The French paradox, formulated by French epidemiologists, is the observation that despite the high intake of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, the French population still displays a low incidence of coronary heart disease. This could mean either of two things; one, that the link between saturated fats to coronary heart disease is not entirely valid, and two, that there is some other factor in the French diet or lifestyle that diminishes the risk. Here are some of the reasons why the latter might be true.
Good food equals wholesome food
The French are known to consume liberal amounts of caffeine and alcohol and many are even smokers.Their recipes call for large dollops of butter and cheese and exercise is not top priority for most of them. How then do they manage to keep a relatively healthy body weight and protect themselves from heart disease? One reason could be that French cuisine is all about real food prepared fresh everyday.
From breakfast to dinner, meals are made from fresh produce bought at the local markets.
Processed foods are eaten rarely, if ever at all. Food is important in French culture and lifestyle, and from Michelin-starred restaurants to home-cooked meals, the emphasis is on fresh and wholesome nourishment.
Three square meals
Another reason may be that they eat three meals a day. Now, dieters are often advised to eat smaller intervals at regular intervals, which can amount to about 5 to 6 small meals a day.
But there is no strong evidence to suggest that this actually helps with weight loss. In fact, eating when you’re not hungry may cause you to ignore your natural body signals – signals that are designed to help you regulate your eating and stay healthy.
Variety and spice
French meals are largely balanced meals consisting of a variety of foods. While it is common practice in some countries to grab a sandwich for lunch, the French prefer to have a proper meal in the middle of the day. Getting adequate nutrition is key to maintaining a healthy weight because if there is even a single deficiency, the body urges you to eat more until you get that nutrient. The dishes use plenty of herbs and various spices and almost every ingredient is fresh from the market.
Yet another possible key to why the French stay slim – black coffee. Even a large sized latte without any sugar still loads your body with 200 calories. This is enough reason to switch to the French way of sipping on tiny cups of strong, black coffee.
What’s a meal without dessert?
French cuisine always makes room for sweet treats and French desserts are famous the world over. As a result, people tend to eat small portions of treat foods regularly. This takes the stress of having to adhere to a list of forbidden foods and also prevents binging sprees.
Cook slow, eat slow
Not only are meals enjoyed at a slow and relaxed pace, the preparation of food also takes its own time. As a result one is able to savor the food, resulting in a greater and quicker satiety. This prevents overeating and reliance on snacks and junk food to satisfy hunger pangs between meals.
On your feet
France does not have much of a fitness culture, but their regular way of life is active enough. Sports are also enjoyed in the country and people love to walk or ride their bikes.
Studies have shown that even a moderate amount of cycling burns more calories than driving. One study published in the American Journal of Public Health even maintained that obesity rates are linked to walking and cycling habits in many countries. When fitness becomes part of the daily lifestyle instead of an arduous mission that must be tackled, there is likely to be greater consistency and effectiveness. An active lifestyle is also made easy by the way in which French cities are built. Many areas are very pedestrian-friendly, as cars are not permitted.
Therefore one has to walk to places like the grocery store or newspaper stand. People are also used to taking the stairs instead of the elevator as a matter of habit.
Residents are also entitled to good quality, affordable healthcare.