Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Have your cake and eat it too: The French Paradox explained

Imagine living in a world where everyone could eat whatever they wanted while maintaining a svelte figure, radiant health and a joyful orientation toward life. Enter the French paradox. Here is a culture which traditionally and consistently consumes bread, wine, chocolate, fat and meat yet enjoys robust health and longevity. The key to this magic combination of health and pleasure is the overall orientation the French have toward their food and lifestyle. Slow-down and savor life (along with a good meal) A typical meal for the French always include three important ingredients: quality, flavor and variety. The French use the most fresh and highest quality ingredients available, often times local and organic. They consume a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, seasonings, drink plenty of water, and savor a glass or two of wine with a meal. High flavor contributes to a feeling of satisfaction with smaller portions. Eating in this way supports health as a wide spectrum of nutrient-dense foods are enjoyed throughout the changing seasons. The French tend to delight in flavorful food that is void of anything artificial or overly processed. They do not look at food as utilitarian but something to savor and enjoy. Focused attention is given to appearance, texture, smell and taste. Each bite is a full experience of the senses. The French normally eat three meals a day while snacking is rare. Meals are an important social time for family and friends. Good company, food, and conversation are an integral part of French culture. Watching TV (or participating in any other activity that would distract from the meal and conversation) is a foreign concept. In stark contrast, French-born author Mireille Guiliano observed an interesting phenomena while walking through O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. A majority of people were gulping down their meals while working on laptops, reading, or talking on cell phones. "I couldn't see anyone eating with pleasure. Food is one of the best pleasures in life. We should not eat like we're robots or on autopilot. It's not like eating. It's like stuffing yourself." Eating hastily and on the run along with snacking has been shown to promote weight gain. Portions tend to be larger because the full sensory experience is interrupted when we are distracted and in a hurry. Also, a fat-rich diet triggers the production of cholecystokinin which promotes a feeling of satisfaction even when just a small amount of fat is consumed. Slowing down and fully enjoying a meal engages all the senses while allowing the brain enough time to register satiety. Be a food rebel In this age of fast food, growing obesity, and all the disease associated with our modern age, to embrace a slower, more pleasurable way of eating and living is nothing short of revolutionary. Instead of distractedly racing through meals, or even worse, consuming convenience food (regardless of how 'healthful' it claims to be), consider a more aware and intentional orientation. Think slow food and the simple pleasure of creating and enjoying a flavorful, beautiful meal. Sources for this article include: "Diet and Eating Habits-The French Paradox 76," HubPages. Retreived on April 14, 2012 from: "The French diet connection," Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY, 1/3/2005, Retreived on April 14, 2012 from: "Let them eat cake," Mimi Spencer, Saturday 6 November 2004, The Observer. Retreived on April 14, 2012 from:

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