There has been a great deal of talk in diet circles about the French diet vs. American diet. French people seem to eat all sorts of things that are supposed to be bad for you, like butter and lots of wine. Yet they don't seem to have the problems with obesity that American people do.
The French Paradox
This comparison of the French diet vs. American diet was first noted many years ago, but it was a "60 Minutes" report in the early 1990s that really brought the idea to America's consciousness.
The French paradox is related to the idea that French people tend to eat a lot of saturated fat, in the form of butter, cheese and pork, but were thought to not have the rates of heart disease and obesity that other Western nations have.
Some researchers have questioned the validity of the French paradox and new statistics suggest that rates of heart problems in France may have been underreported.
Still, the idea that French people are somehow healthier than Americans, even when they eat a lot of fat, just won't go away. It has gained new strength since the publication of French Women Don't Get Fat, originally published in 2004.
The book includes many sensible diet tips, such as eating regularly, not depriving yourself of just a little bit of your favorite foods, and always having a healthy snack on hand. The lessons are not particular to the French diet, ideas about enjoying meals may be somewhat cultural.
The American Way
The American diet on the whole leaves a lot to be desired. More people are eating more meals away from home than ever before. Often, that means stopping at a fast food restaurant a few times a week.
Some fast food restaurants have made improvements in the health quality of their foods in recent years, such as eliminate trans fats from cooking oils and giving options besides French fries as side dishes. However, most fast food meals are still much too high in fat, salt and calories to be a regular part of a healthy diet.
Even when Americans eat at home, they tend to eat a lot of processed food rather than sticking to things that are locally produced, in season or organic. Larger portions, more carbohydrates and high fructose corn syrup along with a lack of exercise combine to make 64 percent of American adults overweight or obese, and 30 percent are obese.
Compared to about 42 percent of people who are overweight or obese in France,there's not a huge difference in the results of the French diet vs. American diet.
French Diet Vs. American Diet: Who Wins?
No nation is without health problems, and statistics suggest France's obesity rate will catch up with America's as soon as 2020. So what does this say about choosing a way to eat?
There's no nation that has all the answers. Finding the best diet for you may involve some aspects of the French way of dining like regular meals and wine when you want it. It can also include aspects of the Asian way like more soy and seafood. Perhaps it can even include some aspects of the standard American diet in small portions, as a treat.
Most people on earth right now could stand to lose a few pounds. No matter what style of eating they choose, those who are most successful will be the ones who cut calories, eat fewer processed foods and get more exercise so they are expending more calories than they are consuming.
No matter what nation you come from or what kind of food you like, those are the keys to losing weight and maintaining that weight loss for the long term.