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The great Gallic grub that's surprisingly healthy

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The great Gallic grub that's surprisingly healthy
Photo: Hafiz Issadeen/Flickr
13:53 CET+01:00
Have you ever wondered how the French stay so slim and live for a long time despite their love of wine and pastries? Catherine Edwards discovers the health benefits behind some classic Gallic grub.

While scoffing crepes and croissants is clearly not a good idea if you want to stay in fine fettle, it is a good idea to chomp on French gastronomy, given that so much of it contains some surprising health benefits (if eaten in moderation of course).

Here's a list of ten classic Gallic dishes or ingredients that you don't need to avoid.

*Disclaimer: French actor Gerard Depardieu is likely to have eaten these French foods but obviously far too much of them.

Choucroute


Photo: stu_spivack/Flickr

This Alsace specialty, usually prepared with salted meats and potatoes, has plenty of health benefits. It has long been used to treat stomach ulcers and canker sores and soothes the digestive tract. It's also packed with vitamins, fibre, calcium, iron and magnesium. But not all choucroute is created equal; canned or pre-packaged options are less likely to preserve the vitamins and antioxidants.

Escargot


Photo: Wilson Hui/Flickr

Many foreigners balk at the idea of eating snails, but it's time to get over the fear of the slimy gastropods, because they are a healthy alternative to other meats. They're a low-calorie, high-protein choice, with omega-3 fatty acids thought to reduce heart disease risk.

They're packed with extra nutrients and minerals, and usually enjoyed with garlic butter (see the final item of the list). In fact, they're so good for you that snail slime is increasingly being used in beauty products too, as it is thought to make skin softer and more elastic.

Frogs' legs


Photo: Sonny Abesamis/Flickr

Like snails, this traditional French delicacy is higher in protein but lower in fat than other meats including chicken. And frogs' legs are packed with the same omega-3 fatty acids, as well as potassium and vitamin A. Just be careful what you cook them in, as some sauces contain more salt than you might think.

Mirabelle plums


Photo: See-ming Lee/Flickr

Small but mighty, Mirabelle plums contain antioxidants which lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Their name comes from the Latin mirabilis, meaning ‘wondrous', and they live up to their name with a large dose of nutrients and minerals including iron, potassium and vitamins A and C which help skin, eyes and are even thought to protect against lung cancer.

Dijon mustard


Photo: Patrick Gaudin/Flickr

Attempts at healthy eating are often thwarted by high-fat condiments, which often have a much higher salt and sugar content than we realize. Dijon mustard, however, is extremely low in both fat and sugar, making it a low-calorie option compared to ketchup, mayonnaise or other sauces.

Red wine

Photo:
 Lori Branham/Flickr


Moderate consumption of red wine is said to reduce the risk of depression, breast and colon cancer, heart disease and obesity, all thanks to a compound called resveratrol. We'll drink to that.

Oysters


Photo: Tim Evanson/Flickr

Here's yet another food that's worth getting over your squeamishness for; oysters are rich in vitamins (C and B-12) and minerals (zinc, selenium and iron) as well as being high in protein and low in fat. They have been linked to weight loss, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure - and that's not to mention their supposed aphrodisiac properties.

French cheese


Photo: MilStan/Flickr

Mouldy cheeses, particularly Toulouse specialty Roquefort, have anti-inflammatory properties which could help guard against obesity and cardiovascular problems, making them a healthy choice for your heart – despite the high fat content of cheese.

Champagne


Photo: dpotera/Flickr

No need to save it for a special occasion any more – champagne contains antioxidants which are linked to lowering blood pressure, helping your skin, boosting memory and could even stave off dementia. It has fewer calories than wine as well, but experts say one glass a week is all you need to get the benefits. Still, cheers!

Garlic


Photo: Hafiz Issadeen/Flickr

It's well worth risking bad breath for the long-term health benefits of garlic – did you know it was used for medicine before chefs began adding it to food? It's incredibly nutritious thanks to a compound called allicin, which is responsible for the distinctive smell and could help fight illnesses from common colds to heart disease. It could also stave off dementia and even improve athletic performance.
 

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