Jan 30, 2018

Book Review: The Big Switch by John Thomas


 If I had to review "The Big Switch" by John Thomas in 2 words, I would say “totally relatable”. Right from the first chapter, the protagonist Keith is someone who would come across every day if you work for a software company. Or he might even be you. Coming from a humble background, wanting to prove himself, struggling to say NO to a horrible manager who dumps all work on him, leaving him with no time for anything else, colleagues who frown upon and make a big issue if he tries to leave office by 6PM - he faces all the struggles and challenges of working in a high pressure IT job. He figures out in 2 years that this is not what he wants to do for the rest of his life.

He meets a mentor who inspires him through positivity, passion and a sense of purpose. As Keith identifies his passion and tries to make the big switch, he faces numerous obstacles along the way. With help and support from friends, he moves ahead in his life and becomes a better person.

It was an easy read, as the story moved at a good speed. Relatable characters and incidents make you nod at several places. The evil boss, Mathur is someone whom many of us would have come across at some point in our careers. Though we may or may not have met Ramesh, the mentor, we come across certain people in our lives who inspire us to pursue our dreams. This character exudes so much positivity and confidence, that I wish a few more pages on his journey would have been nice to read.

I was so glad that the ending wasn’t an easy sail for Keith. Reality and uncertainty are something that we all have to live with. How we respond to such unexpected events shows our true character. 

It seems that the author is very much inspired by Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. The reference to this book in multiple places and how Keith felt motivated after reading it made me want to re-read “The Alchemist”. 

A few phrases that I really loved from this book:
“Some memories live forever. Fighting the steady and strong flow of time, they remain etched in our hearts”.
“I am lucky that I have a chance to go for my dreams. There are so many who don’t even get a chance.”
“Everyone he met was fighting a battle and it was his responsibility to be kind to them”
“We only grow amidst challenges. There can’t be any growth without obstacles”
“Follow your heart. It knows where your treasure is, even when you don’t. And trust me, it will move mountains to take you there”

There were a couple of hilarious phrases too, especially the one when Keith asks for a day off and his manager’s reaction was that of someone asking for his kidneys :-) It might sound exaggerated but unfortunately, that’s the reality in many software organizations, especially startups.

I wouldn’t call this book a must-read, but an inspirational novel that one can pick up in an afternoon and finish it. It is available as part of Kindle Unlimited.

There were a couple of editing issues that I spotted in Kindle version - character name mixup and grammatical errors. Hope these get corrected in the revised edition.

P.S. "This review is a part of the biggest Book Review  Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!"

Jan 24, 2018

Real Mixed Fruit Juice Review


 A few years back, I used to watch this show “mummy ka magic” on FoodFood TV channel. The anchor/chef would make lunch box recipes for small kids. As part of her final presentation, she would ALWAYS keep a pack of Real fruit juice tetra pack along with whatever she had prepared for the lunch box. The programme was sponsored by Real fruit juice brand. 

Yesterday, I came across an ad for Real fruit juice in Disney Channel and it was quite disturbing. The celebrity who was promoting it was yet another yesteryear actress, Sonali Bendre. 

Here’s that ridiculous ad if you want to check it out.

The kid brings back his tiffin box without finishing it and gives some lame excuses to his mom everyday. So the mom says, “to make sure my kid finishes his box, I pack Real juice everyday along with tiffin and water”. She even goes on to say that a pack of Real juice gives nutrition equivalent to that of a fruit bowl (the tagline says “2X fruit requirement”).

Does the brand or ad maker think that parents are stupid? 

Will this celebrity send a pack of Real fruit juice EVERYDAY to her children? Absolutely not. But here she is, promoting it big time.

Enough of my rant. Let’s look at the facts.
 
Ingredients listed in Real Mixed Fruit Juice:
 
Water, 
Mixed Fruit Concentrate (12.03%) [Apple Juice Conc (4.72%), Orange Juice Conc (2.7%), Guava Puree (0.7%), Apricot Puree Conc (0.65%), Mango Pulp Conc (0.5%), Banana Puree (0.46%), Lime Juice Conc (0.28%), Passion Fruit Juice Conc (0.23%), Guava Puree Conc (0.18%), Pineapple Juice Conc (0.05%)]
Sugar,
Acidity Regulator (INS 330),
Antioxidant (INS 300),
Stabilizer (INS 440)
Contains permitted natural colour (INS 160a(ii) & (iii)) and added flavours (natural and nature identical flavouring substances)




1) The fruit juice concentrate is just around 12% in the pack. Is this equivalent to meeting 2X fruit requirement of a child? Since there are no legal implications in India for such tall claims, brands continue to come up with such false promises.
2) My primary concern is the amount of sugar. Nutrition table given in the pack is for 100 ml but the tetra pack has 200 ml of juice. So the added sugar is 16 g or 4 tsp of sugar. Why do kids need such heavy sugar-loaded so-called fruit juices on a DAILY basis? Schools have to be really stringent in NOT allowing such packaged foods as part of lunch boxes.
3) Look at the list of artificial additives - all the numbers starting with INS. These are added to increase the shelf life of the pack. This particular juice stays fine for 7 months as per the pack, how long does a fruit take to rot? 4-5 days, isn't it? Does the brand care to list the side-effects of such ingredients IF consumed on a daily basis? 
4) The brand mentions calcium and iron in the nutrition table, just to show that there is SOME nutrition using a tagline "Healthy is Happy". Notice the minuscule amounts - Calcium - 14 mg and Iron - 0.5 mg.
Compare that to nutrition values of real whole fruit (Source - IFCT tables):

100 gm of apple contains 14 mg of calcium and 0.3 mg of iron
100 gm of custard apple contains 28 mg of calcium and 0.4 mg of iron
100 gm of green grapes contain 14 mg of calcium and 0.24 mg of iron
100 gm of white guava contain 18.5 mg of calcium and 0.32 mg of iron

This list doesn’t end here, almost all fruits have higher amounts of calcium and iron (not to forget the fibre, vitamins and other minerals), compared to such packaged juices that are nothing but SUGAR and additives.

If your child doesn’t eat a specific fruit, keep trying different varieties. Make a fruit salad or a chaat. 
Be a role model and eat fruit everyday in front of your kid. Eventually, he/she will become interested. 
Stop stocking junk foods at home, especially such packaged juices in the fridge. 
Have a regular stock of seasonal fruits in 2-3 fruit baskets displayed on the kitchen counter or the dining table (not inside the fridge). If the child sees fruit, he/she would ask for it. If it is conveniently hiding in the fridge, then no one cares. 

All packaged food brands want consumers to get hooked onto their products on a DAILY basis. More consumption means more profits. If you notice, every brand wants to be part of your child’s daily routine - starting from breakfast cereals, tomato ketchup, cheese, jams, packaged juices and what not. 

Let’s be extremely vigilant about what we add to our shopping cart and to our children’s meals.

Jan 2, 2018

Plant-based Sources of Macro and Micro-nutrients

I believe in eating balanced, wholesome meals. I don't pick a certain ingredient, just because it is low in carbs, high in protein, high in calcium etc.  A typical Indian vegan meal is complete, with all the essential macro and micro-nutrients. But off late, the nutrition discussion topics have shifted to specific nutrients, due to which the packaged food industry is thriving with the help of fortified vitamins and tags like #lowfat, #highprotein, #highcalcium etc.

Plant-based sources have all the nutrients that we need and we don't need to look elsewhere to get our vitamins and minerals. This project of understanding various nutrients is my sincere attempt to put an end to the expensive imports, packaged food claims and fad diets that tend to put certain nutrients on a high pedestal and bring down others.

Here's a compilation of the list of plant-based sources of various macro and micro-nutrients. Will keep this list updated as I add more.

Macro-nutrients:
Protein
Fibre

Micro-nutrients:
Vitamins:
Vitamin-A
Vitamin-C

Minerals:
Calcium
Iron
Magnesium
Zinc

Plant based sources of zinc

Zinc is one of the important minerals required by the human body. It is required for several physiological processes, responsible for growth and maintenance of the body and helps in the efficient functioning of our immune system. It is usually prescribed as a supplement to young kids who frequently suffer from cold, cough and ear infections. It is also prescribed to people suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, ADHD and asthma. 

The typical symptoms of zinc deficiency include frequent colds, coughs, hair fall, dry skin, loss of appetite and slow wound healing.

Zinc is an “essential trace element” and is required in very small amounts. The recommended dietary allowance for zinc is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women per day

For children,
1-3 years => 3 mg
4-8 years => 5 mg
9-13 years => 8 mg
 
Here’s a list of plant-based sources of zinc I have compiled from IFCT-2017 tables.
 
 

1) Most of the lentils that are commonly used in Indian cuisine have adequate amounts of zinc. When taken with cereals like wheat, bajra and ragi, it is possible to meet the daily requirement.
2) Although fruits and vegetables don’t have enough zinc, the green leafy ones such as amaranth, mint and curry leaves provide sufficient quantity of zinc, along with various other vitamins and minerals.
3) The common spices used in Indian cooking such as ajwain, cumin, coriander and fenugreek seeds are high in zinc. It is better to use fresh, whole spices rather than store-bought spice powders. Many of us have switched to plain boiled vegetables without any spices. This is due to the wrong belief that spice powders increase acidity. Excess use of red chillies could be the issue here and it doesn’t make sense to avoid the other spices that possess healing properties. 
4) Sesame seeds / Gingelly seeds top the list for zinc as well (along with calcium and iron). Toasted sesame seeds can be added to vegetables, parathas and salads. My favourite way to eat sesame seeds is of course, the molagapodi ;-) Cashews and flaxseeds are also rich in zinc and can be easily incorporated into our daily diet.


Sources:

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