Cheese plays a crucial role in French cuisine. From being sprinkled on salads and forming the base of sauces to making pizzas and desserts irresistible, it is their culinary hero. And this is precisely why it makes me wonder, how the French manage to stay fit despite dousing their food with all kinds of cheese!
As a child I remember watching an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show where the discussions revolved around French women and their secrets to maintaining weight. One of the most important tricks that was revealed had to do with 'eating in moderation'. The show explained how the French exercise the concept of portion control. Other tricks included savouring the food, chewing for long and eating slowly. The same stands true for cheese consumption as well. Most of us indulge in acts of mindless cheese gobbling - that too atop food items that are highly processed - that it does nothing else but cause harm to our body.
Can cheese really do any good?
Do you know why the French have lower rate of cardiovascular diseases despite having a diet high in saturated fats? It is not because of wine or their lifestyle but another French staple: cheese. Researchers have revealed that those who consumed cheese have higher fecal levels of butyrate - a compound produced by gut bacteria. Elevated butyrate levels are said to reduce cholesterol.
"The results suggest a role for gut microbes and further shore up the connection between cheese and the 'French paradox'," said lead researcher Hanne Bertram from the department of food science, Aarhus University, Denmark.
Her study was published in the journal Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The team compared urine and fecal samples from 15 healthy men whose diets either contained cheese or milk or who ate a control diet with butter but no other dairy products. A recent study had also found that cheese reduced "bad" cholesterol when compared to butter with the same fat content.
Figuring out why the French have low cardiovascular disease rates despite a diet high in saturated fats has spurred research and many theories to account for the phenomenon known as the "French paradox".
Just a little cheese, please!
One look at the nutritional profile of cheese and you will find it studded with calcium, protein, Vitamin A, zinc, Vitamin b12 and other nutrients. However, cheese is generally slathered all over our food - which is already high on fat, e.g. pizzas, pastas and so on. This kills the goodness of cheese and makes it harmful for our health. Be mindful of the form in which you are consuming cheese. Some of the most popular diet regimes like the Mediterranean and the DASH diet advocate the inclusion of moderate amounts of cheese.
Experts suggest adding cheese only as a means to enhance flavour and not to depend on it entirely. Cheddar and Swiss varieties are high on calories as compared to their distant cousins like mozzarella and feta.
The 'French Women Don't Get Fat' Diet
In her celebrated book French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, Mireille Guiliano unravels tips and tricks on how to stay in shape without compromising on good food. In her book, one can find the concept of eating fresh, exploring variety, maintaining a balance, and always seeking pleasure in food. Here are some of the key points from the book:
- Fresh Food
- Portion control
- Quality first over quantity
- Savour every bite
- Eat slowly
- Regular exercise
Inputs from IANS