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February - March 2007


Are Berries from Brazil answer to our health problems?

by Bhupendra Gandhi

A super fruit by the name of acai berries, widely grown along the length and breadth of the mighty Amazon River as well as in other South American countries like Peru, is hailed as a wonder fruit that may help in the fight against many diseases but especially cancer.

The Acai berries, the size of grapes and purple in colour are grown by the native Indians and the juice extracted from these berries has taken America by storm, having become a favourite breakfast juice for many celebrities who are eager to sing the praise for the excellent healing powers of these wonder fruits, as acai berries have twice the antioxidant level of blue and blackberries. It puts other such fruits, pomegranates, black grapes and red wine in shade.

Some of these rediscovered wonder fruits are blue and blackberries, beetroot when eaten or juiced uncooked, pomegranates, jambu or purple dates widely grown and eaten in East Africa and South East Asia; seem to have many qualities similar to acai, including taste, colour and very short shelf life that makes jambu unfit for export. Even our humble mangos are hailed as wonder fruit, as most of them contain anti-oxidant level well above normal fruits and vegetables.

But acai berries are special; perhaps as they are grown in the mystic land of Amazon, still largely unexplored and inhabited by native Indians whose lifestyle of living off the land without destroying the rain forest; being part of Mother Nature that has attracted so much media attention.

Moreover this land is a virgin land, unlike the land in Europe and Asia where due to intensive cultivation for thousands of years, the soil is devoid of plant nutrients and the crop can only be grown commercially if the soil is artificially fertilized using chemicals. So the acai berries have all the natural ingredients unlike their European counterparts.

Acai has well established credentials as an energy booster that mends and strengthens our immune system, one of the most vital parts of the body that guards our bodies from being attacked by viruses and bacterial infection.

Acai berries were originally eaten fresh, within a few hours of being picked, as they deteriorate rapidly after being harvested. That is one of the reasons the fruit was never exported to North America and Europe, unlike most other fruits, especially bananas that are exported in huge quantities to the Western World from the Caribbean and the Central American countries.

Now that the dark purple coloured juice is bottled, the export is going up in leaps and bounds. It is also sold in a pulp form locally which may be more beneficial as it also contains fibres and retains more of the goodness than in a pure liquid form. Acai also have the functional substance and properties that easily assimilates for use in food and nutraceutical products, making it easy for the body to digest. I understand bottled acai drinks are already on the shelves of the upmarket retailers, trendy juice bars and some health-food shops; distributed under the Happy Monkey brand trade name.

Although the name and the juice is new to us, there is no shortage of the people, the celebrities in every walk of life who promote the drink and claim that it helps to lose weight gently, lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, helps to fight off allergies and above all it helps to fight off cancer, especially leukaemia.

Practically every tropical country has a favourite tree and a fruit that is hailed as a life saver. In Brazil the Acai Palm Tree is described as the Tree of Life and the fruit as a miracle fruit that helps the body to fight off disease, may it be common cold or the ever dreaded cancer.

The Acai drink is described as a purple, gloopy drink with peculiar taste. It may take some time to get used to this taste but the health conscious British people are always willing to give such product a try. It is already on sale in trendy shops and juice bars but it will have to go on the shelves of the popular supermarkets where ordinary people like us shop, to make it a commercial success.

Steely determination puts Mark on the popularity pedestal

I am sure I will be joined by all the readers of India Link, as well as millions of viewers of one of the most popular BBC Saturday night programme in recent history “Strictly Come Dancing” in congratulating Mark Ramprakash for winning the competition after a gruelling 14 week run, with a grand finale on Saturday night, 23rd December 2006.

BBC has not attracted such audience, since the heydays of Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars ruled Saturday night screen on BBC One, more than three decades ago.

As it was a weekly programme, every contestant had to work hard, undergo an intensive routine to master a new dance routine. It is hard work indeed. So it is not surprising that sportsmen have triumphed so far, as they are well trained, disciplined and super fit physically. Not only Mark Ramprakash and his partner Karen Hardy were judges’ favourite but they also captured most telephone votes on the night when well over twelve million viewers registered their votes, raising some £1:5 million for charities in the process.

Mark took his steely determination of the cricket field to dance floor in implausible sequins that made him a favourite with the ladies, a shy lothario sportsman that stole every one’s heart. Mark is the best sport personality showman this country has unearthed, even surpassing the success of his fellow cricketer Daren Gough.

Although Mark performed most type of dance, that include samba, Cha Cha Cha, quick step and ball room dancing, I would have liked to see him perform Rock and Role on an Elvis Presley hit? One can not rule out a king from such an extravaganza.

Although football has taken over as the most popular game in this country, it seems cricket is still the national game, a well loved game, as two cricketers, not household names by any stretch of imagination, have won the competition two year running, putting rugby and football in the shade, at least on the dance floor.

As Bruce Forsythe commented, it is nice to have an Englishman as a winner after the debacle of our cricket and rugby national teams?

Ramprakash is one of the most gifted but enigmatic cricketers of his generation, with immaculate text book stroke play that made him a phenomenal run machine with an athletic fielding, often at short leg, one of the most difficult and dangerous fielding spot to occupy.

Yet he had some what chequered career when playing at the highest level. He is not alone. Even more illustrious cricketer like Graham Hicks and footballer John Barn are in the same league as Mark, phenomenally successful at county level but unable to transfer their form at the highest level when playing for their country. But it was not due to lack of trying. In fact Mark tried too hard, unable to relax when he was at the crease.

It was not an easy time for Mark, with national papers exposing his long term affair with a Welsh woman. However this revelation did not dampen Mark’s popularity among women viewers. In fact it added spice to his some what dull and routine life off the field, as Mark is supposedly a shy, retreating person, not a party goer.

Most cricketers, when they retire, end up running a pub, becoming insurance salesmen, or start a business of their own. A few, lucky ones, get a job with TV channels or write a column for a national newspaper.

Perhaps Mark with his brooding, swarthy Valentino type Latin looks and an army of female admirers, can make a career on the small screen as a Chat Show presenter, a host to mid-morning show for bored and lonely house wives, as he is nearing the end of his cricketing carrier.

First he should strike while the iron is hot and publish his autobiography that may secure his financial future. The last few weeks would add spice to such a biography. Let us wish him all the best for the future, no matter what it may be!

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