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Friday, October 14, 2011

Is Saturated Fat Evil, or Not So Bad After All

The myths, lies, and misconceptions about saturated fat and your health.


I've written many times in the last couple years about the mistaken beliefs in society about saturated fat and the false perception in the media AND with MOST health professionals that saturated fat is bad for you.

If you've seen in some of my articles, I've even showed you why saturated fat can even be GOOD for you in some cases, despite every health/fitness professional in the world just accepting the false belief that it's bad for you. 

Note - I'm NOT saying that an "Atkins style" diet is good for you!  Atkins style diets are NOT a healthy or balanced way to eat!  Atkins style diets typically promote processed meats full of nitrates, nitrites, excess salt, and imbalanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratios (since most grocery store meats are grain fed and not raised in a healthy manner).  Also, Atkins plans typically have a lack of many other important food groups, nutrients, and antioxidants. 

Rather, what you'll see in this article, is that saturated fat is a perfectly natural part of the human diet and has been for eternity... it is NOT the evil demon it has been made out to be!

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to FINALLY see a big name publisher have some guts to publish an article about why everyone in the world may be wrong about their beliefs about saturated fat.

I picked up a new issue of Men's Health magazine over the weekend, and they have a huge 6-page article in there about the faulty research in the past about saturated fat, and some new emerging research that is showing why it may actually be more good for you than you would believe.

I've got to give them credit... the article was VERY well researched and put together beautifully to summarize where the studies in the past have gone wrong, and why recent studies are showing that everyone may have been wrong for the last 5 decades about saturated fat.

I'd highly suggest you read the entire article if you can. If not, I'm going to try to give you a quick summary of the findings here since it was a long article...

The "Fact" that saturated fat is bad for your health has never been proven by legitimate studies

First of all, did you realize that although doctors, nutritionists, fitness professionals, and the media all have told you that it's a FACT that saturated fats are bad for you, this "FACT" has actually never been proven!

It's actually not a "fact" at all. It was a hypothesis! This goes all the way back to a flawed research study from the 1950's where a guy named Ancel Keys published a paper that laid the blame on dietary fat intake for the increasing heart disease phenomenon.

However, there were major flaws to his study. For one, in his conclusions he only used data from a small portion of the countries where data was available on fat consumption vs heart disease death rate. When researches have gone back in and looked at the data from all of the countries, there actually was no link between fat consumption and heart disease deaths. So his conclusions were actually false.

Second, his blaming of fat intake for heart disease was only one factor that was considered. There was no consideration of other factors such as smoking rates, stress factors, sugar intake, exercise frequency, or other lifestyle factors.

Basically, his conclusions which blamed heart disease deaths on fat intake were really just a shot in the dark about what a possible cause may have been, even though all of those other factors I just mentioned, plus many others, may be the bigger cause.

Unfortunately, Keys study has been cited for over 5 decades now as "fact" that saturated fat is bad for you.  As you can see, there certainly is nothing factual about it.

Since that time, numerous other studies have been conducted trying to link saturated fat intake to heart disease. The majority of these studies have failed to correlate ANY risk at all from saturated fat. A couple of them made feeble attempts at linking saturated fat to heart disease, however, it was later shown that in those studies, the data was flawed as well.

Another issue with flawed studies is that many studies have lumped artificial trans fat intake together with saturated fat intake, and mistakenly laid the blame on saturated fat despite the overwhelming evidence that artificial trans fat is the REAL health risk.  This is a HUGE mistake as there is a vast difference in how your body processes nasty artificially created trans fats vs the perfectly natural saturated fats that have been part of the human diet since the beginning of man.

Do we actually have evidence that saturated fat may actually be good for you instead?

Well, let's consider a few examples...

red meat Did you know that there are several well known tribes in Africa... the Masai, Samburu, and Fulani tribes... where their diet consists mostly of raw (unpasteurized) whole milk, lots of red meat, and cows blood?  The typical members of these tribes eat 5x the average amount of saturated fat compared to overweight, disease-ridden Americans. 

Despite their very high saturated fat intake, they display extremely low body fat levels, and heart disease and diabetes to natives of the tribe is virtually non-existant.

Now most critics of this example will say that it must be related to superior genetics... however this is false, as when they studied tribesman who had moved out of their native lands and started eating more modern day diets, their blood chemistry skyrocketed with heart disease risk factors.

healthy fats from coconutsThis is true of certain pacific island countries inhabitants as well. Several studies have shown that certain pacific island nations had VERY high intakes of total fat as well as saturated fat from tropical fats such as palm, coconut, and cocoa. Tropical plants in general have naturally higher levels of saturated fats in their tissues due to the warmer climate.

Despite super-high intakes of saturated fat, these island natives were typically very lean and heart disease was virtually non-existant.  However, when researchers followed up with islanders that had moved away from their native island and adopted a typical western diet, the heart disease risk factors were through the roof.  Hmm, once again, another example of people that started eating LESS saturated fat and more processed western foods and INCREASED their heart disease factors.

In fact, did you know that although saturated fat intake does increase your LDL bad cholesterol, it actually increases your HDL good cholesterol even further, hence improving your overall cholesterol ratio, which has been proven to be more important that just total cholesterol level (actually total cholesterol is an almost useless number... inflammation is the REAL problem, but that's a whole different topic).

Another fact worth noting in favor of saturated fat...

Saturated fat is comprised of various different types... the 3 most common types are stearic acid, palmitic acid, and lauric acid.

Stearic acid is found in animal fat and cocoa in higher levels. Research continues to show that stearic acid has no negative impacts on heart disease risks. If anything, it's either neutral or beneficial. In fact, your liver breaks down stearic acid into a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which is the same type of fat that makes up most of heart-healthy olive oil. Bet you didn't know that!

Lauric acid is beneficial as well. Not only has it been shown to increase your HDL good cholesterol levels significantly, but it is also lacking in most Americans diet and has even been shown to have some powerful immune-boosting effects potentially. It is even being studied currently in HIV/AIDS research to help improve immune function in patients.

Tropical oils such as coconut and palm are the best sources of the healthy saturated fat - lauric acid.

Palmitic acid is the other main component of saturated fat and has also been shown to increase HDL good cholesterol to the same, if not greater extent than LDL bad cholesterol, thereby making it either neutral or beneficial, but certainly not bad for you.

So, if all of these researchers have tried so hard over the years to point the finger at saturated fat, but have continued to fail to show a correlation between saturated fat and heart disease risk, what are the REAL culprits for heart disease?

Well, here are the REAL causes of heart disease risk:

  • Trans fats (artificially hydrogenated oils)... see my previous Trans Fats article here for a full explanation
  • Heavily refined vegetable oils such as soy, cottonseed, corn oil, etc. (inflammatory inside the body, and typically throw the omega-6/omega-3 balance out of whack...remember, inflammation is the REAL cause of heart disease, NOT dietary saturated fat or cholesterol).  Read more about healthy cooking oils vs unhealthy cooking oil  
  • Too much refined sugar in the diet (including high fructose corn syrup)
  • Too much refined carbohydrates such as white bread, low fiber cereals, etc
  • Smoking
  • Stressful lifestyle
  • Lack of exercise
  • Other lifestyle factors

So why does it seem that so many attempts over the years have tried to lay the blame on saturated fat... do you think it might have anything to do with the muli-billion dollar vegetable oil industry, which has taken over for cooking oils for what used to be mostly animal fats and tropical oils in decades past...

hmm... do multi-billion dollar industries really have an influence on the way data is portrayed to the public? Of course they do! And don't even get me started on the cholesterol meds industry! Again, I digress.

I hope this article has opened your eyes about the truth about saturated fat and how you've been misled over the years.

The true FACT is that saturated fat is a neutral substance in your body, and even beneficial at times, not a deadly risk factor for disease. The REAL risk factors are what I listed above.

 

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Is Sun Exposure Really "Deadly" as the Media Would Have You Believe

Is Sun Exposure Really "Deadly" as the Media Would Have You Believe?  Or Can Regular Sunshine Give You a Better Body and Health?

the life-giving sun-the sun's "deadly rays" or "healthy rays"?


One thing that never made sense to me over the years was how the media and other sources have always tried to portray sun exposure as "the sun's deadly rays". It's as if they would have you believe that we need to live in caves and never see the sun to prevent cancer and stay in good health.

But this is absurd if you think about it... the sun is THE provider of all life on earth. Without the sun, everything on earth would die.

Throughout the majority of human existence (with the exception of the last few decades), humans have always spent more time outdoors than indoors. Nowadays however, most of us are trapped inside offices all week long and might only get out into the sun once a week, if that.

I've been doing a lot of reading and research over the last couple of years regarding sun exposure, cancer, vitamin D levels, etc. This subject of the sun and natural production of vitamin D can fill entire books, so I'll try to summarize my opinions and what I've learned in the past few years through a lot of my reading.

Don't worry, I'm not ignoring the fact that overexposure to the sun CAN cause problems, including cancer... but we need to also consider the fact that underexposure to the sun can have problems as well. 

Let's look at a few points to consider:

1. Non-consistent sun exposure and infrequent SUNBURNS is the major cause of damage to the skin and increased risk of cancer... Think about your typical person that sits inside an office all week long without ever seeing the sun, and then gets FRIED at the pool or the beach on the weekend. THIS is where the damage occurs.

2. Regular consistent small amounts of exposure to the sun (without burning) can actually have a protective effect on the skin, increases healthful Vitamin D levels in the body, and can improve mood, help depression, and dozens of other benefits.  Each individual's skin pigmentation determines what amount of sun exposure they can safely obtain without doing more harm than good.

For example, a very fair-skinned person with a far northern heritage might only be able to get 10-15 minutes of sun exposure over the majority of the body during peak hours before it does more harm than good.  However, someone with darker skin and a heritage that originated closer to the equator might be able to get much longer periods of regular sun exposure without doing more harm than good.

3. Increasing Vitamin D levels from regular small doses of sunshine can actually decrease cancer risk. Vitamin D itself has been shown to have a protective effect through various processes in the body.

4. This one is interesting and deserves some thought -- According to Dr William Grant, a Vitamin D researcher, cancer rates in those living at high latitudes (farther north) such as Iceland are approximately 4 TIMES the cancer rates of those living at lower latitudes (closer to the equator) in the tropics. 

Hmm, yet those people living in the tropics are getting MUCH higher levels of those so-called "deadly sun rays"... but they are also producing higher levels of protective Vitamin D on average too.

5. Vitamin D is actually produced into a hormone in our bodies and regulates hundreds of processes in the body, and is WAY MORE important to almost every single aspect of your health than most people realize. There is even evidence that due to the regulation of so many hormonal processes in our bodies that can be affected by Vitamin D, producing enough Vitamin D in your body can even help with fat loss, muscle building, blood sugar control, and hundreds of other factors.

6. It is hard to obtain enough Vitamin D from dietary sources alone (egg yolks, organ meats, and fatty fish are good sources, but still relatively small). The best utilized source of Vitamin D is what we produce in our bodies from moderate regular sun exposure over large portions of the body without burning.  It's vitally important to note that the UV-B rays are only strong enough to trigger vitamin D production in your body between the hours of approximately 10am to 3pm.  Of course, this is the exact time that well-meaning, but uneducated "health experts" erroneously tell you to stay out of the sun. 

UV-B rays aren't strong enough in the early morning or late afternoon to trigger vitamin D production, so you must get moderate exposure over large portions of your body for small amounts of time (10-30 minutes depending on skin pigmentation) in the middle of the day to reap the benefit of Vitamin D production.

7. An antioxidant-rich diet can help to protect the skin (to an extent) from damage if you get too much sun exposure. This means that getting lots of antioxidants from things such as various teas (green, black, white, rooibos, yerba mate, chammomile, etc), various berries, fruits, vegetables, beta carotene, nuts, olive oil, etc, etc can help to protect your skin. Make sure to pick up some Prograde Longevity - a super high ORAC antioxidant blend that I take to help increase my antioxidant levels in the body.

8. Another point that proves that irregular burning is the major cause of damage and not regular small doses of sunshine... Rates of skin cancer are typically higher in areas of the body that get irregular sun and occasional burning as opposed to areas of the body that have received consistent sun for your entire life.

Notice how more cancer is often found on the back and chest (places that get irregular sun and more burning) vs the back of the neck or the forearms (which get consistent regular sun for most people our entire lives).  There are exceptions to everything, but this seems to be a common trend.

9.  I've come across studies over the last few years that indicated skin caner rates are higher among indoor office workers compared to outdoor workers. This is yet another interesting trend... it basically supports the conclusion that being underexposed to sunlight most of the time (working inside an office all week long) and then getting infrequent overexposure to the sun is a lot more problematic compared to an outdoor worker that gets regular daily sun exposure.

Of course, the indoor worker can always avoid this problem by getting outside for 10-20 minutes daily during breaks to get those protective small daily doses of sunshine that we've been talking about here.

10. Think about this issue in terms of common sense -- Don't you feel a heck of a lot better and more energetic when you've at least gotten out in the sun for 20 or 30 minutes in a day rather than being stuck inside all day?

So what's the best way to do this in a healthy way while minimizing sun overexposure risk?

a. In the winter in northern latitudes (above approx South Carolina latitudes in the US), your vitamin D levels may fall to dangerously low levels if you go for several months without getting any sun.  In winter, since your body will not be producing enough Vitamin D from the sun, you need to make sure to increase your intake in your diet... as I mentioned, fatty fish, egg yolks , and organ meats are some of the best dietary sources of vitamin D, but still generally don't increase your body's vitamin D levels that much.

I like to take a small amount of daily cod liver oil in the deepest months of winter to make sure my Vitamin D levels don't go too low. You also need to be careful not to take too much cod liver oil though as some scientists believe that excessive amounts of cod liver oil can give you overdoses of vitamin A. 

Also, the source of vitamin D used in VGF-25 whole-foods based vitamin is a good natural form of vitamin D derived from fish liver oil.  I would use this daily to make sure that your vitamin D levels are adequate, even in summer months, if you don't get daily sun exposure in the summer.

b. In the spring, try to start with just small periods in the sun such as 10-15 minutes/day over large portions of your body (not just your hands and face). The more skin surface exposed to the sun, the more vitamin D that your body will produce.  Make sure to try to NEVER get a sunburn!  Gradual small doses of sunshine over a large part of your body almost daily helps your body produce the most beneficial and protective Vitamin D levels. 

c. Avoid extended periods of overexposure to the sun on large portions of your body... If you're going to be out for several hours or an entire day in the sun, you'll still need to make sure to cover up appropriately (based on your individual skin pigmentation and sensitivity) to prevent burning and skin damage... remember that we're talking about regular small doses of sunshine that is beneficial, not entire days out in the sun without covering up.

Warning about sunscreens:

I would caution against relying heavily on chemical-based sunscreens as most of the chemicals used in sunscreens are potentially carcinogenic and are also known to be estrogenic, as they absorb through your skin and into your body.  If you're going to use a lotion based sunblock, you're best bet is a natural form that uses zinc oxide or titanium dioxide... These are natural sunblocks that don't absorb into your skin, but rather sit on top of the skin's surface and block the rays.  This is a big difference compared to the harmful chemicals that are in most sunscreens and can absorb through your skin (various benzones, homosalate, etc).  If you want to read more about the dangers of chemical sunscreens, this article will help.

d. Load up on antioxidant-rich foods such as various teas, fruits and veggies, berries, etc daily to help prevent free radical damage and protect your skin. 

I think one of the most powerful and synergistic antioxidant blends available is here  if you want some extra insurance on antioxidants.

e.  Lastly, I'm not a doctor, so many of the points in this article are my opinions based on years of reading and research. Make sure to consult with your doctor on your individual health characteristics and how this relates to sun exposure and vitamin D.

f.  Also make sure to read this article, as it shows a way to eat a nutrient for "internal sun protection" which can allow you to stay in the sun longer without damage to skin.

 

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Losing Your Belly Fat the Right Way with These 2 Vital Strategies

Before I give you the 2 vital secrets for losing stubborn belly fat, I wanted to tell you about yet another new healthy lunch recipe that I came up with recently. As you probably already figured out, I'm always trying to concoct meal ideas that are healthy but also unique and help to keep us from getting bored with our meals.

I know this meal concoction may sound a little weird, but I had a couple friends try it and they couldn't believe how good it was. They demanded the recipe they liked it so much. Really it's nothing more than a bunch of stuff thrown together in a pot.

Geary's Healthy Turkey-Bean Concoction Recipe (makes about 4-5 servings)

  • 2 large cans of chunked or shredded turkey breast (or use about 1-lb of fresh shredded turkey breast, which is slightly healthier)
  • One 16-20 oz. can of baked beans (yes, this has sugar, but is also balanced by high fiber and protein in this recipe)
  • 1 large tomato diced (or 1 can crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • A couple cloves fresh diced garlic (or a tablespoon or so of crushed garlic from the jar)
  • 1 large vidalia onion diced
  • 2 red peppers diced

In a large pot, mix the olive oil, diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic together until it starts simmering and allow to cook for a few minutes. Then add in the shredded turkey and can of baked beans and simmer for a few more minutes. That's it... Simple, and maybe sounds a little weird, but I couldn't believe how delicious it was! Plus, it has a great mix of healthy carbs, protein, and fat, as well as a good dose of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

The 2 Vital Secrets You Need for Losing Your Belly Fat for Good

I bet you're thinking that you've tried every technique in the world for losing your stubborn belly fat, but it just never seems to budge... right? I'm sure you see TONS of commercials and ads making all kinds of miracle claims for losing your belly fat overnight with their magic pill or wildly-hyped snake-oil supplement.

How about all of the bogus infomercial gadgets out there claiming you can shrink your stomach in a matter of days just by strapping some worthless "ab-belt" around your waist, or sizzle away the stomach fat by using their patented "ab-roller-rocker" do-hicky.

Come on now! I hope you've been insulted by all of these fraudulent marketers and the gimmicks and scams that they are pushing down your throat by trying to get you to believe that a fat-loss miracle is possible overnight.

So let's get past all of the scams and gimmicks and get right down to the hard science and reality behind what techniques and strategies really do help you for losing your stubborn belly fat and keeping it off for life!

1) The first important principle we'll discuss is how you structure your workouts. In order to stimulate fat-loss from your stomach, you need to stop wasting so much of your time doing all kinds of various abdominal exercises and hundreds of reps of crunches, leg lifts, and torso twists in the hopes of "spot-reducing" your belly and love handles.

I'm sure you know by now if you've read any reputable fitness publications over the last decade that spot-reduction DOES NOT occur. It's a myth that just won't seem to go away. The truth is, losing belly fat does NOT occur by doing exercises that target the stomach area. Unfortunately, even though most people by now do understand this (or at least they should), they still spend WAY too much of their training time trying to target the stomach with tons of abs exercises.

Now don't get me wrong, a certain amount of abdominals exercises are great and they do help to strengthen your core and help you maintain a healthy back. But the fact is that direct abs exercises should only be a small portion of your workout routines. The majority of your time should be spent focusing on big multi-joint exercises that work the largest muscle groups of the body like the legs, chest, and back.

Now that is one of the REAL secrets for ridding yourself of that sloppy belly fat for good. Focusing on big multi-joint exercises for the largest portions of your body greatly increases your metabolic rate both during the workout, and for 24-48 hours after the workout. In addition, this also stimulates an increase in fat-burning hormones within your body. You simply don't get this type of metabolic and hormonal response by wasting most of your time with "abs-pumping" exercises.

Want to lose your belly fat the right way... Well, get your butt under a barbell and do some squats, some lunges, some deadlifts, step-ups, some back and chest work. For you ladies, don't worry...it's not going to "bulk you up".

It doesn't matter per se if it's barbells, dumbbells, or even bodyweight exercises... the focus needs to be on big multi-joint exercises at a high intensity. That means no 5-minute rest periods between sets while you flap your gums with half of the people at the gym. Losing that stubborn belly for good requires some focus and intensity in your workouts! Anybody who tells you that you can do it while sitting on your couch watching TV with some "ab-belt" strapped to you, or doing only 2-minutes of crunching with your "ab-rocker-roller" is flat out lying to you!

2) The second important principle to rid yourself of that flabby belly revolves around your nutrition. The first thing you need to realize is that "diets" only work against your body in your effort to lose the stomach fat. You see, if you follow any of these fad diets like extremely low-carb, or low-fat, or the grapefruit diet, the soup diet, or anything else that restricts 1 or more of the macro-nutrients (protein, carbs , and fat), most of the time you will actually lose lean muscle and lower your metabolic rate. This only makes you fatter in the long run, when you start to eat normal again!

I could go into all kinds of details, but essentially you are messing up processes related to your hormonal balance in your body, the muscle glycogen process, insulin, blood sugar, etc., and this stops your fat loss dead in its tracks!

It's important to stop falling for the fad diet gimmicks, and understand that as humans, we are meant to eat a balanced diet full of a diverse array of foods from healthy natural sources of carbohydrates, proteins, AND fats. This gives your body all of the macro-nutrients as well as all of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes that your body needs to run like a well-oiled fat-burning machine!

I could go on and on with dozens more strategies for losing your belly fat faster, the natural way, but I've rambled on long enough for one article. You can find all of my best fat-loss strategies to help you uncover those hidden abdominals of yours, laid out into actual programs for you to follow in my Truth about Six Pack Abs Program for Losing Belly Fat

If you've been thinking of getting a copy of The Truth about Six Pack Abs Program, but just haven't made the move yet, now is the time to take action, and get started on your lean ripped flat stomach today!

 

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The Most Potent Super-Spice Antioxidant in Your Cabinets

We're talking about the super-spice Turmeric -- a powerful antioxidant with surprising health benefits 

You may have already known from my past newsletters that cinnamon is one of the most powerful antioxidants that you may have been overlooking in this world where acai, goji berries , blueberries, and red wine are the only antioxidant sources that get major press.

However, have you ever eaten curry? That yellow color in curry is attributed to a spice called Turmeric, and it is one of the most powerful antioxidants you can consume with amazing health benefits.

Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years as a dye, as a spice for dishes, and also in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Turmeric has some of the world's most powerful fat-burning and healing qualities of any food or spice. It is a potent anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial substance.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric grows as a shrub in India and tropical parts of Asia. The roots are ground up to make turmeric. Its active ingredient is a substance called curcumin and it is bright yellow. This bright yellow spice has medicinal properties as well as adding its pungent color and taste to many delicious dishes.

Ayurvedic medicine has used this spice as a whole body cleanser, an aid for digestion, and in treatments for fevers, infections, liver and gall bladder problems and arthritis. It may even help to burn fat, and is also very effective as a preventative for heart disease, and Alzheimer's.

The rich stores of antioxidants are very effective against the free radicals which contribute to premature aging, disease and cancer. Many natural practitioners actually recommend turmeric when a potent antioxidant is needed.

A digestion aid and fat-burning compound

Turmeric helps to digest fats by stimulating the flow of bile in the gall bladder and therefore is very effective as a digestive aid and fat-burning compound. Studies also show it is highly effective at reducing the inflammation from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease.

For the heart, it contains strong anti-platelet substances which help prevent the blood from clotting too easily, and so is very effective against heart attacks and strokes. In addition, homocysteine, a chemical component in the body, which is one of the primary predictors of heart attacks, is significantly lowered in the presence of curcumin.

The curcumin in turmeric also has been shown to lower and reduce the oxidation of plaque on the artery walls.

As an anti-inflammatory it has been used effectively for a treatment for all types of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and for joint pain.

Turmeric and cancer-risk reduction

Turmeric is a powerful weapon against cancer cells as well. Studies show that this super spice can actually prevent cancer tumors from growing and in those who already have cancer, turmeric slows the growth and spread of cancer. In a research study done with mice injected with cancer cells, the curcumin in turmeric was proven to be more than twice as effective as the cancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol).

The curcumin in turmeric is also highly effective when combined with the anti-oxidant quercetin (found in red onions, apples and cherries) against pre-cancerous polyps in the colon. Studies show that polyps were reduced by 60% and the average size of existing polyps were reduced by 50%.

Turmeric and Alzheimer's disease

One of the most exciting new studies has shown turmeric's value against Alzheimer's. Studies of the Indian population who have a high intake of turmeric in their curry dishes show a very low incidence of Alzheimer's and dementia in the elderly.

Alzheimer's victims have a buildup of a certain type of plaque in the brain and turmeric is highly effective at breaking down this plaque and protecting brain health.

Ways to get turmeric into your diet:

One way to get high concentrations of curcumin is to use the spice turmeric in some of your cooking and recipes.

Curry contains turmeric, but is usually a combination of several spices and you may not get as much turmeric as you would using pure turmeric.  That's not to say there aren't benefits to curry too, since it is a blend of several spices. 

Try to get creative and test using turmeric and/or curry on various foods so you can benefit as much as possible from this potent super-spice...

Turmeric is very yellow and can stain so be careful when using it. This spice doesn't have to be used just for curries. It is delicious on sautéed apples, or steamed cauliflower, green beans and onions, or any of your favorite veggies.

Try it with raw cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower or broccoli, or with celery, sweet pepper, jicama or radishes. Turmeric is also a great spice to complement recipes that feature lentils. Give salad dressings an orange-yellow hue and a little extra flavor by adding some turmeric powder to them.

Once you start using turmeric on a regular basis, it's fun to find new ways to use it in healthy recipes. My favorite way to use it is to add a healthy dose of it to egg salad. It adds a great flavor, and gives the egg salad a delicious rich yellow hue.

The best way to get turmeric daily and maximize your benefits

Let's face it... we know that spices like cinnamon and turmeric have incredible health benefits, but it's hard to remember to use them more than once or twice a week in recipes or on your typical foods.

So what I've found is the best way to make sure you get ample turmeric on a daily basis is to get turmeric capsules.

Turmeric can be purchased in capsules from a health food store, or you can make your own if you want to buy empty capsules and fill your own. The best turmeric is available in bulk in health food stores and is usually fresher and more pungent.

It is important to check with your physician if you are pregnant or nursing; it can be a uterine stimulant. If you have gallstones or bile obstructions or congestive heart failure, it is best to avoid using. And check with your doctor if you are on prescription drugs, as the drugs may interact with the turmeric.

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My Top 55 Lean-Body Foods to Build Lean Muscle and Lose Body Fat

In most of my Lean-Body Secrets Newsletters, I like to provide a healthy snack or meal recipe that not only is delicious and healthy, but also helps to get you closer to that hard-body appearance that everyone is looking for, while also more importantly, improving your health for life. In this article, I'd like to give you healthy food ideas in a different way. This time, I figured I'd just give you some ideas of what I stock my fridge and cabinets with.

Remember, if you don't have junk around the house, you're less likely to eat junk!  If all you have is healthy nutritious foods around the house, you're forced to make smart choices. Basically, it all starts with making smart choices and avoiding temptations when you make your grocery store trip. Now these are just some of my personal preferences, but perhaps they will give you some good ideas that you'll enjoy.

Some of these will be obvious healthy choices, such as fruits and veggies... however, others on this page I think will surprise you!

Alright, so let's start with the fridge. Each week, I try to make sure I'm loaded up with lots of varieties of fresh vegetables. During the growing season, I only get local produce, but obviously in winter, I have to resort to the produce at the grocery store. Most of the time, I make sure I have plenty of vegetables like onions, zucchini,  spinach, fresh mushrooms, red peppers, broccoli, etc. to use in my morning eggs.  I also like to chop up some lean chicken or turkey sausage (make sure to look for nitrate & nitrite free) or grass-fed bison sausage into the eggs, along with some swiss, jack, or goat cheeses (preferably raw grass-fed cheeses when I can find them). 

By the way I'm talking about whole eggs, NOT egg whites.  Always remember that the yolk is the most nutritious and nutrient dense part of the egg, so only eating egg whites is like throwing away the best part... and no, it's NOT bad for you because of the cholesterol... whole eggs actually raise your GOOD cholesterol.  Try to get free range organic eggs for the best quality. Here's an entire article I did on the topic of whole eggs vs egg whites .

Coconut milk is another staple in my fridge. I like to use it to mix in with smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt for a rich, creamy taste. Not only does coconut milk add a rich, creamy taste to lots of dishes, but it's also full of healthy saturated fats. Yes, you heard me right... I said healthy saturated fats!  ...Healthy saturated fats such as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), specifically an MCT called lauric acid, which is vitally important for your immune system.

If the idea of healthy saturated fats is foreign to you, check out my article about why saturated fat is not as bad as you think .

Back to the fridge, some other staples:

  • Walnuts, pecans, almonds - delicious and great sources of healthy fats.  Try to get raw nuts if possible as the roasting process can oxidize some of the polyunsaturated fats in some types of nuts making those damaged fats slightly more inflammatory.  Overall, nuts are still healthy even if they are roasted, but raw nuts are optimal. 
  • Cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and yogurt (grass-fed and organic if possible) - I like to mix cottage or ricotta cheese and yogurt together with chopped nuts and berries for a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon meal.
  • Chia seeds and/or hemp seeds - I add these highly nutritious seeds to yogurt, smoothies, or salads for a great nutty taste and loads of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins and minerals. Don't use pre-ground versions of these seeds as the omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable and prone to oxidation, creating high levels of free radicals if you use pre-ground seeds.  No grinding is necessary to properly digest these seeds. 
  • Whole eggs - one of natures richest sources of nutrients (and remember, they increase your GOOD cholesterol so stop fearing them).
  • Salsa - I try to get creative and try some of the exotic varieties of salsas.
  • Avocados - love them...plus a great source of healthy fats, fiber, and other nutrients. Try adding them to wraps, salads, or sandwiches.
  • Butter - don't believe the naysayers; butter adds great flavor to anything and CAN be part of a healthy diet... just keep the quantity small because it is calorie dense... and NEVER use margarine, unless you want to assure yourself a heart attack.  Most important -- choose organic butter only, since pesticides and other harmful chemicals accumulate in the fat of the milk which is used for butter, so choosing organic helps avoid this problem.  Also, choose grass-fed (pastured) butter if you can find it as it will contain higher levels of healthful omega-3 fats and the fat-burning conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). 
  • Nut butters - Plain old peanut butter has gotten a little old for me, so I get creative and mix together almond butter with pecan butter, or even cashew butter with macadamia butter...delicious and unbeatable nutrition!  Using a variety of nut butters gives you a broader range of vitamins and minerals and other micronutrients, and gives you variety instead of boring old peanut butter all the time.
  • Leaf lettuce and spinach along with shredded carrots - for salads with dinner.
  • Home-made salad dressing - using balsamic vinegar, spices, extra virgin olive oil, and Udo's Choice oil blend. This is much better than store bought salad dressing which mostly use highly refined canola or soybean oil (canola and soybean oil are both very inflammatory in the body).  Here's an article showing why to NEVER use store-bought salad dressings .
  • Sprouted grain bread for occasional use -- My personal belief from years of nutrition research is that we're not really meant to consume the massive quantities of grains (not even whole grains) that we do in this day and age... a small amount may be okay, but our digestive systems are still primarily adapted to a hunter/gatherer type of diet with only a very small amount of grains, therefore I try to only have breads and other grain-based foods on cheat days.
  • Rice bran - If we're going to have some grain-based food, we might as well have the most nutrient dense part, and rice bran is one of those parts, since it includes the germ of brown rice too. Rice bran is loaded with vitamins and minerals but without the large amount of starch calories that rice has... and it actually adds a nice little nutty, crunchy taste to yogurt or smoothies, or can be added when baking to add nutrients and fiber to the recipe.

Some of the staples in the freezer:

  • Frozen berries - during the local growing season, I only get fresh berries, but during the other 10 months of the year, I always keep a supply of frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, etc. to add to high fiber cereal, oatmeal, cottage cheese, yogurt, or smoothies. I also get frozen goji berries sometimes for a little "exotic" variety. 
  • Frozen fish - I like to try a couple different kinds of fish each week. There are so many varieties out there, you never have to get bored. Just make sure to ALWAYS choose wild fish instead of farmed versions, as the omega-3 to omega-6 balance is MUCH healthier in wild fish.  Also, as this article shows, there are some possible other health issues with farmed fish .
  • Frozen chicken breasts - very convenient for a quick addition to wraps or chicken sandwiches for quick meals.
  • Grass-fed steaks, burgers, and ground beef:  Grass-fed meats have been shown to have as high as, or even higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than salmon (without the mercury).  Also, grass-fed meats have much higher levels of fat-burning and muscle-building conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compared to typical grain-fed beef that you'll find at your grocery store.  I recently found an excellent on-line store where I buy all of my grass-fed meats now (they even deliver right to your door in a sealed cooler) - www.healthygrassfed.2ya.com
  • Frozen buffalo, ostrich, venison, and other "exotic" lean meats - Yeah, I know...I'm weird, but I can tell you that these are some of the healthiest meats around, and if you're serious about a lean healthy body, these types of meats are much better for you than the mass produced, hormone-pumped beef, chicken, and pork that's sold at most grocery stores.
  • Frozen veggies - again, when the growing season is over and I can no longer get local fresh produce, frozen veggies are the best option, since they often have higher nutrient contents compared to the fresh produce that has been shipped thousands of miles, sitting around for weeks before making it to your dinner table.

Alright, now the staples in my cabinets:

  • Various antioxidant-rich teas - green, oolong, white, rooibos (red tea) are some of the healthiest.  One of my newest favorite teas is yerba mate, which is a south american tea that is loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients. I've found some delicious yerba mate mixes such as chocolate yerba mate, mint mate, raspberry mate, etc.
  • Oat bran and steel cut oats - higher fiber than those little packs of instant oats, which are typically loaded with sugar.  If I'm trying to reduce body fat and get extra lean, I make most of my breakfasts based on eggs and veggies and bison sausage, but if I'm on a muscle building phase, I increase carbohydrate intake and use more oat bran and oatmeal.
  • The only healthy oils I have in my cabinets are virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil. Macadamia oil may also be a reasonable choice as long as it's not "refined".  But other than that, all "vegetable oils" (which is usually soy and corn oil) are total junk and very inflammatory. Never use soy or corn oils!  Also, always avoid canola oil, as there is nothing healthy about canola oil , despite the deceptive marketing claims by the canola oil industry.
  • Cans of coconut milk (loaded with healthy saturated MCT fats) - to be transferred to a container in the fridge after opening.
  • Brown rice and other higher fiber rice - NEVER white rice
  • Tomato sauces - delicious, and as I'm sure you've heard a million times, they are a great source of lycopene. Just watch out for the brands that are loaded with nasty high fructose corn syrup.  You also want to make sure that the tomato sauce is made with olive oil instead of unhealthy soybean oil or canola oils. Also get tomato sauces in glass jars instead of cans, as canned tomatoes are notoriously high in the dangerous chemical, bisphenol-A (BPA) due to the acidic leaching of BPA from the can lining.
  • Stevia - a natural non-caloric sweetener, which is an excellent alternative to the nasty chemical-laden artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharine, and sucralose .
  • Raw honey - better than processed honey... higher quantities of beneficial nutrients and enzymes. Honey has even been proven in studies to improve glucose metabolism (your efficiency in processing carbohydrates).  I use a small teaspoon every morning in my teas.  Yes, I know that even honey is pure sugar, but at least it has some nutritional benefits... and let's be real, a teaspoon of healthier raw honey is only 5 grams of carbs... certainly nothing to worry about, and a better choice than refined sugar.
  • Organic REAL maple syrup - none of that high fructose corn syrup Aunt Jemima crap...only real maple syrup can be considered real food. The only time I really use this (because of the high sugar load) is added to my post-workout smoothies to sweeten things up and also elicit an insulin surge to push nutrients into your muscles to aid muscle recovery.
  • Organic unsweetened cocoa powder - I like to mix this into my smoothies for an extra jolt of antioxidants or make my own low-sugar hot cocoa by mixing cocoa powder into hot milk with stevia and a couple melted dark chocolate chunks (delicious!).
  • Cans of black or kidney beans - I like to add a couple scoops to my Mexican dishes for the fiber and high nutrition content. Also, beans are surprisingly one of the best sources of youth enhancing antioxidants!  Did you know that black beans and kidney beans have more antioxidants than blueberries...it's true!
  • Dark chocolate (as dark as possible - ideally more than 70-75% cocoa content) - This is one of my treats that satisfies my sweet tooth, plus provides loads of antioxidants at the same time. It's still calorie dense, so I keep it to just 1-2 small squares after a meal... but that is enough to do the trick, so I don't feel like I need to go out and get cake and ice cream to satisfy my dessert urges.

Lastly, another thing that's hard to go wrong with is a good variety of fresh fruits and berries. The staples such as bananas, apples, oranges, pears, peaches are good, but I like to also be a little more adventurous and include things like yellow (aka - mexican or champagne) mangoes, pomegranates, kumquats, papaya, star fruit, pineapples, and others. Also, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, black raspberries (the highest fiber berry) and cherries are some of the most nutrient and antioxidant-dense fruits you can eat.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this special look into my favorite lean body meals and how I stock my cabinets and fridge. Your tastes are probably quite different than mine, but hopefully this gave you some good ideas you can use next time you're at the grocery store looking to stock up a healthy and delicious pile of groceries.

 

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7 "FATTY" Foods that Can Help You to Get a Flat Stomach

These 7 shocking Fatty (but healthy) super-foods can actually help you to burn body fat faster!

At this point, the anti-fat propaganda has died and almost everybody understands by now that eating fat doesn't necessarily make you fat.  In fact, it's absolutely imperative to get enough healthy fats in your diet to keep your hormones balanced, blood sugar under control, and prevent cravings.  Here are 7 examples of "fatty" foods that can actually HELP you to get lean...

healthy chocolate1.  Super Dark Chocolate (at least 72% cacao content or higher) - It might not be a secret anymore, but yes, dark chocolate (NOT milk chocolate) can be a very healthy food, even though it is technically calorie dense. 

However, I would contend that dark chocolate can actually HELP you to burn off more body fat if you're the type of person that has a sweet tooth and likes to eat a lot of desserts.  In this case, just 1 or 2 small squares of dark chocolate can many times satisfy your sweet tooth for only 30 or 40 calories as opposed to 500 calories for a piece of chocolate cake or a piece of pie. 

Also some brands of dark chocolate that are in the mid 70's in % cacao content or higher, can have a fairly high ratio of fiber content (I've seen some brands have 5 grams of fiber out of 15 grams of total carbs per serving), and relatively low sugar content compared to the amount of healthy fats.  In fact, that's one of the "tricks" I use to select a good quality chocolate... I look for more total fat than total carbs (or about the same number of grams of each).

The importance of that fact is that it means many dark chocolates will not greatly affect your blood sugar and will have a fairly blunted blood sugar response compared to other "sweets".

In addition, dark chocolate is also very rich in healthful antioxidants, including a powerful compound called theobromine which has been shown to help lower blood pressure and have other health benefits.  The fat content in a good dark chocolate should come solely from the natural healthy fats occuring in cocoa butter and not from any other added fats.  Any chocolates with added fats or other additives will generally not be as healthy.

The reason I say to choose dark chocolates with at least 72% cacao content is that the higher the % of cacao, the lower the % of sugar.  However, this does mean that any chocolate over 80% cacao content will generally start to get a more bitter taste and have very little sweetness.  If you like this type of taste, then the higher % cocao, the better. Otherwise, a good 75% dark chocolate is in my opinion an almost perfect combination of lightly sweet with a rich chocolate taste.  Just remember to keep those daily quantities of chocolate small as it is calorie dense!

You can also reap the benefits of the antioxidants and fiber without all of the calories by using organic unsweetened cocoa powder in your smoothies or other recipes.

coconuts have healthy fats2.  Coconut milk, coconut flour, and coconut oil --  Coconut milk and oil are great sources of a super healthy type of saturated fat called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), including a component called lauric acid, which is a powerful nutrient for your immune system, and is lacking in most western diets.  In addition, MCTs are readily used for energy by the body and less likely to be stored as bodyfat compared to other types of fats.

Along with coconut milk and coconut oil as healthy fat choices, we've also got coconut flour as a healthier flour option for baking. Coconut flour is an extremely high fiber flour alternative (almost ALL of the carbs in this flour are fiber and not starch!).  Coconut flour is also VERY high in protein compared to most flours and is also gluten free! 

Just beware that if you're going to use coconut flour for baking, it absolutely NEEDS to be mixed with other flours as it sucks up moisture like crazy... I've made delicious baked goods by mixing coconut flour with almond flour and quinoa flour in equal parts, and adding slightly more liquid ingredients than the recipe calls for.

healthy fats in butter3.  Grass-fed (pasture-raised) butter -- yes, delicious smooth and rich BUTTER (real butter, not deadly margarine!)... It's delicious, contains loads of healthy nutritional factors, and does NOT have to be avoided in order to get lean.  In fact, I eat a couple pats of grass-fed butter daily and maintain single digit bodyfat most times of the year.

There's a lot of confusion about this topic... in fact, I just saw a TV show today that was talking about unhealthy foods and one of the first things they showed was butter.  It just shows that the majority of the population has zero idea that butter (grass-fed only!) can actually be a healthy part of your diet.

In fact, there's even ample evidence that  REAL butter can even help you to lose body fat  for a couple of main reasons:

   a.  Grass-fed butter is known to have high levels of a healthy fat called CLA, which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties, and also has been shown to help burn abdominal fat and build lean muscle.

   b.  Grass-fed butter also has an ideal balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (unlike conventional grain-fed butter) which helps fight inflammation in your body, and can help balance hormones.

   c.  The healthy fats in grass-fed butter also contain MCTs, which help to boost your immune system and are readily burned by the body for energy.  The healthy fats in grass-fed butter also help to satisfy your appetite and control blood sugar levels, both of which help you to stay lean!

If you have a hard time finding a grass-fed butter at your grocery store, Kerrygold Irish butter is one of my favorites, and even though the label doesn't clearly state "grass-fed", the cows are 100% grass-fed on lush green pastures in Ireland. It's one of the richest butters in color that I've seen, which indicates high levels of carotenoids.

whole egg nutrition to burn body fat4.  Whole Eggs, including the yolk (not just egg whites) -- Most people know that eggs are one of the highest quality sources of protein.  However, most people don't know that the egg yolks are the healthiest part of the egg... that's where almost all of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (such as lutein) are found in eggs.

In fact, the egg yolks contain more than 90% of the calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, B6, folate, and B12, and panthothenic acid of the egg. In addition, the yolks contain ALL of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K in the egg, as well as ALL of the essential fatty acids.  Also, the protein of whole eggs is more bio-available than egg whites alone due to a more balanced amino acid profile that the yolks help to build.

Just make sure to choose free-range organic eggs instead of normal grocery store eggs.  Similar to the grass-fed beef scenerio, the nutrient content of the eggs and the balance between healthy omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids (in excess) is controlled by the diet of the hens. 

Chickens that are allowed to roam free outside and eat a more natural diet will give you healthier, more nutrient-rich eggs with a healthier fat balance compared with your typical grocery store eggs (that came from chickens fed nothing but soy and corn and crowded inside "egg factories" all day long). 

If you want more details on eggs, here is an article that details more about why egg yolks are BETTER for you than egg whites .

grass-fed beef healthier than grain-fed beef5.  Grass-fed beef or bison (NOT the typical grocery store beef!) -- I know most people think that red meat is unhealthy for you, but that's because they do not understand how the health of the animal affects how healthy the meat is for consumption.  Keep this in mind -- "an unhealthy animal provides unhealthy meat, but a healthy animal provides healthy meat".

Typical beef or bison that you see at the grocery store is raised on grains, mainly corn (and to some extent, soybeans). Soy and corn are NOT the natural diet of cattle or bison, and therefore changes the chemical balance of fats and other nutrients in the beef or bison.  Grain-fed beef and bison is typically WAY too high in omega-6 fats and WAY too low in omega-3 fats.  In addition, the practice of feeding cattle corn and soy as the main portion of their diet upsets their digestive system and makes them sick... and it also increases the amount of dangerous e-coli in the meat.  This is not the case with grass-fed meat.

grass-fed steaks, healthy fat burning foodOn the other hand, grass-fed beef from cattle and buffalo (or bison) that were raised on the type of natural foods that they were meant to eat in nature (grass and other forage), have much higher levels of healthy omega-3 fats and lower levels of inflammatory omega-6 fats (that most people already eat way too much of) compared to grain fed beef or bison. 

Grass fed meats also typically contain up to 3 times the Vitamin E as in grain fed meats.

In addition, grass-fed meat from healthy cattle or bison also contain a special healthy fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in MUCH higher levels than grain-fed meat.  CLA has been proven in scientific studies in recent years to help in burning fat and building lean muscle (which can help you lose weight!).  These benefits are on top of the fact that grass-fed meats are some of the highest quality proteins that you can possibly eat... and this also aids in burning fat and building lean muscle.

Grass-fed meats are a little harder to find, but just ask your butcher or find a specialty grocery store and they usually have cuts available.  I've also found a great site to order grass-fed meats online and have gotten to know the owner of this company well, and they are dedicated to the quality of their foods.


avocados - healthy fats and high nutrition6.  Avocados -- Even though avocados are typically thought of as a "fatty food", they are chock full of healthy fats!  Not only is this fruit (yes, surprisingly, avocados are actually a fruit) super-high in monounsaturated fat, but also chock full of vitamins, minerals, micro-nutrients, and antioxidants. 

Also, in my opinion, guacamole (mashed avocados with garlic, onion, tomato, pepper, etc) is one of the most delicious food toppings ever created, and you can be happy to know that it's also one of the healthiest toppings you can use on your foods.  Try sliced avocados or guacamole on sandwiches, burgers, eggs or omelets, on salads or with fish, or as a delicious side to just about any meal.

The quality dose of healthy fats, fiber, and micronutrients that you get from avocados helps your body to maintain proper levels of hormones that help with fat loss and muscle building.  Also, since avocados are an extremely satiating food, eating them helps to reduce your appetite in the hours after your meal.  Say goodbye to junk food cravings and bring on that fat burning!  I personally eat anywhere from a half to a full avocado DAILY and it only helps to keep me lean.


nuts - more healthy foods to burn fat7.  Nuts:  Walnuts, Almonds, Pistachios, Pecans, Brazil Nuts, Macadamias, etc --  Yes, this is yet another "fatty food" that can actually help you burn belly fat !  Although nuts are generally between 75-90% fat in terms of a ratio of fat calories to total calories, this is another type of food that is all healthy fats, along with high levels of micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  Nuts are also a good source of fiber and protein, which of course, you know helps to control blood sugar and can aid in fat loss.

Nuts also help to maintain good levels of fat burning hormones in your body (adequate healthy fat intake is vitally important to hormone balance) as well as helping to control appetite and cravings so that you essentially eat less calories overall, even though you're consuming a high-fat food.  My favorite healthy nuts are pecans, pistachios , almonds, macadamias, and walnuts, and by eating them in variety, you help to broaden the types of vitamins and minerals and also the balance of polyunsaturated to monounsaturated fats you obtain.

Try to find raw nuts instead of roasted nuts if you can, as it helps to maintain the quality and nutritional content of the healthy fats that you will eat.

Also, try to broaden your horizons beyond the typical peanut butter that most people eat, and try almond butter, cashew butter, pecan butter, or macadamia butter to add variety to your diet.

One of the little "tricks" that I've used with clients when trying to cut down body fat is to have them eat a handful of nuts such as almonds or pecans about 20 minutes before lunch and dinner.  This ends up being a perfect time to control your appetite before lunch or dinner and helps you to eat less overall calories on that meal.

I hope you enjoyed this look at some of the healthiest "fatty" fat-burning foods you can possibly eat.  I could list a ton more, but wanted to give you a few of my favorites for now.  Enjoy!

 

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