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The French as well as drinking wine instead of spirits, also drink it with meals rather than to get drunk like Americans tend to do. This is another factor that helps to explain why the French have less heart disease than Americans. But there are other factors that contribute as well. The quality of the high fat French food tends to be much higher than American high fat food.
First let us talk about levels of fat in terms of health. The worst level of fat is food fried in animal fat. For one heating any kind of fat or oil changes its composition negatively. Two it saturates the food with this low quality oil or grease.
The next differentiation comes between food fried in fresh animal fat and rancid animal fat. Fresh animal fat is fat that has not already been cooked. Continually re-heating animal fat turns it rancid. Rancidity aggravates all the organs because it is hard to process. The stomach has to crank up the acids, causing problems for the intestines, the liver and kidneys. The intestines have to deal with a higher acid level from the stomach. The liver and kidneys have to work harder to purify the system.
Much, if not most, of America’s fat comes in this form. Deep fried chicken - French Fries - Fish and Chips - Chicken Fried Steak - dispensed by the billions world wide from the doors of America’s Fast Food Chains. Food deep fried in cauldrons of animal fat that is kept boiling hot all day long. If the oil or fat is changed regularly, it is still not exactly healthy, but it is far healthier than food cooked in rancid oil which has been sitting around too long and is exhausted and cranky, and ready to give you a stomach ulcer.
Joe the Waiter: “In terms of deep frying, how often do you change your oil.”
Felicien the Chef: “About every three days.”
Joe: “How do you determine when to change the oil? By taste?”
Felicien: “Not by taste, but by color. It’s good if I can see the food through it.”
Joe: “If the oil is translucent, then you keep it.”
Felicien: “Right. I’ve seen kitchens where the oil is kept for weeks. It goes from cloudy to black. The food immediately gets brown when put in the deep fryer. It’s really gross. I’m telling you.”
Joe: “The economics of fast food, which must be quick and cheap, demands that the restaurant use the deep frying oil past its healthier stage. To maximize profits, extend the time the oil is used. It makes a lot of economic sense. People don’t notice anyway.”
Augusto the Maitre’d: “Plus the modern deep frying oil has lots of additives. These are as unhealthy as the fat. It used to be just good old animal fat, without all extras. Processed food; processed oil, with all those unhealthy additives.”
Worst is food deep fried in rancid animal fats, which would include at least some of the food fried in a fast food context. Second worst is food fried in fresh animal fat. Then comes food fried in fresh vegetable oil. However deep fried food, no matter which form, tends to most poisonous because bringing oils to high heats changes their composition, making them less digestible.
There is another kind of frying which is more healthful, sautéing. Although the French chef heats up oil to sauté fish, this is quite different from Deep Fried. Deep Fried means to immerse the food in hot fat, while to sauté means to cook it quickly in a pan with just a little bit of butter, which is ‘fresh’ and is continually replenished with ‘fresh’. The tendency for the oil or butter to get rancid in sautéed foods is much lower because of the lower levels of heat and the regular replenishment with ‘fresh’ butter. Sautéed fish needs no batter to protect it, while deep fried fish needs a batter to protect it from destruction. While Americans love Deep Fried Foods, the French prefer to Sauté.
After fried foods, deep fried or sautéed, comes roasted animal fat. This would include much of the featured French cuisine - Filet Mignon, Veal, Foie Gras, Lamb and Pork. Overall roasted or grilled animal fat is a much healthier fat than deep fried fat, because the temperatures are much lower and the fat is fresher. Even healthier than roasted animal fat is the fat that comes from the dairy, which include eggs and milk products, i.e. milk and cheese. This pretty much includes most of the fat in the American and French cuisine. (There are other types of fat, of course, such as that found in avocados, nuts, and bananas, but they aren’t exactly a major component of the Northern European diet.)
High quality French cuisine uses lots of roasts, sautés and dairy products. While there is the deep fried French fries this is not the primary part of the meal. Their fish is sautéed, not deep fried.
But there is another type of fat, which is actually healthy. This is oil that is cold-pressed, i.e. never heated, from vegetables. Olive oil and grape seed oil would be of this form. Thus the word fat is a distortion of the actuality. It groups deep fried food from fast food stands with cold pressed virgin olive oil - One is poisonous while the other is healthful - Hamburger and avocado - Chicken Fried Steak and a Banana - French Fries and Raw Nuts - All are grouped under high fat foods. But, as mentioned, the quality of the fat ranges from unhealthy to healthy.
In actuality the French not only consume wine with their saturated fats but they consume a much healthier type of saturated fats. Americans get a much higher percentage of their saturated fats from deep frying than do the French, while they might consume the same amount of saturated fats. In this exploration we’ve seen that the type of liquid consumed influences health; we’ve just seen that the type of fat consumed is also a big health factor. There is one more factor associated with wine that influences health. Read on.