The French Paradox

The French Paradox

IMG_6006The ‘French Paradox’ theory refers to the low rate of modern lifestyle diseases (weight issues, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, allergies…) in France despite the diet being rich in saturated fat and other supposedly harmful foods. In fact:

  • 35% of the French population is obese or overweight compared to more than 65% of Australians and New Zealanders.
  • They enjoy the lowest levels of heart diseases of all western countries, live longer, healthier lives.

The French Paradox is gaining a lot of momentum lately in Australia with the media intrigued by what makes the French so healthy. You can have a look at these articles of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in my blog.

History

In 1992 Dr Serge Renaud, a scientist from Bordeaux, supported by Dr Curtis Ellison of Boston University School of Medicine, coined the term the French Paradox to describe the fact the French stay healthy despite eating foods usually considered unhealthy. Since then, many studies have confirmed the doctors’ findings, including research by Australian naturopath Frank Cooper, backed by US doctor, Charles T McGee, which showed that French cuisine contradicts what we have been told about diet for years, and which led him to revisit and redefine traditional nutrition dos and don’ts. Little wonder why the UNESCO granted ‘the Gastronomic Diet of the French’ status as a ‘World Heritage Treasure’ in 2010.

Principles

Mireille Guiliano, author of the bestseller ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’ coined the perfect definition of the French Paradox: it results from the interplay of food, traditions, lifestyle and approach to food. The good news? EVERYONE can learn how to eat like the French and reap the benefits of this super healthy diet– weight loss being one of the most rewarding outcomes of positive and happy eating inspired by the French attitude to food and life! You will never ask yourself: what should I eat?  

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  • Food fundamentals: Plentiful fibre from pulses and whole grains, good sources of antioxidants, vegetable proteins, high intake of vitamin B, a good amount of quality fats (included saturated fats), beef or chicken stock, soups and stews, fermented unpasteurized cheeses, full-cream milk and dairy, red wine (always accompanied by food and in moderation), lower consumption of sugar.
  • Traditions and lifestyle: The French nutrition model today hasn’t really changed over time. It’s about quality over quantity, fresh, local and seasonal, carefully prepared and never over-cooked foods, small meals, teaming meat with lots of green salad, no binge-drinking, shopping for fresh foods, eating slowly, sharing meals and walking a lot.
  • Approach to food: In many other countries, people eat like robots, mindlessly. Or they have a very unhealthy relationship with food such as emotional eating leading to binging on nasty foods or eating even when they aren’t hungry. In France food is an art. It’s beautiful, sophisticated and full of passion and pleasure. Freshness, quality, seasonality, seasoning, flavour, texture, visual variety, colour and presentation all contribute to this pleasure. There is no guilt in eating, food is the friend of the French not their enemy.While many nutritionists fail to acknowledge the importance of pleasure, I believe it is instrumental in making the French so healthy.
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