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France releases ‘less strict’ health guidelines

French health authority Santé Publique France has released a new set of health recommendations that are designed to be less stringent and more realistic for the general public to follow.

The recommendations have all been tested by several samples of people aged 18-64, as well as by nutritional and social experts, and are designed to appeal to individuals with even a minor interest in their health.

They are grouped into one of three main categories:

  • “Increase” - such as fruit and vegetable intake, and physical activity
  • “Reduce” - such as meat, salt, sugar, processed meats, alcohol, and time sitting down
  • “Go towards” - such as choosing organic foods, whole grain carbohydrates, and more nuts.

The recommendations were also partly based on conclusions drawn from the most recent 2017 health report from national health agency Anses (l’Agence Nationale de Sécurité Sanitaire).

The slogan “eat five fruits and vegetables per day” still stands, but the extra recommendation to eat more fibre-rich foods has also been added.

Individuals are also recommended to eat more dried legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils and beans) at least twice a week; along with at least one portion of starchy carbohydrates per day.

One small handful per day of shell-on fruits (such as nuts, almonds or pistachios) is also encouraged, due to their Omega 3 content. Only 15% of French people currently eat enough of these, the authority said.

Similarly, two dairy products per day are recommended; along with at least two portions of fish per week - including one of oily fish such as mackerel or salmon. The public is also invited to limit their weekly consumption of meat to 500g each, and charcuterie and processed meats to just 150g per week.

Organic food and local produce should be championed over other varieties as much as possible, the authority said.

Everyone should also aim to take at least 30 minutes’ of “dynamic” exercise per day, and to reduce time spent sitting down, it added, recommending that sedentary workers should try to “walk around a bit every two hours”.

Anne-Juliette Serry, document lead for Santé Publique France, said: “We wanted to give people general directions, rather than definite objectives, [as these] can sometimes put off people who are not that interested in nutrition.

“These recommendations are less stringent, and should lead to a gradual change adapted to the lifestyle of each individual.”

The updated recommendations come ahead of a new health campaign, which is set to be launched later this year. Further advice for pregnant women and older people is expected soon.

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