I am usually not a fan of irrelevant photos being used for articles on blogs, but it is important to remember where our cheese and butter comes from (…and no, these cows are not French, but as producers of saturated fats, they too are interested in how they can impact human health).
Here are some facts about the French:
1) On average, they eat 108g/person/day of saturated animal fats. (Americans eat 72).
2) On average, they eat 60% more cheese than Americans, and 3x more pork.
3) Out of every 100,000 deaths, 83 are due to Coronary Heart Disease. In the U.S., that number is 115, an increase of roughly 30%.
How do the French do it?
Well, the most popular explanation is that regular, moderate consumption of red wine helps to maintain heart health. “Moderate” is generally considered to be a glass, maybe two, each day. As cheese and red wine make up nearly an entire tier of my food pyramid, this bit of news is a treasure.
Now, I am not one to follow fad diets (or really diets at all), and I originally met this information with reluctant skepticism. As a biology major, I asked myself, where is the data. Luckily, I did not have to look very far to find it. In fact, my advisor, a Plant Physiologist, received his PhD in the field of Free Radicals and Antioxidants. Long story short, reliable studies have inextricably linked the consumption of red wine with longevity and overall heart health.
The term Antioxidant has become something of an enigma in the last several years. Food producers throw it around and the rest of us, enticed by the prospect of chocolate and wine being healthy (and all the while too lazy to look up how this actually works) are captivated. All of a sudden, I eat pomegranate seeds because they are healthy (not because they taste like grown-up sweet tarts).
But what do antioxidants actually do? It turns out they act as tiny altruistic warriors, keeping our cells safe from attack by throwing themselves in front of the bullet. The bullet, it seems, is something called a “free radical”, which is any of several molecules with unpaired electrons (that is all the chemistry, I promise). Our cholesterol (which becomes more abundant after eating fatty foods as the French do) can be attacked by the unpaired electrons of these free radicals and cause plaque to form. The plaque coats our arteries, and occasionally causes heart attacks (not ideal).
When there are antioxidants in our system the free radicals attack them, rather than our cholesterol. I know, this is the coolest thing ever.
So in short, the French have better heart health because they drink red wine with self sacrificing antioxidants that take the bullet. Not such a bad deal.
Other Antioxidant sources include:
Yellow Onions, Blueberries, Pomegranate Seeds, and Dark Chocolate.
WOMNCAW (Working on my night cheese and wine),