Food and nutrition

Zumba is all the rage

zumba fitness

Today I had my first taste of Zumba and absolutely LOVED it! The class was full, with participants across all age groups, something I never thought I’d see this in such a small town. The instructor was a petite and rather toned lady that had bucket loads of energy, whom has also signed up to coach the combat class following our session!

I came home on such a buzz I thought I’d dedicate a post on my blog to Zumba. After a little search on Google, I discovered that Zumba has in fact been taught for more than a decade ago. The concept for  Zumba came about when its founder, Alberto Perez turned up to teach his gym class forgetting his usual music. He improvised by using latin music from his music collection in his car. Such that many great discoveries are usually a product of mistakes, this blunder lead to the marriage of aerobics and latin dance music J

The Colombian Perez took his concept to America where him and 2 other entrepreneurs started a phenomenon. Today more than 20,000 instructors teach Zumba in over 35 countries.  For those of you who have not come across this name ( highly doubt there are many ), Zumba is dance exercise class performed to the beat of upbeat Latin music. It incorporates dance moves with classic fitness exercises such as lunges, squats and some martial arts punches. Each workout employs a blend of four rhythms, simplified characteristic forms of cumbia, salsa, merengue and reggaeton, In other words, expect lots of hip action, salsa steps and body rolls!

I highly recommend giving this a go if you get the chance. Don’t expect it to be your usual dance class where the instructor coaches you tediously through each move, this is a fast paced, high energy class intending to get your heart pumping. Zumba routines use interval training sessions alternating between periods of fairly high intensity exercise and low intensity pockets.  Therefore it is suitable for people of a wide range of fitness levels as like most things, what we put into it will be what we get out of it!

However, if your area happens to be unfortunate enough to have not been discovered by a trainer yet, fear not, there are always Zumba fitness DVDs and games to the rescue! The games are available in formats suitable for major consoles ( PS3, Wii and Xbox Kinect). I might consider getting the game myself for some zumba action in my lounge J

Further reading :

Good night and happy dancercising!

Fun stuff

5 quick myth busters!

Here are 5 random facts I found particularly entertaining whilst reading a magazine today 🙂

1) Coffee can help sober you up – FALSE

The caffeine in coffee only masks the effects of alcohol, leaving you with the illusion that you are fine, but in actual fact you are not!


2) You must stop a USB device before unplugging it. – FALSE

* secretly celebrates* I am guilty for often removing my memory sticks without ‘stopping’ them. It never did any damage to my memory stick, so why bother? Now I can finally say that in confidence! However, removing the stick when it is being read or modified (writing data) can damage it. Otherwise it is generally ok.


3)  Sugar makes kids hyperactive. – FALSE!

Contrary to popular belief, there are no scientific evidence to prove that sugar causes hyperactivity in children. It is believe that the environment in which they consume the sweets are usually times when they are excited (think party), hence the association.


4)  Alcohol makes you feel warmer. – NOT!

What?! and why is that I feel warm and cosy after a few drinks ? the answer is it does make us feel warmer briefly but is then quickly followed by coldness. This is because alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate, so warm blood moves closer to the skin and resulting a colder core body temperature!


5)   Hair grows faster after it is cut – FALSE!

Hair growth is more visible on bare skin than it is in a hairy region! cutting the hair does not affect its roots.



Personal development

When everything is in black and white

We all have days like these,

when we feel like we have let ourselves down,

when we are frustrated because nothing is going right,

when we just don’t want to do anything but wallow in self pity and hide in bed.

But life hasn’t changed. Today might feel worse than yesterday because of certain events, but in the grander scheme of things, it is a drop in the ocean of all the life events in your lifespan. Nothing is impossible to fix. Never underestimate the power of a true decision.

A true decision is one that commands commitment and the willpower to do ‘whatever it takes’ to make it happen. I don’t say this lightly as it is not at all easy to do. But, ironically, making the decision is a split second action that requires nothing but our mind (hence making it extremely easy to do), it is honouring that decision where many of us fall through.

I have been fortunate enough to be shown how a change of mindset can suddenly alter the meaning we give a set of events and flip negativity to positivity almost immediately. Just change your story in your head around what is upsetting you and you will see how silly it was to waste precious time being unhappy. Now you have the power to make a change.  Albert Einstein famously said : “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different result”

Music is a powerful tool for altering our state of mind. I hope this some draws out a smile from you as it did me. Feel free to bob along to the music! if only you can see me now! – The World’s Greatest – R. Kelly

* Big Hug to all*

Personal development

Give me that Cadbury Bar – Why might we prefer fatty foods over fibre rich and water laden vegetables.

Women are notorious for reaching for that forbidden chocolate bar even with the knowledge of an impending black tie dinner party. It seems that we Venusians (Women) are not the only ones having difficulties resisting fatty foods!

A study conducted by Drewnowski in 1995 concluded that men of all sizes tend to obtain more fat from savoury food choices (ie. fat and protein combinations ) whilst women tended to derive more of their dietary fats from fat and sugar compounds such as desserts and chocolate!  Could this be a genetic disposition in that women with ‘sweet tooths’ are not driven as much by the sugar content alone,  but the synergistic effect of sugar and fat in combination?! Oh dear, no wonder all the resistance in the world is not enough to keep me away from my chocolate cake!!!!

It is common knowledge that our civilisation has evolved many folds over our biological equivalent, leaving us with outdated primeval instincts to desire energy dense food for survival. At birth we already have a preference for the sweet, as children we begin to show preferences for flavours associated with high energy content foods.  This is useful to fulfil our high metabolic demands in times of rapid growth and development. The problem lies with our ability to attach emotions and subsequent sentimental value to our childhood memories. And nothing can evoke good memories better than food.

In addition to our emotions, fat perception also delivers a pleasant sensorial experience for many of us. It has been found that we have special areas in our brains to process information on how food feels in our mouths, its odor and thickness, and lo and behold, pleasantness of fat! Fat makes dairy appear more creamy, gives food a perception of substance, and contains fat soluble flavour volatiles that would contribute to an extra dimension of odors as we chew our food. Our enjoyment of food flavour is largely contributed by flavour molecules travelling up our nasal cavity and hitting the olfactory receptors, in other words allowing us to ‘smell’ the flavours of our food. Without this, food would appear bland just like they are when you are having a cold!

A study of 25 young men and women indicated that we show a preference for high fat foods despite difficulties in estimating the sample’s fat content accurately in solid foods. Fatty foods also tend to be more palatable, hence making it easier to try them for the first time and difficult to stop consumption even though our calorific requirements are being satisfied!

In conclusion, we prefer fat-rich foods not only because of our genetic predisposition, but also due to developmental, physiological (what our bodies are like), and our attitudes towards food choice. Fat is essential for a healthy body and mind, but it seems like over consumption is far too possible. However, we don’t have to act as we prefer. As mammals of higher reasoning power, and armed with this knowledge, we can keep a close rein on our fatty foods desires and show them who’s boss!


Carrot and Coriander soup

Apologies for this is not baking but it is worth posting. This is indeed  the queen of all soups!!

I confess that I am a bit of a soup aficionado with carrot and coriander at the top of my list. I have made a few versions of this soup, but tonight I did not follow a recipe, instead I went with my gut instinct and it delivered a wonderful surprise! This recipe is so simple with only 6 ingredients. All of them fresh bar one store cupboard ingredient, which incidentally is vital in balancing the flavours here.

I took about 30 minutes to make this from start to finish, including the blending time using a hand blender. It is very simple to make and terribly satisfying as a meal with some fresh bread. Give it a whirl tonight! (pun intended)

carrot and coriander soupGolden drops of wonderful

Carrot and Coriander soup

Makes a large pot. Serves 4 hungry people

1 yellow onion, about the size of a tennis ball, finely chopped

1 baking potato, about the size of your fist, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

a smallish handful of fresh coriander or cilantro

1.7 litres of vegetable stock (of which I made up using 3.5 vegetable Oxo stock cubes)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil ( I used rapeseed oil )

600 g peeled carrots, cut up into thin batons

1. Heat the oil up in a pan and saute the onions and potatoes under medium heat until onions soften.

2. Add ground coriander and saute for another minute or so.

3. Add crushed stock cube and boiling water (or the stock as you have already made it). Bring to boil.

4. Add carrots. Stir.

5. Cover pot and leave to boil for 10 minutes or until carrots are very tender.

6. Add in fresh coriander, take off heat and blend using stick blender until smooth.

7. Serve with warm crusty bread.

8. Relax and savour.

Food and nutrition

Diet drink for your dieting regime?

You get to the front of the line in McDonalds. You order your meal. The healthy wrap. Well done. You upgrade to a meal selection. You order a diet coke. Surely a diet version of our beloved sugary drinks is allowed even if I want to lose weight?

That is fine. Until……

Later that day you feel so pleased with yourself you celebrate with a slice of millionaires shortbread and latte. Um, what you just ate has more calories , fats and possibly sugar than the original diddly cup of sugary drink you are celebrating abstinence from. This is probably why diet drinks are not as effective in weight management as they logically should be.

In response to this article :


Before we begin, let me put this into context. The article stems from the idea of using diet drinks (ie. drinks that uses sucrose a.k.a. sugar substitutes like Aspartame, Ace K , Sucralose etc.) to tackle the obesity epidemic. We are talking about calorific values here, not the nutritional implications of artificial sweeteners.

Here is my summary of the argument presented in the article if you don’t have the time to read it.

Euromonitor International has suggested that low calorie drinks could encourage dieters to over-eat. They say that if anything, the correlation of those events are probably due to people compensating for excessive food intake. People who are planning to, or have over eaten use diet drinks as a “damage limitation measure”. (So in essence, they are still consuming more calories than they ought to, just trying to remove the accountability for that action! ) Their findings did not give solid proof that low calorie drinks are effective in weight management.

Personally I think artificial sweeteners are tolerable, but the type of sweetness that they impart is not as satisfying as that from sugar. It is a short-lived burst to intense sweet, whereas sucrose gives more of a complex rounded sweet flavour. But hey, I suspect that I am slightly intolerant to artificial sweeteners, so I am naturally biased 🙂 Think about it and decide for yourself which side of the fence you are on!

PS: I am not in any way attacking sugary drinks, I have no problems with people consuming them, just do it in moderation!