We may find them peculiar, and in some cases downright annoying (berets, really?). Love them or hate them, the French have perfected dining on ghastly foods that all logic would tell us lead to obesity and a number of diseases, yet they stay incredibly thin—and healthy. They call it the “French Paradox.” In between their obsessive viewing of old Jerry Lewis movies, the French dine on white bread, butter, cheese, cream, bacon, wine and decadent desserts, and continue to be some of the healthiest people on the planet. How do they do it?
Fresh: The French generally don’t eat processed foods. They shop daily for fresh, seasonal foods, and restaurants don’t take shortcuts, either. It makes a difference as we’re slowly learning here in America.
Meals with meaning: Americans want it NOW—so we drive-thru, microwave and snack bar ourselves into quasi-satiety, but the result is obesity, diabetes and heart disease, not to mention a total disconnect from our food and our communities. French people sip and savor, taking 90-minute lunches and 120-minute dinners, daily. Eating slowly is better for our digestion and lets us know when we’re full so we don’t overeat. There’s also the joy of meals as occasions and celebrations rather than the guilty gulping we regularly engage in on the couch.
Red wine and coffee: They’re known for it, and they do drink a lot of both. Research shows antioxidants such as resveratrol found in red wine could reduce certain health risks, but alcohol is not right for everyone. Nor is caffeine, but don’t tell the French. They savor espressos throughout the day, which can boost metabolism, and some research shows it can have a number of immune-boosting effects as well.
Walking: It’s part of the culture, especially in Paris where gas is expensive and public transportation excellent. The French don’t drive SUVs to their local Wal-mart; they bike or walk to small boulangeries and markets daily. Walking 10,000 steps a day (5 miles) has been shown to boost overall health, decrease blood pressure and increase metabolism.
Less snacking: Perhaps it’s because their meals are long and so savored that they don’t need to snack as much, or maybe it’s all the coffee that fills them up—but they don’t do it often. And, if they do, it’s not processed food.
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