How do French Eat What They Want and Stay Slim & Healthy

From HealthAssistBlog

If you actually want to say "goodbye" to your belly, you should take a lesson from the French.

Despite a diet stuffed with cream, butter, cheese and meat, just 11 percent of French adults are obese[3], compared with America’s 33 percent[2]. The French live longer too, and have lower death rates from coronary heart disease. They don’t diet and they don’t spend hours panting round the gym.

Here are several solutions for the notorious “French paradox” – the riddle of how a nation of alcohol-quaffing, croissant-munching gourmands stays healthy and slim, while a disproportionate number of health-obsessed Americans are obese and at cardiovascular risk.

1 Food for pleasure – savor the flavor

Joy is a wonderful anti-aging remedy, isn’t it? French enjoy and savor their food, they are are more gourmets than gluttons. They tend to taste foods individually rather than piling a number of foods on the fork at once.

Americans have a different relationship with food that often excludes joy and pleasure and makes us eat more. It is quite common to observe how people gulp down hamburgers and fries while typing on their laptops, driving the car, talking on cell phones, reading the newspaper or watching TV. Unlike a majority of Americans, French are eating until they are sufficed, not stuffed.

The unhurried approach to eating extends even to France’s Big Mac generation. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found ‘from observations in McDonald’s[4], that the French take longer to eat than Americans.’

In an international study[1], populations were surveyed with questions dealing with beliefs about the dietЦhealth link, their concerns about food, and many other items. The group associating food most with health and least with pleasure was the Americans, and the group most pleasure-oriented and least health-oriented was the French.

2 Small portion size

Size does matter. If food is moderately palatable, people tend to consume what is put in front of them and generally consume more when offered more food.

Partly, the French paradox can be explained by the fact that French portion sizes are notably smaller than American portions. And although the French diet is rich in butter, cream, pastry and cheese, the research demonstrates they consume fewer calories, resulting in decreased number of overweight and obese people.

For example, the standard size individual portion of yogurt in France is 125 grams; the standard size in America – 225 grams. A joint French-American team of scientists from France’s CNRS (national scientific research institute) and the University of Pennsylvania set out to test their hypothesis that the French eat less and a smaller portions, compared with Americans. Researchers weighed portions at 11 similar restaurants in Paris and Philadelphia and found that:

  • The average portion size in Paris was 25 percent smaller than in Philadelphia (277 grams versus 346 grams).
  • Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia served dishes that were 72 percent larger than in Parisian Chinese food restaurants.
  • A candy bar in Philadelphia was 41 percent larger than the same candy bar in Paris.
  • A soft drink was 53 percent larger and a hot dog was 63 percent larger in Philadelphia than in France.

3 Red wine

France produces more wine than any other country, only Italy is close. The French habit of moderate red wine drinking with a meal is probably the most known French paradox contributor[5]. Indeed, Louis Pasteur (a French chemist and microbiologist), said: “Wine is the healthiest and most hygienic of drinks.” It is well established now that moderate alcohol drinkers live longer than abstainers or heavy drinkers.

Antioxidants called flavonoids, natural chemical compounds found in red wine, may promote health benefits to the heart and blood vessels. Red grapes are one of the richest sources of flavonoids, which may make red wine more heart-healthy than white wine, beer, or other spirits. However, research indicates that red grape juice is markedly less potent than wine in conferring health benefits. It is suggested that something in the winemaking process changes the polyphenols’ properties.

4 French tend to aim for food quality over quantity

Surely, most French people do not go to the markets every day and lots of people actually buy their foodstuff in supermarkets. However, open-air markets are very popular in France, and it is customary for people to buy their produce there. It is common for French to buy cheese from the fromagerie, bread from the bakery, meat from the boucherie, and fruits and vegetables from the open-air market. It is more time-consuming and sometimes more expensive than at the grocery store, but the products are fresher and of better quality.

Frozen sections in American grocery stores are much bigger than in France. The market for prepared food is not as large in France and TV dinners do not reside in French diet also. In the US open-air markets, butchers and bakeries are not common, and most Americans simply have no alternative to a grocery store.

5 Home-cooking tradition

Regardless of their social background, the French cook more than the Americans. French food is real food – prepared in the kitchen, with time taken to choose, buy and prepare meals. Home cooking provides a better control of food, and reduces preservatives, trans fat, sugar and salt consumption.

6 “No snacking” habit

Americans who snack on sweets and refined carbohydrates raise their glycemic load and, in turn, their risk of heart disease. The French tend to snack much less than Americans, instead, they try to eat more regularly. If they do snack, the French often choose fresh fruits between meals.

7 Water vs sodas

Beverage preferences also come into play. French drink a lot of bottled water instead of sodas.

According to the statistics[6], French consume on average 52 litres of soft drinks per person annually compared with 216 litres per person in the United States. On the other hand the intake of bottled water is very high in France (147 litres per person) and low in the US (46.8 litres per person)[7].

8 Walking – naturally active life

The French arenТt prone to rushing to the gym, however they are more physically active by simply walking a lot. Daily walking is part of French people lifestyle. Their streets are much more walker friendly than in the US and are full of pedestrians, because many people use cars only for longer travels. People, especially in cities, walk or use public transportation. They have to climb the long flights of metro stairs.

9 Self-discipline

It’s true that the French deny themselves very little when it comes to food. But they also eat very little of it: a piece of dark chocolate after a meal, as opposed to a large piece (or two) of cake. They know that denial isn’t healthy, but it has to be moderated.

The French have a culture of caution after a period of excess. Eating more one day makes them be more careful the next. Thay would rather trade off with a few lighter meals, than dieting.

So the French paradox is more than just the protective nature of the red wine or lower intake of calories. Most probably itТs a culture of being physically active, savoring reasonable portions of healthy foods with the addition of small amounts of high-fat foods for flavor, and a philosophy of balance and moderation. And I try to follow this philosophy to stay slender and healthy for as long as I can.

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