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Archive for February, 2009

I am not unlike most people: I love pizza. But because I stay away from refined grains (white bread, white flour), and processed dairy (most commercial cheeses), pizza is not a regular meal for me. I’ve been trying to perfect a healthy pizza crust recipe for some time, and find other ways to improve pizza’s nutritional value. The best thing about this recipe is that it’s simple, fast (no kneading necessary!) and doesn’t require any unfamiliar ingredients. You can modify any of these toppings to your liking; this pizza was made half with onion, pepper, and pesto, and the other half with onion, pepper, pesto, and broccoli.

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Whole Grain Yeast-Free Pizza
Crust Ingredients:
– 2 1/2 cups alternative flour (I used mostly whole wheat pastry flour and some oat flour)
– 1/2 tsp sea salt
– 1 TBS baking powder
– 3 TBS olive oil
– 2 tsp dried basil or oregano (more or less depending on how seasoned you want the crust)
– 1 1/4 cups water

1. Preheat the oven to 445 degrees.
2. Combine all dry ingredients. Add oil and mix. Add water and mix.
3. Mix dough thoroughly. Add more flour if dough is excessively sticky (it should be a little sticky). Transfer dough to an oiled baking sheet, and with floured hands, spread the dough on the sheet to desired thickness and size.
4. Bake for 8 minutes. While baking, prepare sauce.

Pizza Sauce
If there’s a brand of packaged pizza sauce that doesn’t have unnatural ingredients or a high sodium content, feel free to use it. I simply buy organic strained tomatoes and add a few cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of both dried oregano and dried basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt. The quantities of all of these ingredients can be adjusted to your preference. Simmer on the stove for a few minutes.

5. When crust is done, remove from oven and add the sauce.
6. Top with grated cheese. I use all natural goat cheddar cheese. I don’t recommend most cow cheeses and certainly not processed cheeses. Goat cheese has a deliciously rich flavor, but if you’re not a fan, you can omit the cheese and double up on toppings. You can also try dabs of soft goat cheese as opposed to grating hard goat cheese.
7. Add your toppings. This pizza has onion, bell peppers, broccoli, and pesto. Try any combination of vegetables. The vegetables are one of the main components that make this pizza so healthy.
8. Return to the oven and bake another 8-10 minutes.

Enjoy! Remember, if you like what you read, subscribe!

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Eat well,
Emily

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Smoothies have earned a reputation as a “healthy” breakfast or mini-meal, but they are typically high in sugar and low in protein, fiber, and fat. I never buy smoothies, but I make my own for breakfast every morning. When you control what goes into your smoothie, you can make it a delicious, healthy, and filling breakfast.

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Blueberry Vanilla Smoothie
– 1/3 to 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
– 2 large frozen strawberries
– 1 to 1 1/4 cups unsweetened vanilla soy or almond milk
– 1 scoop unsweetened vanilla rice protein powder
– 1/4 cup cashews, almonds, or pecans (or a combination)
– cinnamon
– a few drops liquid stevia (or other natural sweetener; try agave nectar or yacon syrup)

Simply blend in a blender.

A few notes:
1. I use frozen berries and I highly recommend them. They’re cheaper than fresh, which makes it more affordable to buy organic. Plus, they last longer and make your smoothie cold without adding any ice.
2. Any protein powder will do, but I avoid processed soy protein powders.
3. I use my incredible Vita-Mix blender. It has no trouble completely liquefying the nuts, which add a delicious creaminess and thickness to the smoothie. If your blender is not powerful enough, substitute two tablespoons of a nut butter such as almond or cashew.
4. I strongly recommend liquid stevia. It’s easy to find at any health food store and a few drops does wonders in hot or cold beverages. It has no effect on blood sugar, no calories, and is completely natural. Agave and yacon are good substitutes, but bear in mind that they will be adding natural sugar content to your smoothie as they are more like natural syrups.

This smoothie keeps me full for hours and is a great way to start my morning. It has protein, fiber, healthy fat, little sugar, and still tastes wonderful. It’s truly a full meal replacement, not just a sugary drink that will make you crash later.

Remember, if you like what you read, subscribe!

Eat well,
Emily

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I know it’s hard to believe, but these pancakes (and their toppings) are made without any added sugar and with all natural ingredients. Unlike most pancakes, these have protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. This way, you stay full (for a LONG time!) and don’t experience the typical post-pancake sugar crash. I’m calling them “Oatty Nutty Pancakes,” and both the blueberry syrup and cashew cream are delicious additions. If it seems too ambitious to make both toppings, one will surely be enough.

Oatty Nutty Pancakes
serves about 4
Ingredients:
– 1 1/2 cups alternative flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour and oat flour, but also try combinations of whole wheat, buckwheat, spelt, quinoa, or amaranth flour)
– 3/4 cup rolled oats, soaked in unsweetened almond or soy milk
– one banana (overripe, if possible)
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 4 TBS ground flaxseed*, in small amount of hot water
– 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond/soy milk
– 1 TBS coconut oil
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
– 1 TBS powdered stevia**

1. Soak oats in enough milk to cover. Put 4 TBS flaxseed in a small bowl and cover with hot water and let sit until the mixture becomes gummy (a few minutes).
2. Combine dry ingredients, combine wet ingredients, mix together.
3. Coat a skillet with coconut oil and cook.

* I use flaxseed because it provides healthy fats, fiber, and works as a great egg replacer in baking. If you don’t have any on hand, you can replace the flax and water with 2-3 eggs.
** I know using stevia can be hard because each brand varies drastically in concentration. A good clue is to look at the serving size. Usually the more mild stevia powders have a serving size of about 1/4 of a teaspoon. The kind I used for this recipe had that serving size, and one tablespoon was enough for the batter. Some more concentrated stevia powders have a serving size of 1/16 of a teaspoon. Just check your label and adjust accordingly. How much you use also varies on your personal preference.

Cashew Cream
This is so easy to make (provided you have a food processor) and is incredibly delicious. It’s great on pancakes, but also can be used as a whipped cream for desserts or fruit.

Ingredients:
– 1 cup cashews
– 1/2 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk
– liquid stevia (or agave nectar)

1. In a food processor, grind cashews to a fine powder.
2. Pour in milk. Add more to reach desired consistency, if necessary.
3. Add a few drops liquid stevia or a drizzle of agave nectar.

Blueberry Syrup
Ingredients:
– 1 cup blueberries (frozen works fine)
– 1 cup water
– 1 tsp stevia powder (see stevia note, above)
– 4 tsp tapioca starch (or any alternative for cornstarch)
– 4 TBS cold water

1. Combine blueberries, 1 cup water, and stevia in a pot and bring to a boil.
2. Combine starch and 4 TBS cold water and stir. Let sit a few minutes.
3. Add starch to blueberry mixture, simmer a few more minutes. Add liquid stevia or agave nectar to taste, if necessary.

These are truly a fun breakfast.

Thanks for reading, and remember, I’m always happy to take your questions.

Love your food,
Emily

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Vegetable Purée Soup

There’s really nothing more comforting in winter than a bowl of soup.  I love vegetable purées and I was feeling inspired.

I had never done this before, so I did everything intuitively and used whatever vegetables looked good when I was shopping.

Ingredients (but certainly feel free to experiment)
– vegetable broth (look for organic and low-sodium, available at health food stores)
– yams/sweet potatoes
– zucchini
– broccoli
– red onion
– kale
– tomato
– garlic
– ginger
– sesame tahini
– sea salt

1. In a pan, sautée the garlic and/or ginger with the onions in olive oil.
2. Chop and steam the yams, broccoli, zucchini, and kale.
3. Bring the vegetable broth to a boil (with chopped tomato).
4. Once vegetables are steamed (about 15 minutes) and garlic/ginger/onions are slightly browned, add all to the broth, add salt, and simmer.
5. Combine in blender, add a modest amount of sesame tahini, and blend to desired texture.

I topped mine with a bit of cayenne pepper which was a very nice touch.

I love purées much more than regular vegetable soups; they’re hearty and filling. You can really use any combination of vegetables, but certain things are important to keep in mind:

1. You want some type of potato to keep the texture creamy and thick. I don’t recommend white or red potatoes since they have a poor effect on blood sugar; opt for a sweet potato or yam instead (they taste better, too!).
2. It’s important to have spices or herbs (garlic, ginger, basil, rosemary, etc) to keep the soup from being too bland. Also make sure to include more vegetables (onions, leeks, etc).
3. If you don’t have vegetable broth, you can use pure water; you may just want to simmer your vegetables for longer to enhance flavor.
4. You don’t need any cream to make this soup creamy. It doesn’t take much sesame tahini to add a rich, creamy flavor.
5. Dark, leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse, so although it doesn’t seem like a standard soup ingredient, add some kale, spinach, or chard to your purée.

Enjoy your food,
Emily

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I was given the honor of cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family in 2007. It was only three of us so it wasn’t a huge challenge, but still a fun project!

The most extraordinary part about this meal was that it was vegan, organic, sugar-free, all-natural, mostly alkaline, and with nothing refined, processed or artificial.

This meal contains: sautéed swiss chard, steamed asparagus, roasted vegetables, mashed yams, and quinoa. Dessert is berry pie and pumpkin pie.

Let’s look a little more in-depth at each of these dishes.

Sautéed Swiss Chard

Swiss chard and red onion sautéed in garlic and olive oil.
Dark, leafy greens are one of the most nutrient-dense foods and should always be a part of a healthy diet. Swiss chard is one of the best choices; it is recognized as an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, vitamin E, and fiber. It is a very good source of calcium, B vitamins, and protein.

Roasted Vegetables

Roasted zucchini, carrots, onions, red and yellow bell peppers, and sweet potatoes in olive oil with rosemary and sea salt.
You can use almost any vegetables you like here. Cover them with oil, garnish the salt and spices, and bake on a cookie sheet in the oven for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

Mashed Yams

Yams, sage, cinnamon, a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt.
This is probably my favorite dish: Yams are naturally sweet but have a much smaller effect on blood sugar than white potatoes. They are a delicious complex carb that provides vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Simply boil the yams, drain the water, then mash and combine the ingredients. It’s delicious as a cold left over, spread on bread, or eaten alone.

Steamed Asparagus

Steamed asparagus in toasted sesame oil.
This is one of the simplest dishes to make but always a favorite. Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin A, in addition to supporting heart health and being a natural detoxifier.

Quinoa

Cooked quinoa with olive oil and sea salt.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is one of the healthiest grains available. It is actually closely related to leafy green vegetables rather than other grains. Its texture is similar to couscous but finer. Quinoa is rich in amino acids, unlike other grains, making it a complete protein. It is also a good source of iron, magnesium, and manganese. Quinoa is a “whole grain,” so it repeats the benefits of whole grains such as heart and cardiovascular health. It is also very easy to cook. Combine one part quinoa to two parts water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 12 minutes.

Berry Pie and Pumpkin Pie

Raspberry, blueberry, strawberry pie and pumpkin pie, both on spelt crust.
To bake these pies, I used pre-made spelt pie crusts that contained only whole spelt flour and organic non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening.

To make these pies, I looked through many recipes and created my own. The quantities of ingredients are just estimates; I encourage you to try, use your instinct, and experiment! That’s how I went about making these pies, and the results were fantastic. I don’t eat sugar, so I used powdered “SweetLeaf” Stevia, which I highly recommend (read more about this natural sweetener here). I have never made a pie, let alone one that follows many dietary restrictions, but these were delicious and completely natural. There’s not a single harmful ingredient in either!

Berry Pie
– 1 pre-made spelt pie crust
– 4 cups blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries
– 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
– 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
– 3/4 tablespoon SweetLeaf stevia powder
– cinnamon

1. Combine 3 1/2 cups of berries with flour, almond milk, stevia, and cinnamon and blend in blender. Add more almond milk if mixture does not seem wet enough.
2. Once it reaches a homogeneous consistency, add mixture to pie crust and use extra 1/2 cup of berries to cover. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.
3. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (again, just check with a knife that the pie is warm all the way through).

Pumpkin Pie
– 1 pre-made spelt pie crust
– 2 cups canned pumpkin (or mashed, steamed carrots work, too!)
– 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
– 1/4 cup coconut oil
– all spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger… any spices you like!
– dash of sea salt
– 2 tablespoons SweetLeaf stevia powder

1. Combine all ingredients and blend in blender.
2. Pour mixture in pie crust, sprinkle with cinnamon, and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

So, that was my Thanksgiving dinner. The most gratifying part was to watch my brother and mother, both meat-eaters and not particularly health-conscious, devour the food. They loved everything! I’ll admit they were quite skeptical and a little disappointed to not be having all the Thanksgiving “usuals” (No rolls? No turkey!?). But once they tried everything, they couldn’t have been happier. Don’t be afraid to introduce some of your less health-conscious friends or family members to the wonders of delicious, healthy food. There are so many negative stereotypes that vegetables or healthy food is boring, bland, and leaves you feeling hungry. Let’s show them that’s not the case at all!

Hope your Thanksgiving was happy and healthy,
Emily

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If you’re reading this blog, you are most likely someone who cares about your health and nourishing your body through food. Chances are you’re also someone who watches your weight. The need for weight loss was what inspired me to become educated on healthy eating. When I needed to lose about 15 lbs, I immediately turned to calorie counting. I cut down to about 1,200 calories a day, wrote down everything I ate, and totaled up the calories as the day went on.

I understand that discussing this may cause a bit of conflict. Calorie counting is a very common weight loss method and many people swear by it. I’m here only to give my own personal feelings and experiences on the topic and hopefully offer some insight. Please don’t post malicious or argumentative comments without careful consideration and research first.

The Principle Behind Calorie Counting
Calorie counting is based on the idea that all weight gain/loss has to do with how many calories you consume. The theory is simple: in order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. If you consume more calories than you burn through your daily activities, you will gain weight. This has been proven by a number of scientific studies.

However… the issue of weight loss is not that simple. There are a number of psychological, emotional, and physiological things that contribute to weight gain/loss, and they all must be taken into account when trying to lose weight.

Calorie Counting and Nutrition
In order to have a healthy and fully functioning body, you must provide it with all the proper nutrients. This means [complex] carbohydrates, [lean] protein, and even [mostly mono- and poly-unsaturated] fat. In addition, you want to be getting all the necessary vitamins and nutrients like zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, and so on. By restricting your calories, you are restricting the availability of these nutrients to your body. It is possible to eat nutrient-dense foods that are not high in calories, but that decision is not always made by the calorie counter. In calorie counting, calories always come first. Doesn’t that seem a bit counterproductive? The priority should always be health and vitality; when you take this into account, you won’t be choosing foods that will make you gain weight. Considering calories first is not addressing the real problem with weight gain.

Calorie Counting and Processed Foods
A major problem with calorie counting diets is the plethora of packaged foods that are made to be significantly low in calories for what they are. Food corporations usually do this by taking out fat (higher in calories than carbohydrates) and replacing it with sugar, emulsifiers, thickeners, and toxic artificial ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils (trans fats) to make it taste like “the real thing.” What you have is an over-processed, chemically-ridden piece of junk food that is lower in calories than its original counterpart. Calorie counters flock to these types of foods, but they provide nothing nutritionally and pollute the body with unnatural substances. I have an issue with “100 Calorie Packs” as well. Although portion control is a good rule of thumb, you should be controlling your portions of healthy, nutritious foods. Portion controlled processed crackers or oreos is not my idea of healthy; it is simply a smaller amount of a food that’s not good for you.

Calorie Counting and Sugar
As mentioned above, manufacturers often replace fat content with sugar to lower the calorie count on a particular food. This is one of the most dangerous things in low calorie diets. Sugar is a major cause of weight gain in America. Sugar is NOT necessary for the human body in any capacity and only hinders the body’s natural functions. Those who have read my blog before know that I am very much an advocate for a low-sugar diet. Sugar is linked to countless diseases and health conditions. It is found in mass quantities in almost any type of food (even food disguised as “health food”). If this sparks your interest, I highly recommend checking out books like Get The Sugar Out, Sugar Blues, and Sugar Shock.

Calorie Counting and Healthy Choices
If calories are your first priority, you are likely to overlook the real reasons for eating right (to provide your body with fuel and nutrients). For example, a sugar-free jell-o may have 60 calories and a banana may have around 100, depending on the size. A jell-o is basically nothing but chemicals, and a sugar-free jell-o will also have a toxic artificial sweetener like aspartame. A banana is a natural food providing complex carbohydrates and nutrients. It is obviously the smarter choice; calories are irrelevant.

Calorie Counting and Hunger
One thing I remember vividly from the calorie counting days was how hungry I was all the time. I felt weak, tired, and miserably starved. Let me be clear that I wasn’t starving myself; I definitely ate three meals a day and an occasional snack. But for a somewhat active college student, I wasn’t providing my body with everything it needed. My friends would offer support and we would come up with ways to distract ourselves from the hunger. We’d drink lemon water or coffee, or if all else failed, we’d take a nap. This is no way to live! Dieters often feel that feeling starved is part of dieting. When you start to reduce your intake or take out your favorite indulgences (foods for which your body has developed an addiction), a little hunger is inevitable. But you shouldn’t feel as though you’re starving yourself. If you eat a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, you will feel satiated and satisfied.

I am not against being what I call “calorie conscious.” It’s okay to take into account how many calories a food has just as you would take into account the ingredients and the nutrients it provides. I simply believe calories should not serve as the final word in a food choice. Too many calorie counters look at a food and ask the question, “Will this food make me fat?” rather than, “Will this food make me healthy? Will it give me sustainable energy and improve my metabolic functions? Will it fuel my body with the proper nutrients and help my cells rebuild themselves? Will it strengthen my immune system and prevent me from getting sick?” Calories do not determine a food’s nutritional value so it is very important to look beyond calories when selecting what to eat. A 100-calorie pack of wheat thins and light yogurt will not do what a bowl of brown rice and asparagus can do. When you provide your body with real food, you can watch the pounds melt off. It is not just calories that is making America fat. If that were the case, all the fad diets would be successful simply by cutting calories. What our society needs is a healthy, balanced diet of real food. Not chemicals, additives, diet sodas, meal replacement bars, and low-fat varieties of our favorite junk.

Thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to subscribe if you find this information helpful.

Eat well,
Emily

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Eating right is of the utmost importance to me. I believe that good nutrition is the solution to almost any ailment and is the source of true well-being. I think eating right and fueling your body properly is essential to being a happy, balanced, and vibrant person. It is truly a tragedy that nutrition in America is lacking more than ever. The importance of a good diet can not be emphasized enough. Sadly, the standards for a “good” diet in America are very loose allow a great deal of unhealthy choices that can be counterproductive to your good efforts.

I have a plethora of reasons for eating consciously and thought I’d share some.

Weight Control
I mention this reason first not because it is necessarily the most important, but probably the most popular reason people start to eat healthy. I’ll admit that it is what initially got me interested in adapting a better diet. My first semester of college was filled with late-night pizza, pints of Ben & Jerry’s, and all-you-can-eat buffets for every meal. I gained about 15 lbs for the first time in my life and completely panicked. When I started fueling my body with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other healthy foods, I watched the weight disappear. As many of us know, being overweight can lead to a great deal of disease and health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential to good health. Plus, most of us feel better about ourselves when we are at our ideal weight and confidence is a beautiful thing.

Immune System Strength
Your body only functions properly when it is provided with all the necessary vitamins and nutrients. Besides making sure to get your daily recommended intake, it is also important to avoid foods high in sugar or chemical additives that weaken your body’s natural functions. When you eat a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, your immune system is strong. Even as a college student, I rarely get a cold or feel run-down nearly as much as my peers. Getting sick doesn’t just come from exposure to germs. If your body is running properly, germ exposure won’t cause you to catch a cold or get sick.

Energy
Another thing I notice with my [unhealthy] peers is that they always seem to be tired. They can sleep for 12 hours on the weekend and still walk around exhausted with dark circles under their eyes. Making sure to get the right balance of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein provides stable energy throughout the day. I also strongly recommend eating four to six small meals a day instead of three larger ones; this keeps blood sugar levels stable and makes for more reliable energy. When you consume high quantities of sugar, refined carbs, and caffeine, you are going to feel exhausted regardless of how much sleep you get. The pick-me-up one gets from eating junk food is only temporary and leaves you in a slump when it’s over.

Skin, Hair, Nails
When you provide your body with essential nutrients, especially the omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, it truly shows. Your hair is shinier and thicker, your skin is clearer and more vibrant, and your nails are stronger. Diets high in sugar, additives, and grease make for break-outs, lackluster complexions, and brittle nails. What shows up on the outside is very much controlled by what’s going on inside. Before you splurge on an expensive new hair product or face cream, think about solving the problem at the source first.

Digestive Wellness
Digestive problems are far too common in America. It is directly related to our diet of chemically-ridden, over-processed foods that are devoid of nutritional value. Laxatives and antacids are among the highest selling over-the-counter remedies in the US. It is imperative not to look to drugs or pills but at the true source of these problems. A diet centered around vegetables and high in whole grains and fiber can alleviate digestive problems and keep your stomach and intestines running smoothly.

Mood
Many people equate their feelings or mood to specific things going on in their life. However, we all have those days where we feel unexplainably happy or sad. Emotions and moods are far more complicated than what is on the surface. Much of it is governed by brain chemicals like serotonin, which is a feel-good brain chemical, and cortisol, which is a stress chemical. Eating a diet that provides adequate nutrients and regulates blood sugar helps keep these chemicals in balance and regulate mood swings. Depression is actually a common symptom of a number of vitamin deficiencies. And remember, when you feel good about your weight, your energy levels are stable, your complexion is radiant, and you are feeling well, it is much easier to be a happy and pleasant person!

I think the best thing you can do for yourself and your body is develop healthy eating habits. “You are what you eat” is a very accurate statement. Your body is made up of cells. Your cells are created and reproduced by the nutrients that enter your body. Essentially, your body becomes the food you put into it. I urge each and every one of you not to turn to the medicine cabinet for every ailment. Take a look at what you’re eating (or what you’re not eating) and if you can regulate your body through making healthier choices. Everything we eat has some effect on our body. Determine if it is positive or negative and choose where to go from there. Do your own research, and gain the knowledge to empower yourself. Remember that health claims on products are for marketing purposes only. If you educate yourself on what a healthy food really is, you can make the best decisions.

You have the power to change and transform your life through what you eat!

If you find these articles at all interesting or helpful, please subscribe!

Eat healthy,
Emily

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