Chocolate it's not that bad after all...

We've all been told that eating chocolate is bad for us, ever since we were children our parents, dentists and doctors have warned us about limiting our chocolate intake, but what if there was some scientific evidence to suggest it could come with some health benefits? 

Chocolate is made from the cocoa bean, grown usually in warm countries and then is separated into cocoa butter and cocoa nibs, mixed with some sugar, milk and other bits to get the chocolate bars we eat today. Not all of the components of a bar of chocolate have health benefits, but it's the cocoa that could help you. A group of Italian researchers have examined the effects of cocoa flavonoids and found surprising results, they have found "enhancements in working memory performance and improved visual information processing after having had cocoa flavonoids". This means that there was an improvement in memory function and the way in which we see and process information. Not bad ey! Many of the tests had been carried out in the long term show studies of elderly people and suggest that "cognitive performance was improved" as well as "attention, processing speed (and) working memory".  This is hopeful news for a lot of us chocolate lovers as it may have long term beneficial effects of the functioning of the brain. 

Other articles suggest the health benefits of flavonoids and their ability to fight free radicals (the bad guys) in your body as they are a natural antioxidant. But that's not the only thing, cocoa is also a source of theobromine which is known to have positive effects on the heart. It is possible that it could lower blood pressure by increasing the heartbeat and dilating blood vessels. These are all good points that suggest that cocoa may be doing some food to our bodies. 

However, flavonoids are ruined when they are cooked and processed which means that your day to day chocolate bar won't be of much use to you, raw cocoa and really dark chocolates are what could benefit you. It's also important to note that in milk chocolate, the added milk and sugar probably out weighs most of these health benefit as these ingredients can lead to a risk in weight gain and tooth decay, especially if you eat too much of it. So if you want to see some potential benefits to cocoa, get eating the really dark stuff. 

*Sources taken from &


FOOD: The basics

Most people I come across don't have a problem with exercise, it's food that's the challenge, but really it should be the most simple thing. The media and food companies make it harder than ever now for you try and stay on track with healthy eating, with new articles coming out every week about 'super foods' and foods that cause long term health problems, when a lot of the time there isn't much scientific evidence to back it up. Although there is lots of speculation in the world of nutrition, here are some tips that will help you keep up a healthy eating regime...

1. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

Low in calories and high in vitamin and minerals, you can't really go wrong with fruit and vegetables. The government recommend at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day but a lot of people struggle with that because we rely on refined carbohydrates and meat to fill us up, but if you maintained 5 portions of fruit and veg a day your meals would be bulked out with much healthier foods. There is some speculation as to whether we should limit our fruit intake because of the amount of sugar in it, if you stick to around 2 fruit a day there shouldn't be a problem as the sugar is digested with fibre which means you don't get the sugar spike you would get from sweets and cakes. But all in all the best advice would be to stock up on your veg, if you struggle for recipe ideas, check out Pinterest.

2.  Protein is necessary

Unless you go to the gym a lot and the word 'PROTEIN' is being thrown about all of the time, you probably don't take much notice of your protein intake but it is very important for your body. In short, protein is made up of amino acids and we need then for a lot of our body's functions, including muscle growth and repair, so if you exercise and won't a more toned look, protein is necessary. Sources of protein include: poultry, fish, eggs, chickpeas, lentils and natural yoghurts, etc. I'm not saying it's chicken and vegetables for every meal from now on, but make sure you're trying to get a portion of protein in each meal.

3. Not all fats make you fat

Against what most people think, some fats are good for you and are actually necessary. They keep you warm, are used as a secondary source of energy and are needed for hormonal function, but you want to be eating more unsaturated fats and less saturated fats. This means more nuts, nut butters, avocado etc and less sweets, chocolate and biscuits and because fats have more calories per gram than carbs and protein they leave you feeling fuller for longer. 

4. Cut out the processed foods 

You know that if it has been made in a factory or can't be produced naturally it most likely isn't good for you. Stick to fresh ingredients, get creative in the kitchen and try to avoid nasty processed foods. Of course there is going to be the odd time when you just need that fried chicken burger, no one's a saint, but just limit how many times you eat food like this. 

If you follow these few tips you will definitely be on the right track to having a balanced and healthy diet. It's something that most of us know but get caught up in all of the mixed messages and start to doubt ourselves about what is good and what is bad. And as a side note, i'm no dietician, these are just some of the government recommendations mixed with my nutritional knowledge as a Personal Trainer. 


Lac d'Annecy Cycling Tour

I do love exercise but i'm not a cyclist. The thought of cycling on a busy road scares the life out of me and as much as I would like to throw my bikes on a bike rack and go for a good old cycle in the country i've never done it, but times are changing. Last weekend I embarked on the mighty task of cycling around the entire circumference of lake Annecy and boy did I feel it when I had finished, however it has inspired me to encourage you all to get on your bike and ride. 

So like I said, I can't call myself a cyclist but since moving to Annecy I have been cycling to work everyday (only 10 minutes) and I thought it would be a good idea to go the whole way around the lake because it would take a pretty long time to walk it. I started the tour at the centre of Annecy and if you are facing the lake, I turned right to head past Marquisats that way round. Annecy is really good for cyclist because there are plenty of signs to tell you where to cycle so if you just stick by the lake you will eventually cycle past some boats and see a cycle sign that tells you that it's the start of the cycling lake tour...

It's a pretty nice cycle to start, you are not near the road and it is a separate path to the footpath so you don't have to dodge people, plus it's a nice flat surface so you can breeze by without many problems. The great thing is that people of all ages and abilities cycle so you definitely won't feel silly taking the plunge. As you cycle you will want to stop to see all of the beautiful French provincial buildings and get a glimpse of the lake, which is fine because there are plenty of campsites along the way and cafes you can stop at.

So here is where it gets a bit tricker...or not. You will begin to see signs for Doussard and you will arrive at a crossing where you can either cross the road and continue ahead on the bike path or turn left to go around the roundabout. GO AROUND THE ROUNDABOUT. You will want to take the exit straight over to Talloires and have to cycle on the road for a little bit. After cycling for a short time you can cross the road and take another cycling route off road (though I am not sure where that leads to) or you carry on along the road and you will eventually see the lake on your left again. Personally I didn't have a problem with drivers as they gave me lots of room and there weren't many cars about, but you must keep looking because there are points where you can cross the road and take the cycle path. 

And a bit more difficult...When you reach Talloires you will be on the road, and up a hill, a very steep hill. You may be great and absolutely smash this but I had to take several breaks, and I mean several. You think the hill is over and then you have to go round a bend and keep going, push through though because the decline on the other side is quite rewarding and it feels great not to have to use your legs for a while. After this it goes back to pretty level ground, you have to cycle on a mix between the road and cycle paths and you get to see lovely little villages and boulageries which might tempt you. You will cycle through Veyrier and then get back to a cycle path by the side of the lake near Annecy-le-vieux and then you've pretty much made it, congratulations! 

The cycle took my around 4 and a half hours in total, including my lunch stop but the time didn't really matter I just really enjoyed being on my own and spending the time not worrying about anything and feeling quite free. So, even if you aren't visiting Annecy anytime soon (even though you should) go to the countryside and have a cycle because you'll feel fantasic afterwards. 


Brussels-Chocolate and chips

Last month Simon and I took our last city break before my big move to France for 8 months and boy did we need it! After keeping a stricter diet for a photoshoot and training hard, it was time to indulge in some heavenly foods, and where better to eat your body weight in chocolate than in Brussels?

We stayed at the fantastic Hotel Bloom a quirky place within the centre which provided us with the two most important things, a gym and unlimited breakfast. I would highly recommend staying there if you get the chance to visit Brussels. Day one consisted of discovering the city so we began by walking into town, grabbing a quick burger and discovering all of the different chocolate shops (I promise you will never see so much chocolate in your life). We eventually ended up at Grand-Place Brussels which is a square surrounded by the most opulent architecture, including restaurants, bars and the great town hall. Here we sat and soaked up the sunshine and ate ice-cream. Again, Brussels does not fail when it comes to ice cream either, one might say they are even as good as the Italians. It was a day of wondering about and seeing what the city had to offer. We took a look around all of the different side passages and ended the night with an Italian meal.

Day two....lots of culture. We began the day by visiting the musical instrument museum and trust me, you would never know there were so many instruments. It's pretty fun as it's interactive, you wear headphones and select the number on each instrument display so that you can hear how it sounds. It is set up in the most spectacular Art Deco building which I thought was just as amazing as the museum. As it was sunny, we took to walking around again to explore the city and grabbed a sandwich from Paul's whilst watching passers by at the Grand-Place. Then onto another museum. We visited the art gallery quarter and if you're a student you get entry to all of the different galleries for 6 euros. Within the gallery you can visit the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Belgium, Margritte Museum, Fin-de-Siècle Museum, and a few others, a variety for all art lovers. Honestly, Simon and I aren't lovers of modern art so we spent a lot of our time in the fine art museum, but trust me there is more than enough to look at. And I cannot forget to mention that we finished the day with waffles. 

Day 3 saw us visit a new part of  town to see Autoworld, and this was our favourite museum. As you walk through the lovely Parc du Cinquantenaire, you are met with a large arcade that resembles Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. On either side of it you can choose to visit the Musée royal de l'armée or Autoworld, and we chose the latter. Even if you don't like cars it's incredible to see the progression through time and all of the cars have been kept in a perfect condition. Even I could admire the beauty and I think it is a place everyone should visit, plus it's well worth your money because there is plenty to see. Day three was also the day that we found our favourite fish and chip shop, which says something coming from England. It was called Bia Maria, right in the centre of all of the restaurants, opposite a casino and boy did they serve good food! The restaurant only serves fresh, sustainable fish, therefore the fish menu changes each day to provide us with the best fish that they can get daily and you can taste the freshness for sure. The menu isn't huge, but that means that their dishes are made perfectly each time. If you're stuck for choices I would definitely suggest the classic Panko fish with seaweed salted chips, it's what they're known for and my god is it good! 

So there you have it, if you are planning on visiting Brussels here are a few tips on where to go and if you weren't planning on going, add it to your checklist because it is definitely a city that everyone should visit. And I didn't mention in the post, but there are loads of places to get chips so make sure you're eating them everyday! If you want to know anymore details about the trip feel free to comment on the post and I'll get back to you!