A Danish wellness expert names the Nordic superfoods said to boost the immune system, fight fatigue, and stay cozy.

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During winter in Denmark, the temperature hovers around freezing, and the sun can set as early as 3:30 p.m. Why then, even with all that cold and darkness, do international surveys consistently put the Nordic nation at the top of the list of the world’s happiest countries?

According to Laura Bonné, wellness expert and owner of Amazing Space, the holistic spa inside Copenhagen’s Hotel d’Angleterre, Danes have certain secret weapons for not just enduring these winters, but thriving. (Secret weapons besides, you know, the top-notch universal healthcare, maternity leave policies, and free education.)

danish superfoods
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Self-care is woven into the fabric of Scandinavian culture, she says. Elements like hygge, the art of coziness, and exercise, which Danes all over the country get, in part, commuting via bicycle, contribute to overall well-being. So, too, does Nordic spa culture, which has been part of life there for centuries. Practices include detoxifying sauna rituals, and something called “winter bathing”—a year-round, daily jump into the sea.

“It’s a very old tradition experiencing a huge revival in Scandinavia,” says Bonné. “It strengthens the immune system, especially if you combine it with sauna.”

For nearly two decades, Bonné has been practicing and perfecting spa treatments for people who live in the colder climates of the Northern Hemisphere. So take inspiration from the Danes this season, and incorporate these ingredients into your diet to thrive throughout the winter. Plunging into frigid waters optional.

1. Sea buckthorn

The vibrant orange berries native to cold-temperate regions in Asia and Europe (the hearty plants withstand freezing temps) are popular in both skincare products and food. “Lubricating omega-7 effectively regenerates skin and mucous membranes,” notes Bonné. She suggests adding frozen berries to smoothies, and putting the oil in salad dressings or marinades. “It nourishes and softens the skin from within.”

Seabuck Wonders Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil, $22.65 at amazon.com

rose hip oil
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2. Rosehip

“The vitamin A and C bomb boosts regeneration of skin cells and collagen production, as well as boosts the immune system,” says Bonné. The glossy red fruit is the main ingredient in nyponsoppa, or rose hip soup—a Swedish dessert. Dried, it can be made into tea, and its oil can be used in foods or on skin. (It’s an element in the Nordic Space treatment at the Amazing Space spa, combined with a sea salt bath, a facial, and warm Icelandic lava stone massage, arnica, and rosehip oil.)

Davidson's Tea, Organic Rosehips, $14.27 at amazon.com

3. Red clover

The national flower of Denmark is also said to have anti-inflammatory properties, and according to Bonné, is particularly recommended to combat symptoms of menopause. “A tasty edible flower, its leaves can also be tossed into salads or used in tea.

rose root
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4. Rose root

Known as “Nordic ginseng,” rose root grows wild in Arctic regions and is thought to fight fatigue. Bonné suggests the dried version for tea or sprinkled on food.

5. Hemp seed oil

“The cannabis plant's seeds promote health from within with omega-3 that strengthens bones, joints, nervous system, and skin,” says Bonné. Low in saturated fat and rich in polyunsaturated fat, the edible oil has a nutty flavor and can be added to vinaigrettes, or drizzled on hummus, grains, or soup.

Sweet Essentials Virgin Hemp Seed Oil, $9.50 at amazon.com

In 2020, D’Angleterre will launch a new well-being program, combining the hotel’s food and beverage offerings with Nordic spa treatments, workshops, meditation and sauna rituals rooted in Scandinavian traditions of wellness. Many of the treatments and meals in the program will include Bonné’s favorite Nordic ingredients.