-fix diets are generally not a long-term solution to maintaining your waistline.

“You shouldn’t have too high expectations on a diet. In the long-run it doesn’t really matter so much as inevitably the person’s adherence to it changes and they can resume old habits.

“If you are worried about your weight then eliminating carbohydrates for a short period can help. The problem is that bread and pasta are very delicious,” said Lindblom.

He added: “People need to pick the diet that suits them best and try and maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

The new report did not study the popular 5:2 diet, which is generating a lot of media interest in Sweden, said Lindblom.

“The 5:2 diet is a way of leveling your energy intake over the long-term. As yet there have not been any studies on people using this system as it is a bit on the outside,” he said.

The SBU is an independent national authority tasked by the government with assessing health care interventions and providing advice on which sort of treatments are most effective.

The authority’s findings are also meant to impartial and scientifically reliable and serve as a basis for decision-making by policymakers, healthcare providers, and patients.

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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