Eat Like the French and Stay Slim

Margaret Ambrose

How did French girls get so damn lucky? It's not enough that they speak in sexy accents, have spent their lives in the most romantic cities, and have all the yummiest designers at their doorsteps. No, they also get to enjoy some of the richest cuisine on earth, wash it down with champagne, finish with a cigarette or ten - and still stay slim and lead long lives?

So baffling is the ability of French women to enjoy life's excesses, that studies have been conducted to discover the reason. (Good, I say, that's just where our research dollars should be going!) What these scientists want to know is how some people can eat four times more butter and three times more lard than their American counterparts, and still be two and a half times less likely to die of heart disease. This phenomenon is called the French Paradox, and what it comes down to is that not all bad stuff is bad, and if you mix it with enough of the good stuff you'll be OK.

Lower sugar and salt consumption
The figures vary according to different sources, but the crux is that Americans consume around ten times more sugar and salt than their French friends. This can be attributed to Americans' love of fast food, as well as cultural differences - American cooking traditionally involves a greater deal of sugar and there's a larger reliance on processed foods.

Higher consumption of mineral water
These days you're just as likely to see a French woman with a bottle of mineral water tucked under her arm as a baguette. The French are the greatest consumers of mineral water (per head) then any other nation, and we all know how essential water is in weight management and overall health.

Greater consumption of red wine
You always dreamed it was true, and now it seems it is. Red wine has healing properties called flavonoids, which are found in certain fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants - those good guys who can help protect against heart disease and even cancer. Further research has found that flavanoids help promote the growth of HDLs (they're the good cholesterol that help get rid of bad cholesterol).

Higher rate of daily activity
Those Parisians walk everywhere - and if you've ever experienced the Arc de Triomphe roundabout during peak hour you'll know why. They walk to the markets, dragging their trolleys behind them; they walk to the restaurant at night; they walk everywhere. That, mes amies, is the difference between slim and toned, and fat and pudgy.

Sure, what the scientist may be saying is that you can eat brie and still be healthy, but that doesn't mean you'd want to totally adopt the French attitude to health. Smoking still kills, even French people, and even French lives are destroyed by alcohol abuse. I suppose, as in all things, moderation is the key.

A couple of glasses of the red drop a day could be just what the doctor ordered. In truth, though, it's all in the grape. Purple coloured grapes are one of the best known sources of flavonoids, so you'd be better off eating a couple of bunches of grapes a day.

Traveling alone in Paris can be daunting, but pleasant. However, trying to enjoy the City of Light, in all its richness and glory, while on a budget, can be downright discouraging.  Every place of quality comes with a price tag to match.  However, with a bit of an inventive spirit and a desire to just have fun, it is possible to experience all the sumptuousness that is Paris, and still have a few Euros left at the end of the day.

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