It's no secret that the French are generally healthier than Brits and Americans. Our Gallic neighbours enjoy a diet packed with artery-blocking ingredients and yet somehow manage to avoid many adverse health effects. This French paradox has led to countless books on the subject (the famous Why French Women Don't Get Fat is just one) but there are many ways that adopting the French lifestyle can have a plethora of health benefits.
Here are just four of them:
The French eat less processed foods than the Brits. Pic by archer10.
The French eat better
Admittedly, on paper the French diet doesn't sound too healthy. With a backbone comprising of fatty meats, creamy sauces, calorific cheeses, butter-packed pastries and bread and, of course, plenty of wine, it could seem as though looking to the French for nutritional guidance is counterproductive.
But the important thing to consider is not the ingredients consumed, but the amount consumed. Go to almost any French restaurant or French home and you'll see that portions are somewhat smaller than those in the UK, and much, much smaller than those in the U.S. Snacking is less common in France too, and it's customary to only allow children fruit in between meals.
French people also eat less processed foods and prepare more meals at home; rather than buying packaged sandwiches, where you can't control how much salt, fat or sugar goes in, the French prefer to buy their own ingredients (generally the highest quality they can afford) and to make their food themselves.
The French have a slower pace of life
Another health-boosting reason why we should take inspiration from France is because of their leisurely life pace. We can see how stark this difference is in the way the French view meal times. Meals are social occasions and food is there to be savoured - TV dinners for one are almost unheard of.
Consider attitudes to coffee, too: when an American or Brit talks about getting a coffee, more often than not it means picking up a takeaway cup. When the French talk about getting a coffee, nine times out of ten it means actually going to a café, sitting down and enjoying the coffee in a real cup. Because they are in less of a hurry, the French are also generally more active, and walk and cycle much more than their English-speaking cousins.
While the notorious two-hour workday lunches might be slowly diminishing, the French still take far more time over their food than Brits or Americans. This slower pace of life is another reason why the French can eat ostensibly fatty and unhealthy foods and not feel the consequences, as a gentler pace of life also means eating more slowly. Scientifically, this is proven to be healthier, as the slower you eat, the more time your brain has to process that you're full, meaning you eat less.
The French enjoy a slower pace of life. Pic by scorbette37.
The French get more time off
The importance of having enough time off is perfectly illustrated when you compare stress and anxiety levels in France and the U.S. While America is the only developed nation that necessitates no paid vacation time or holidays by law, the average French worker gets at least 30 days paid holidays. The minimum they can get by law is 25 days. There is a lot of truth in the old saying that 'Europeans work to live, Americans live to work'.
The correlation between a lack of time off and poor health can be seen in the prescription drug epidemic currently occurring in the U.S. Nearly 70% of Americans are on one or more prescription drug; more than half take two. Working long hours without sufficient time off is considered to greatly increase stress, anxiety and depression levels.
The French have better Healthcare
While Britain's NHS is certainly one of the prime examples of a decent healthcare system, the French healthcare system is arguably even better. According to International Living's 2016 Global Retirement Index, France ranks number one for the best healthcare in Europe. Comprised of a network of public hospitals, private hospitals, doctors and other medical providers, the French healthcare system is subsidised partly by the government, employers and individual contributions.
As a result of their excellent healthcare (and better diet) the French are one of the healthiest countries on earth judging by life expectancy. France comes in at number nine, with an average age life expectancy of just over 81 and a half years. All these health benefits combine to make France one of the most desirable destinations for expats and retirees in the world.
Despite the differences in culture, moving to France has never been easier, and the British tendency to cross the channel in search of a better life shows no signs of abating. In 2013 over 170,000 Brits made the move and more Americans than ever before are crossing continents now too. The French food factor is a big enough draw by itself, but being able to enjoy a daily slab of brie on a crusty baguette and still live longer than the average Brit is surely the pièce de résistance for expats looking to move to France.