Compared to an American, the average Frenchman consumes about 108 grams of fat, four times more butter, 60% more cheese and nearly three times more pork on a daily basis. The French consumption of alcohol on an annual per capita basis is 11.4 litres per year, whereas America’s alcohol consumption is a comparatively low 8.6 litres per year. However, among males aged 35-74, 115 Americans in 100,000 would have died from heart disease, whereas in France, just 83 Frenchmen in 100,000 would have suffered from heart disease.
In short, the French eat more, drink more and smoke more, yet they are healthier and have a longer lifespan than people from other developed countries.
Welcome to the glorious world of the French paradox.
The French paradox is a wonderful theory that I happened to come across during my travels in France. The theory itself is so absurdly and adorably French – it’s as if this was the evidence they needed to prove their greatness.
Dr. Serge Renaud, a wine-loving Professor of Nutrition from Bordeaux University, France, was the first to coin the term after completing his groundbreaking report that linked France’s low rate of heart disease with wine consumption. Dr. Renaud believes that red wine, when consumed in moderation, actually benefits your health due to the antioxidant action of polyphenol compounds found in the grapes. These antioxidant agents are the superheroes in your body that defend against the wrath of cancer cells and heart ailments.
So for those who practice the belief “A wine a day keeps the doctor away”, you should be making personal offerings of gratitude to Dr Serge Renaud.
Serious studies continue as it slowly unravels the mystery surrounding the French Paradox. Another widely accepted theory is the French love for outdoor leisure and exercise – especially walking and bicycling. In France, you’ll notice that everyone loves to walk or ride everywhere, especially in Paris where you can occasionally witness packs of rollerblading hobbyists clog up the streets and cause major gridlock during the weekday rush hour.
French author Mireille Guiliano argues in her No.1 Bestseller, French Women Don’t Get Fat, that the French paradox essential boils down to the diet. She explains that the key factors for French women staying stunningly slim and petite are due to:
- Smaller portion sizes.
- Savouring each bite of your meal, allowing the stomach to digest easily.
- Only consuming three meals a day with no snacking in between.
- Consuming plenty of liquid such as water, tea and soup.
- Eating mindfully as you sit down and enjoy your meal. There should be no multitasking such as standing, watching TV or reading involved while you eat.
- Emphasizing the freshness of the ingredients.
Now, you can choose to believe the hard facts based on scientific research, or like me, you can simply embrace the anomalies of the French and just accept the obnoxiously French saying; Impossible n’est pas Francais – Impossible is not a French word.