Some lesser-known facts about fruit juice…

There’s no lack of choices when it comes to drinking fresh fruit juice.  Some of us will just go for the squeezed orange, others apple and still others a cocktail of mixed fruits for good measure.

But not commonly known to many people, there’s been some disquiet when a question is popped to someone: Is drinking that much fruit juice really good for you? Or should you be taking the fruit with all its sugar and fibre? Remember, we are not talking about the packet drink, but a cup of juice squeezed from multiple quantities of fruit rich in sugar.

Ah…and so you may have just set off a Socratic questioning that may lead to an intense discussion.

Doubtless, fruit juice is often perceived as healthy. However, fruit juice is missing a lot of the stuff that makes whole fruit healthy. The main point, according to some experts, is this… fruit juice contains no fibre and is very high in sugar. According to a report in the London Sunday Times in 2014, the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research unit at Cambridge University said that the UK government’s official advice that a glass counts towards the recommended minimum five-a-day servings of fruit and vegetables should be changed.

” Fruit juice isn’t the same as intact fruit and it has as much sugar as many classical sugar drinks, ” said the report, quoting Ms Susan Jebb, a government advisor and head of the diet and obesity research group. “Swap it and have a piece of real fruit. If you are going to drink it, you should dilute it. ”

A noteworthy point is that the fibre found in fruits, for example, is what stops you from eating three or four apples in one sitting and be overloaded with sugar. Thus eating the fresh fruit isn’t much of a sugar threat.

Other experts said juicing extracts the juice from fresh fruits or vegetables, which contains most of the vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals found in the whole fruit. However, unlike the whole fruits and vegetables, the healthy fibre is lost during most juicing.

On the flip side, some juicing proponents argue that juicing is better than eating whole fruits and vegetables. Juicing allows your body to absorb the nutrients better and it gives your digestive system a rest from working on fibre.

The long and short of it all is that there’s no sound scientific evidence that extracted juices are healthier than the juice you get by eating the fruit or vegetable itself. Rather, if you don’t enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables, juicing may be a fun way to add them to your diet. You can find many juicing recipes online or mix up your own combinations of fruits and vegetables to suit your daily needs. But don’t eliminate whole fruits and vegetables from your diet.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

Image from Pixabay

Book Reviews: This is How & The Age of Miracles

This is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike by Augusten Burroughs

Genre: Self-help, Conduct of life

In its official blurb, Burroughs’ “This is How” promises answers to surviving a wide array of hard truths. Being fat and failing every diet, always ending up alone, having insane parents who ruin your life, getting diagnosed with cancer, feeling lost in life, are just some examples of issues explored, and which some of us are likely to face at some point of life. Does this book truly show you how to overcome these problems?

Unlike the typical self-help book, “This is How” does not provide a step-by-step guide on picking up pieces of your life. It is a collection of short essays about the author’s experiences with the challenges mentioned in the subtitle and more, no sugar-coating involved. Burroughs has gone through a lot in life, and he writes candidly, wisely, wittily.

Here are a few gems out of his book, backed up with real life examples.

‘When you say, “I need more confidence,“ what you’re really saying is, “I need those people over there to approve of me. ” That is the desire to control other people and what they think. The first person who figures out how to do this owns the world.‘

‘If you hate your life, it’s because your life is too small and doesn’t fit you.‘

‘Blame may well be justified but it’s not going to move you forward in life.’

Burroughs offers new thoughts, ideas and perspectives to a variety of situations, traits and conservative beliefs. A lot of it can be deduced through simple common sense. But then again, common sense does not often go hand in hand with the human mind, and it is honest books like this that remind us that honesty to oneself is the best policy. With so many different examples being used, readers are almost guaranteed to find something that speaks to you.

The short length, non-complex language and con- versational tone and humour makes this book an easy and engaging read. However, possible turn-offs include crassness and some harsh and bitter examples that border on being insensitive.

The Age of Miracles  by Karen Thompson Walker

Genre: Speculative Fiction

The Age of Miracles puts a whole new perspective to the wish of having more than 24 hours a day. Walker’s fascinating interpretation of a possible apocalypse tells the story of a world in modern times when the earth’s rotation slows down. Days and nights lengthen significantly over time, messing up everyone’s equilibrium. Eleven-year-old Julia and her fellow countrymen attempt to adapt to the ever- changing clock, but the world continues to fall apart with new problems unfolding each time.

The eerie consequences of the slowing earth on the environment and her inhabitants are imagined in rich and provocative detail. Walker’s answers to the “what- ifs” provoke readers to think beyond the commonly projected problems of nature’s wrath. Can a slower earth break interpersonal relationships? Does it cause segregation in a democratic nation? Is it really a threat to domestic and national security? Walker convinces us to believe it with her skill in crafting scenarios that are unique, yet easily-envisaged.

While the beauty of Walker’s writing is widely acclaimed, the same cannot be said of her plot. The story is written in a meandering style, and its focus is narrowed on Julia’s individual concerns — her parent’s relationships, her relationships with her school mates, life as a pre-teen that revolves around school, home and her somewhat juvenile personal observations of the world around her. Some may feel that this robs the story of much potential for greater depth. 0n the other hand, others would agree that these personal details remind us that no matter how many miracles mankind can perform, we are truly fragile by the challenges of nature.

Despite the lack of action, one would still feel personally involved in the unfolding of the story. Suspense is artfully built up as each new misfortune announces its presence, sometimes even before it takes the stage. One cannot help but worry for the Earth’s uncertain future, and feel regretful for the loss of many precious things we take for granted.

– These book reviews first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

Shouldn’t you be mentally prepared for your exams?

For some of us exams are highly stress-inducing episodes in our life. While it is sometimes said that pressure is an effective propeller for improved performance, much depends on the individual. Some peak under pressure and others just cave in. Under a lot of stress, a candidate may find his mind going blank in the middle of the exam paper, succumb to carelessness due to failure to concentrate, go into a nervous breakdown, or fall sick. All these would prevent one from giving his/ her best, regardless of how much prior preparation had gone in before that.

According to US-based medical practice and medical research group, the Mayo Clinic, the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Positive stress keeps us alert and ready to respond to danger. However, this stress becomes negative when one continues to face it without relief between challenges.

Mental wellness is essential to one’s ability to perform optimally. Keeping a sound and calm mind will help tide you through any challenges.

Here’s some tips on staying calm and relaxed until the big day:

Exercise regularly. Aim to clock in at least 30 minutes each day. Exercise helps to stimulate oxygen delivery to the brain, and this does wonders for a myriad of cognitive functions including reasoning abilities, memory and focus. Additionally, exercise strengthens your body and immune system.

Get sufficient sleep, not only on the night before the big day, but make it a habit. Insufficient sleep can make you edgy, tired and prone to poor decisions. Refrain from cramming in late night study periods if you’re not a night person. If you are better focused in the day, turn in early to get up early morning and have that extra time.

Take up arts and crafts or a manual activity. Some people find such activities to be therapeutic, and as they often require a great amount of focus, they help to hone your concentration skills. Activities to consider include knitting, drawing, cross-stitch, cooking, rainbow looming and wool felting.

Engage in conversations with your family and friends. Having intelligent discussions gives your brain opportunities to explore issues and opinions that you never knew about. An article by Huffington Post proposed that giving attention and face-time to a loved one helps relieve stress. Don’t cut your loved ones out of your life simply because you’re busy!

Don’t leave things to the last minute. Having less time to prepare means you may not perform to your full potential. Last minute hiccups may occur, leaving you with less time, and more stress, to cope. Aim to check off something on the to-do list everyday.

Eat regular meals. Eating is the body’s way of absorbing much-needed nutrients required for optimal performance of the daily activities. Poor eating habits can eventually lead to chronic gastric, which is unpleasant and pesky to be rid of.

Allocate regular periods of time for rest and relaxation. Depending on the individual, and interest level towards the subject at hand, concentration spans vary, and one should tailor their resting schedule accordingly. As the saying goes, a rest is a preparatory step for a longer journey ahead.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

Image from Pixabay.

Book Reviews: The Casual Vacancy & The House of Gucci

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Genre: Tragicomedy

Following the success of J.K. Rowling’s world-wide sensational Harry Potter series, her long awaited new book understandably meets high expectations from fans and new readers alike. Readers’ reviews feature an even mix of glowing five-star reviews and ruthless one-star critics, suggesting that it is one of those hit-or- miss books.

The Casual Vacancy is set in a small English town, and touches on cruel realities like child abuse, drug use, self-mutilation, poverty, suicide, amongst others, weaving together a heavy handed social commentary. Although the preview presents it as a dark comedy, some of the issues discussed are plain depressing, even with the touch of Rowling’s witty humour. Quoting what some readers have said, Rowling has gone to the extremes to prove that she could write something outside her comfort zone.

Undeniably, Rowling is good at her craft. She brings the characters and the town to life with her sharp descriptions. If you appreciate her writing style, you will probably enjoy it regardless of the subject matter. Although dystopia and social issues have been done to death in other renowned literature works, The Casual Vacancy still comes out as an intelligent piece of work, with an ending that gives you room to reflect and ponder, yet addressing the essentials for readers who dislike tying up loose ends.

If you don’t mind gloomy books, this is a worthy read over the holidays. But let the children sit out on this one; exposing them to the profanity and delicate subject matters in the book may disturb your holiday.

The House of Gucci by Sara Gay Forden
Genre: Biography

Gifts of luxury brands make wonderful surprises at all occasions, never mind that they may be heinously expensive, or release the occasional hideous product. Ever wondered how these brands gain their much sought-after status and attain the fame they have today?

The House of Gucci provides a fascinating insight on Italian high-fashion epitome Gucci. The founder of the brand Guccio Gucci was an immigrant in Paris and London where he worked in luxury hotels. He was fascinated by the high-end leather products and fashion, and when he moved back to Florence, Italy, in the 19205, he decided to start his own line of leather goods.

The Gucci brand grew and developed with the Gucci family under the watchful eye of Guccio, who taught his sons the ropes of the business. The Gucci empire took America by storm and expanded rapidly. Alas, greed and power corrupted the minds of the Gucci family,  propelling them into a pool of debts, politics and court cases.

The House of Gucci sheds light on the lifestyle of a typical high-flying Italian family enshrouded in wealth, whereby having homes around the world was the norm and spending millions on interior designing was not considered a luxury but a must.

An easy and highly engaging read, this biography was told through the experiences of the Gucci family. Revealing the love lives, hatred, anger and vengefulness of each family member, this book is an eye opener on the life, culture and history of not only the Gucci family, but also immensely wealthy Italians who lead a life that many of us can only dream of.

– These book reviews first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

The holiday souvenir decor

Image from Flickr

Most of us would have experienced the times when we were on a holiday and suddenly some artefacts catch our eyes and set us thinking, “how nice it would be if we could have this at home!” Well, the next time you are planning a trip abroad, look around your house. What do you think can give your house a dressing up or a boost to the design of your living room?

One of the items that you can look out for is the timepiece clocks. Yes, these clocks add a good finishing touch for a room. We are not talking about the ubiquitous round-faced clock that you see in the coffee shops. Instead, look out for the cuckoo clocks, or ornate table clocks. These timepieces are decorative items which also tell you the time of day. The animated chimes from the cuckoo clock can add some life to the house.

Of course, there are other varieties that come in many different shapes and sizes that you can consider. One is the famous drink maker which has a collection that would quench the thirst of those who fancy collecting all things Coca-Cola. Others are from brands such as Harley Davidson, Disney or even the Harry Potter franchise! You may be pleasantly surprised just how these clocks can make heads turn when friends or relatives visit your home.

Another item to consider for your house is the small portrait bust, i.e. a sculpted or cast likeness of the upper part of the human figure. Often it’s the head and neck but sometimes it may include the chest and shoulders. Busts can be formed from different materials such as clay or fibreglass. Certainly if you have the budget, then look for those made in more expensive marble or bronze, which would mean you need to send them to your home by air or sea shipping. If you are in Indonesia, Thailand, or South Africa there is a great variety of handcrafted wooden busts to choose from. One popular variety is the reproductions of figures from ancient Greece and Rome. The more contemporary ones are of famous musicians or even political figures. Just be careful to take note of the origin if you want an authentic souvenir made in the country you’re visiting.

If you want something to remind you of your  holiday, you can’t go wrong with one of these home décor items.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.