Top 10 French Health Tips
10 – Make meals a social event
In America’s fast-paced society, many individuals greet eating with a need for speed. In France, the exact opposite holds true. Even minor meals are made into social events where the food is savored and the pace is slowed. It’s even commonplace to have large breaks of up to 30 minutes between servings. Aside from reducing stress, slowing your eating will ensure that you don’t overeat since it takes some time for the brain to register feelings of fullness.
9 – Find ways to reduce your stress
It’s no secret that the French enjoy a more laissez-faire way of life. Just compare France’s statutory minimum paid vacation days of 30 to the United States’ more conservative value of 0. Keeping in mind that your vacation is not the only way to relax, try to take a page from the French and focus on good friends, family and food. Cooking is a great way to cope with stress, thus, take the time to learn how to prepare meals from scratch.
8 – Curb your snacking
Compare your local corner store to one in France and you’ll notice one glaring difference: the number of snack foods. Americans have long thrived on snacking, and not just any snacking, snacking of the prepackaged, sugary kind. On the flip side, snacking in France is rare. Because meals are savored, the French have little time to snack, and when they do, they’ll reach for healthy alternatives like fruits orvegetables.
7 – Eat at regular times
To some, there’s nothing more satisfying than a midnightsnack — the French feel otherwise. Although those brief moments of midnight snacking are indeed satisfying, over the long run, the act can have a negative impact on your health (a lesson the French learned long ago). By making meals a social event and by curbing their snacking, the French ensure that they eat at regular times. This in turn allows the body to properly digest food.
6 – Avoid processed foods
America’s obsession with timeliness needs to stop (three cheers for the lazy!). It doesn’t just affect how we eat, but it also affects how food is prepared and sold. To cut down on prep time, processed foods high in sodium, sugars and/or trans fat have become a mainstay, while healthy home cooking has fallen by the wayside. The French, on the other hand, embrace fresh ingredients. The Mediterranean diet is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, so, stick to fresh foods whenever you can. Your local farmer’s market is a great place to start.
5 – Enjoy a glass of red wine a day
Surprisingly enough, much of recent nutritional research shows that the fat content of the French diet is just as high as that of Americans. Yet, despite this high intake in fat, the French have much lower rates of heart disease. The phenomenon is so perplexing that it has even been given a name: the French Paradox.
When news of the French Paradox first broke in the U.S., the popular show 60 Minutes suggested that red wine was the source of this disparity. Within four weeks, sales of red wine had increased 44% and makers of the miracle ambrosia began lobbying for the right to label their product a “health food.” Fast-forward a few decades and its now believed that resveratrol, a constituent of red wine, is responsible for the drink’s healthy benefits, although more research is needed to confirm.
4 – Restrict trans fats
Perhaps the secret is not in wine, but in the type of fat being consumed. Experts have long argued that the type of fat the French consume is the key to explaining the French Paradox. The French diet is based on saturated fats found in foods like cheese and cream that the human body can easily metabolize.
Meanwhile, the American diet is based largely on unsaturated fats, in particular trans fats like those found in fast foods. And just how bad are trans fats? Back in 2006, a large review published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that, “on a per-calorie basis, trans fats appear to increase the risk of coronary heart disease more than any other macronutrient.”
3 – Embrace variety
OK, now that we have you drinking more red wine and restricting your trans fats, have we solved the Paradox puzzle? Well, not quite. Even if the Paradox is true (and there’s many that believe it isn’t), it’s likely that a whole host of factors are responsible. The answer then is to cast your net as far and wide as possible. You can do so by embracing variety. Many nutritional experts believe that it’s the unique variety found in France’s Mediterranean diet that truly separates the French from the Americans. So, step outside of your comfort zone and try a new restaurant or fill your plate with an assortment of healthy foods, not just a heaping serving of the entree.
2 – Use your feet
Being part of the old world, France is a nation whose people rarely rely on cars. Instead, French people rely on their feet. Whether it’s to get groceries or to get to work, the French will walk, bike or take the stairs whenever possible — so should you. After all, it’s a well-known fact that aerobic exercisescan significantly slash one’s risk of cardiovascular disease. If you simply must use your car, get moving with some fun outdoor activities like cycling or surfing.
1 – Reduce your portion size
Take any French man or woman (or Japanese person for that matter) to an American diner and try and gauge their reaction when their meal arrives. That, my friends, is the look of disgust. Truth is that portion sizes in many parts of the U.S. have simply gotten out of hand — an idea mirrored by the rising rates of obesity. If you really want to reap the benefits of a French diet, then you can start by taking away from your plate, not by adding to it. It’s really as simple as that.