Ah, France. The land of creamy sauces and buttery baguettes. A place where the wine flows without end and decadent cheeses abound. Finished with that 5 course meal? Wash it down with a cognac and creme brûlée. Wait… How is France one of the healthiest countries in the world? Small portion sizes and active lifestyles help. But aside from the rich high cuisine, France is full of nutritious food. Read on to learn which healthy French foods you should dine on.
Ah, Coquilles St.-Jacques, the unforgettable taste and smell wafting out of a thousand Paris cafes and brasseries. It highlights the joys of French cuisine… the perils. The most famous prep of French scallops is buttery, creamy, cheesy, and bready. But the French know plenty of ways to cook scallops, many of them much healthier.
Each little shellfish contains 20 grams of protein and less than 100 calories. They also have magnesium and potassium to balance out blood pressure and aid the nervous system. Try eating scallops with a simple white wine and lemon sauce. Serve with some arugula and cherry tomatoes, like they do in Provence!
Another shellfish graces the list. This one is easy to prepare and perfect for a sunny evening on the back porch. Mussels have some of the highest naturally occurring levels of vitamin B12 on the planet. B12 is essential to helping your body convert food into energy.
It also preserves the myelin sheath that insulates your brain cells, so it should seep you sharper as you grow older. Oh, and it contains nutrients that improve your mood and relax you. Although that might just be how delicious mussels steamed in white wine with shallots and fresh herbs taste.
That’s right, the dish they make in that animated movie is a bonafide staple of French cuisine. It’s also one of the most filling and satisfying ways to get all your daily veggies in one meal. Ratatouille contains eggplant, onion, garlic, bell peppers, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, and a number of herbs. That means a serving of this dish will help prevent cancer, lower blood pressure, and reduce cholesterol.
Soup au Pistou (Pesto Vegetable Soup)
This Provencal soup makes great use of the vegetables of the season in an amazingly flavorful soup. The pesto is made of olive oil, garlic, and fresh basil. Basil is a strong anti-inflammatory which can help joints. Garlic lowers cholesterol. The pesto mix is added to a medley of green beans, leaks, carrots, zucchini, and whatever other vegetables the chef plucked from their garden.
A salad shouldn’t be a boring choice. In fact, never EVER settle for a boring salad. But how are you going to liven one up without drenching it in heavy dressing? Introducing the Salade niçoise, a cornucopia of some of the healthiest and tastiest ingredients on earth. A traditional Salade niçoise contains tomatoes, green beans, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and anchovies. So expect Omega-3s, protein, vitamins A, B, C, and K, and nutrients like folate and magnesium in a crisp, savory, and vinegary delight of a salad.
The French eat a high-fat diet (and the most cheese in the world), yet have one of the lowest rates of Coronary Heart Disease. How is this possible? The so-called “French Paradox” might be explained by the high incidence of cheese in the French diet. A recent Danish study linked consumption of cheese with the exertion of short-chain fatty acids that might be inflammatory. And, as HFR contributor Dr. Lori Shemek explains, inflammation damages cell tissues and leads to disease.
So maybe we should follow the French and eat more cheese. Camembert is a healthy choice because it low in fat and contains only 80 calories per ounce. It is also rich in calcium to promote bone health, is high in protein, and is a great source of vitamin B12. Oh, and it is pure gooey and delicious goodness.
“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” Thus said Ernest Hemingway, a man who knew both France and booze very well.
But wine is more than just a sensory delight. Sure, it is ubiquitous on French table tops and is a key ingredient in the cuisine. Wine also has many health benefits. It has cancer-fighting antioxidants, reduces stress, and has been linked to a longer lifespan. We recommend that, unlike Hemingway, you enjoy it in moderation.
Tuna au Poivre
France’s coastline is 4,853 kilometers long. That means a lot of seafood ends up on French tables. One of the healthiest poisson in la mer is tuna. Tuna is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential in reducing cholesterol. They are also low in fat and high in protein, making them a filling but not fattening main course. Prepare them in a red wine and pepper sauce for additional antioxidants.
Lentils are a staple of the rustic French diet. They are inexpensive but brimming with nutrients, and can be quite flavorful when combined with fresh herbs and a little love. These legumes contain plenty of fiber, which is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. They are also a good source of potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K.
Looking to mix things up next time you head to the produce department? Try endives, a popular ingredient in French gardens and widely available in many grocery stores. This bitter leafy vegetable contains only 80 calories but over 60 grams of fiber. It also has plenty of vitamins C, A, and K, as well as folate.