Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The French Paradox

Most of you will, I guess, be familiar with the French Paradox: the strange situation where the French have a lower rate of heart disease than the rest of the western world while knocking back vast quantities of wine, cheese, charcuterie and other foods rich in saturated fats.

I must say it surprises me. The classic French diet is veggie lite as we're discovering to our cost. A typical day's eating is baguette for breakfast, some kind of meat for lunch, rarely served with veg other than as a superfluous garnish and a couple of oeufs a la plat (fried eggs with yet more baguette) or occasionally a bowl of vegetable soup for supper. All followed by cheese.

The only veg the French seem to really like is 'salade' as in the old dictum 'jamais un repas sans salade' (never a meal without a green salad).

It's not that the food shops don't have any veg or fruit just that they all seem a bit tired and out of season. As in the UK they're flown in from warmer climes, largely Spain and Morocco. And seldom, it seems, make their way into restaurants where there's clearly no call for them. My mother-in-law, who has lived in France almost all her life, actually pushes the veg to the side of her plate if she's unlucky enough to be served some.

How do the French stay so healthy? Beats me, particularly as ready prepared meals seem to be taking over a larger and larger proportion of the supermarket. For this particular frugal cook, keen to eat as much fresh, local produce as possible, it's quite a struggle.

1 comment:

Tom M said...

I love the French Paradox, it is a prime example of why we shouldn't listen to nutritionalists.

The great thing is that there is no paradox: would someone care to consider the possibility that saturated fat isn't bad for you? Perhaps, even as I believe, GOOD for you?

It is much more likely that the modern onslaught of wholegrain cereals in the UK and America is to blame for our health problems.