Archive for December, 2013

Benefits of North African cuisine

Benefits of North African cuisine

Comparable to the Mediterranean diet, North African cuisine is as nutritious as it is highly varied: vegetables, pulses, olive oil, couscous, potatoes, fish and meat. Lemon, herbs and spices are used not only to delicately perfume dishes and give that distinctive taste, but also help to fight against tissue inflammation!

North African cuisine
© Thinkstock

Most people like North African cuisine.  Delicious and easy to prepare, this sun-gorged food happily brings friends and family together around small starters to share and main dishes such as the famous Couscous.  It’s a cuisine to definitely give a try, all the more so as it possesses real health benefits as long as you don’t overdo the oil and avoid fried dishes such as Fatma fingers and brick pastry, lamb and sweet desserts. So go ahead and treat yourself!

Couscous, the star of North African cuisine!

If you don’t know anything else about North African cuisine, you’re bound to have heard of, if not tasted, couscous. A delicious typical dish which can be made a hundred different ways… It’s a meal in itself, containing all food types (wheat semolina, vegetables, pulses, meat and/or fish).

While the basic ingredient in couscous is wheat semolina (also used in many sweet treats), vegetables are also important, with a particularly special role for courgettes, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, celery and turnips. Whether served as a salad, in slow-cooked dishes, or in the sauce served with couscous, vegetables are found in abundance in North African cuisine.

Not forgetting those essential pulses: beans, lentils and chickpeas, also found in many a North African speciality. You’ll also find olive oil everywhere! All the better for our arteries!

Benefits of spices and seasonings

Many spices and herbs are used to enhance the taste of a dish without adding extra calories but providing maximum taste, vitamins and minerals. So don’t hesitate to add coriander, flat parsley, cumin or turmeric (with its anti-inflammatory properties) to your culinary exploits.

Lemon, rich in Vitamin C, has detoxifying, draining and energising properties. However, high blood pressure sufferers should be aware that lemon confit is very salty.

Garlic and onion are known for their anti-cancer properties. Garlic also helps to thin the blood.

And don’t forget raisins which like most dried fruits (prunes, dates, etc.) are a source of fast sugars, potassium and magnesium, useful for sports players. Some couscous recipes include dried fruits.

Also keep olives in mind which you can add to practically all dishes. Chosen both for their unique (but not overly salty) taste and the oleic acid they contain (protects arteries).

Tunisian cuisine, spicy and rich in Omega 3

Substantiated by an age-old tradition of gastronomy, Tunisian cuisine is very elaborate, with various specialities varying depending on the region and ethnic group (Berber, Andalusian, Jewish or Arabic cuisine). In Tunisia, couscous includes fish, sardines and mackerel in particular, rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, selenium and Vitamin D.

You cannot talk about Tunisian cuisine without mentioning Harissa!  This spicy chilli sauce hots up any vegetable broth or in fact any other dish (for example, the classic Harissa kebab). But Harissa doesn’t just spice up dishes; its piquant also has anti-inflammatory properties. Tunisians use this chilli daily in all its forms.

When it comes to starters, we love Mechouia salad – grilled peppers served with tomatoes and a few cloves of garlic, grilled on a wood fire and then seasoned with a drizzle of olive oil, caraway seeds, salt and pepper. The whole is adorned with tuna, boiled eggs and olives. Eggs are also used a lot in this cuisine, often found in brick pastry preparations.

As for a plat de resistance, dare to try couscous with sea bass! Or why not offer your guests a “winter vegetable” version with beans, carrots, potatoes, courgettes, pumpkin, turnips and onions. Such dishes bring together a healthy balanced diet and good food!

Spicy Moroccan cuisine…

Moroccan cuisine is very varied – from couscous, tagine, pastilla, mechoui to other specialities such as tangia or harira. But Moroccan cuisine is known for its originality and wealth, nurtured by the variety of Arabic, Moor, Berber and Spanish influences… Spices are everywhere and mint is often used to add an extra little taste. Among the many specialities, you’ll find easy-to-prepare meatballs with onions (accompanied with a tomato sauce, light but rich in antioxidants) or a tagine prepared in such a way that meat remains tender, without extra fat!

Sweet-salty combinations are an important component of Moroccan cuisine. Nuts such as pistachios and almonds can be found both in sweet and savoury dishes. All the better, as they provide minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, and have antioxidant properties.

And mint tea to drink!

Easily digested and rich in antioxidant polyphenols (catechins), mint tea is made using green tea, known for its draining properties. Together with mint, it helps to improve digestion. Drink with as little sugar as possible. From time to time, why not accompany your tea break with a little sweet treat, without it becoming routine – these cakes and sweets charge up the calorie counter no end! (29g of sugar and 39g of fats for every 100g)…


To add extra flavour to your desserts and give them that undeniable North African taste, there’s nothing better than orange blossom essence… Added to warm milk, it helps to promote sleep and is also used in creams and Turkish coffee. It enhances any fruit salad and can also be drunk as a herbal infusion.

When the season is right, the star dessert in the Maghreb region is watermelon! Fresh, juicy, low in sugar, delicious and abundant… watermelon can be eaten at any time of the day and helps to end a copious meal on a light, sweet note. Melon is also enjoyed in this region, as are figs and prickly pears.

nice butt exercise

Get A Bangin’
Fit Booty

Whether you want a bangin’ booty like Beyonce or enviable buns like Jessica Biel, the only way you’re going to get the gluteus of your dreams is by getting your sweat on. Cornel Chin, fitness troubleshooter to the stars and author of Celebrity Body on a Budget, recommends the following five butt exercises to get a fit — and camera-worthy — derriere.

1. Unilateral Hip Extension

Start position: Place your left knee on the bottom of an incline bench. Bend your elbows and place your forearms across the top of the bench so they support your body weight. Keep your core muscles engaged, and don’t let your back arch.

Movement: Slowly raise your right leg as high as comfortably possible, keeping it straight throughout the move. Contract your glutes and then slowly lower your right leg, returning back to the start position.

Perform: Do 1 set of 12 to 15 repetitions with your right leg then repeat the exercise with your left leg.

Chin says: As you get stronger, increase the number of sets and/or add ankle weights for more resistance



Unilateral Hip Extension

2. One-legged deadlifts

Start position: Extend your left leg back slightly, lightly resting on the toes of your left foot. Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of the thighs.

Movement: Hinge from your hips and lower the weights towards the floor as low as your flexibility allows. Keep your back flat or with a natural arch and ensure you keep your abs contracted to protect your back. Squeeze your glutes of the working leg to raise back up.

Perform: Do 1 set of 10 to 12 reps with your left leg back then repeat the exercise with your right leg back.

Chin says: Deadlifts are highly effective for your glutes, lower back and hamstrings, but this single-legged version is ideal to add intensity to the exercise and engage your stabilizer muscles to keep your body balanced. Form is paramount and you should avoid this exercise if you have back problems.

One-legged deadlifts


3. Lunges

Start position: Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart, hands on your hips.

Movement: Step your right foot forward and lower your body towards the floor while keeping your back up straight. You’ll be bending both of your knees; the right knee should be at a 90 degree angle (if it isn’t, step your right foot further forward, aiming to keep your knee over your ankle when you lower down) while your left knee lowers towards the floor.

Perform: Do 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps on each leg.

Chin says: This is such a dynamic exercise as it recruits so many muscles at the same time. What’s also great about lunges is the many variations: front lunges, walking lunges, reverse lunges, side to side lunges and wheel lunges (front, side, reverse). You can also elevate the back foot on a step or platform for a tougher workout on both legs.

4. Step Ups

Start position: Place your right foot on a step or platform of at least 12 to 15 inches high. Make sure your knee is bent at a 90 degree angle (knee above ankle) for safety.

Movement: Pushing through your right heel on the platform, straighten your right leg as you bring your left toe up to the step or platform. Lower your left foot down slowly, barely touching the toes of your left foot to the floor.

Perform: Do 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps on each leg.

Chin says: This is a popular tried and tested exercise that really targets the glutes. You’ll notice the difference when you take it slow and concentrate on the working leg.

Step Ups

5. Squats

Start position: Stand with feet hip-width apart, folding your arms across your chest. Keep your feet flat but place your weight on your heels.

Movement: Hinge at the hips and bend your knees as you sit your rear back as if a chair is behind you. Keep your back straight, abdominal muscles tight, and knees behind your toes as you lower down. Squeeze your glutes to straighten up and return to start position.

Perform: Repeat for 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps. As you get stronger, add weights or resistance bands for more intensity.

Chin says: Good old traditional squats are simply one of the best exercises you can do for your butt, thighs and hips. There are several variations of squats, ranging from standard squats with your feet hip-width apart or with the use of a chair or bench to act as a marker when squatting. Add dumbbells, resistance bands and core boards, and you will stimulate your glutes and other target areas even more.