Eating for Beauty à la Française
Photo: Douce d'lvRy
Meet Julia Reiss, Contributing Editor and Paris Correspondent. The Franco-American writer and humorist joins IN FIORE to offer us a glimpse into life and beauty from the city where la vie est toujours belle.
When it comes to French girl-beauty the Internet is rife with hot and lukewarm takes about cult French pharmacy-finds and the nuanced art of washing one’s hair every three to five days. However, you don’t have to be French to know that beauty is more than skin deep and in more ways than one. What you eat, chèrie, can either make you glow or take its toll. Alors, as a half-French girl coming at you live from the City of Light, here are my plats du jour.
La vie au beurre
Butter really does make everything better. My French aunt swears up and down that it can bring back the shine to lackluster hair ruined by calcaire (the infamous mineral deposits in Parisian tap water). As science would have it, grass-fed butter is indeed high in oh-so-popular Omega-3s, but also vitamin A and beta carotene, which are all essential for skin and hair health. So instead of ditching dairy across the board like an Anglo-Saxon dietary fascist, just order the damn sole meunière, why don’t you?
Chocolat (sans e, of course)
I do not know a single French person (nor do I want to) that doesn’t have a bar or four of chocolate in his or her home. Most know better than to stock up on the milk stuff, as it has an intemperate amount of sugar (definitely not beauty food), opting for its darker sister. Apart from being high in age-defying anti-oxidants and downright delicious, chocolate is full of magnesium. This wunderkind of a mineral is responsible for a host of essential functions, like sleep regulation, but it also can help combat anxiety. I’m no dermatologist, but less stress probably means less wrinkles… so basically chocolate is French Botox.
From water to wine
French people are rather fastidious about hydration, but water isn’t the only thing on the menu. Wine probably deserves an entire block in the French food pyramid, despite their high-horse malarkey about the art of moderation. We all know the beaten-to-death beauty virtues of water (I promise I’ll spare you), but did you know that red wine has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that may help with acne. Be that as it may, all alcohols have diuretic properties, so make sure to pair that bottle of rouge with another bottle of Evian... or Châteldon, if you’re feeling fancy.
I have literally not once in my 33 years of life seen an eggwhite omelet in Paris. While it's not prohibited by French law, culturally speaking, to separate an anemic white from its voluptuous, nutrient dense yolk would be like separating Jane Birkin from her signature basket bag. Ça se fait pas! When lightly cooked (think soft boiled or lightly poached), egg yolks are an excellent source of zeaxanthin, which protects against light-induced skin damage. So, snag a table en terrasse at Café de Flore and consider their signature soft scramble alimentary SPF.
La vie est belle… but it’s also pain
While the gluten-free train is rapidly picking up steam in largely misinformed hype in ole’ Paree, you’d be hard pressed to walk more than four blocks without passing a boulangerie serving up fresh baguette in addition to a borderline pornographic selection of pastries and breads. While white flours and processed grains are generally considered personae non gratae for achieving one’s health and beauty goals, it’s worth remembering carbohydrates boost serotonin levels. Given all that existentialist dread the French seem to love wallowing in (all of us in 2020, really), a little bit of bread probably does a body a whole lot of good.
As we continue navigating this Wellesian nightmare of a year, may we all take a cue from friends on this side of the pond and learn to find pleasure in the most vain of our pursuits, if only to preserve our sanity. If beauty is indeed pain, let it be a pain au chocolat
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