Food With High Nutrient Density

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Food With High Nutrient Density. Nutrient density is a term used in food nutritional labeling. This phrase refers to the amount of nutrients that are naturally occurring within a defined weight or volume of a food, expressed as a percentage of other related foods. The concept was developed in the context of human nutrition, but is more generally applicable to animals and plants as well.

The Most Nutrient Dense Foods Per Calorie

The Most Nutrient Dense Foods Per Calorie

Leading a healthy lifestyle involves eating foods high in nutrients while avoiding empty, or suboptimal, calories. In order to identify the most nutrient-dense foods, we must look for foods highest in essential nutrients while being lowest in calories.

To create this ranking, we added all the daily values for the following nutrients:

Vitamins: Vitamins A, B1 (Thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6, B9, B12, C, D, E, and K.

Minerals: Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, and Zinc.

Macronutrients: Fat, Carbohydrates, and Fiber.

All these nutrients added together created a new nutrient density metric that we call “Total Daily Value” or “Total DV”.

1Parsley

Parsley

Total DV in 100g1 cup chopped (60g)1 tbsp (4g)
2634%DV (36 calories)1580.4%DV (21.6 calories)100.1%DV (1.4 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Parsley.

2Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

Total DV in 100g1 cup (36g)1 leaf (48g)
1337%DV (19 calories)481.3%DV (6.8 calories)641.8%DV (9.1 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Swiss Chard.

3Kale

Kale leaves

Total DV in 100g1 cup, chopped (130g)
1457%DV (28 calories)1894.1%DV (36.4 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Cooked Kale.

4Watercress

Watercress

Total DV in 100g1 cup, chopped (34g)10 sprigs (25g)
534%DV (11 calories)181.6%DV (3.7 calories)133.5%DV (2.8 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Watercress.

5Spinach

A Bowl of Spinach

Total DV in 100g1 cup (180g)
1077%DV (23 calories)1938.6%DV (41.4 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Cooked Spinach.

6Mustard Greens

Mustard Greens

Total DV in 100g1 cup, chopped (140g)
1105%DV (26 calories)1547%DV (36.4 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Cooked Mustard Greens.

7Lettuce

A head of lettuce

Total DV in 100g1 cup shredded (36g)1 head (360g)
394%DV (15 calories)141.8%DV (5.4 calories)1418.4%DV (54 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Green Leaf Lettuce.

8Oysters

Oysters

Total DV in 100g1 cup, undrained (248g)3 oz (85g)
1383%DV (68 calories)3429.8%DV (168.6 calories)1175.6%DV (57.8 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Canned Eastern Oysters.

9Liver

Slices of Liver Cheese

Total DV in 100g1 slice (81g)
3490%DV (175 calories)2826.9%DV (141.8 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Pan Fried Beef Liver.

10Mushrooms (Exposed to UV Light)

Crimini mushrooms

Total DV in 100g1 cup sliced (72g)1 piece whole (20g)
407%DV (22 calories)293%DV (15.8 calories)81.4%DV (4.4 calories)

Mushrooms exposed to light will have much higher levels of vitamin D.
Nutrition Facts for Raw Crimini Mushrooms (Exposed To Sunlight Or UV).

11Sweet (Bell) Peppers

Bell Peppers

Total DV in 100g1 pepper, large (3-3/4″ long, 3″ dia) (186g)10 strips (52g)
367%DV (27 calories)682.6%DV (50.2 calories)190.8%DV (14 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Sweet Yellow Peppers.

12Arugula

Arugula

Total DV in 100g1/2 cup (10g)1 leaf (2g)
336%DV (25 calories)33.6%DV (2.5 calories)6.7%DV (0.5 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Arugula.

13Spring Onions

Green Onions

Total DV in 100g1 cup, chopped (100g)1 medium (4-1/8″ long) (15g)
406%DV (32 calories)406%DV (32 calories)60.9%DV (4.8 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Spring Onions.

14Broccoli

Broccoli Stalk

Total DV in 100g1/2 cup, chopped (78g)1 stalk, medium (7-1/2″ – 8″ long) (180g)
443%DV (35 calories)345.5%DV (27.3 calories)797.4%DV (63 calories)

Nutrition Facts for Broccoli (Cooked).

15Carrots

Carrots

Total DV in 100g1/2 cup slices (78g)1 carrot (46g)
439%DV (35 calories)342.4%DV (27.3 calories)201.9%DV (16.1 calories)

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More Nutrient Rich Foods

Acerola (West Indian Cherry)2850%DV (32 calories) per 100 gram serving2793%DV (31.4 calories) per 1 cup (98 grams)136.8%DV (1.5 calories) per 1 fruit without refuse (5 grams)Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Acerola Cherries
Amaranth Leaves (Raw)1734%DV (23 calories) per 100 gram serving485.5%DV (6.4 calories) per 1 cup (28 grams)242.8%DV (3.2 calories) per 1 leaf (14 grams)Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Amaranth Leaves
Radicchio426%DV (23 calories) per 100 gram serving170.4%DV (9.2 calories) per 1 cup, shredded (40 grams)34.1%DV (1.8 calories) per 1 leaf (8 grams)Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Radicchio
Dandelion Greens (Raw)1419%DV (45 calories) per 100 gram serving780.5%DV (24.8 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (55 grams)Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Dandelion Green
Chicory Greens (Raw)694%DV (23 calories) per 100 gram serving201.3%DV (6.7 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (29 grams)Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Chicory Greens
Endive (Raw)473%DV (17 calories) per 100 gram serving118.3%DV (4.3 calories) per 1/2 cup, chopped (25 grams)2426.5%DV (87.2 calories) per 1 head (513 grams)Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Endive
Collards (Raw)875%DV (32 calories) per 100 gram serving315%DV (11.5 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (36 grams)Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Collards
Sweet Potato Leaves (Raw)601%DV (42 calories) per 100 gram serving210.4%DV (14.7 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (35 grams)96.2%DV (6.7 calories) per 1 leaf (12-1/4″ long) (16 grams)Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Sweet Potato Leaves
Chinese Broccoli (Cooked)299%DV (22 calories) per 100 gram serving263.1%DV (19.4 calories) per 1 cup (88 grams)Get the full nutrient profile for Cooked Chinese Broccoli
Jute Potherb (Cooked)493%DV (37 calories) per 100 gram serving428.9%DV (32.2 calories) per 1 cup (87 grams)Get the full nutrient profile for Cooked Jute Potherb

Food With High Nutrient Density

Nutrient-dense foods are real and unprocessed as opposed to chemically altered, manmade or filled with synthetic ingredients.

Nutrients found in healthy, whole food include micronutrients like essential vitamins, trace minerals and electrolytes like magnesium/calcium/potassium, plus macronutrients, including carbohydrates (both “simple” and “complex”), proteins (amino acids) and different types of healthy fats.

A well-rounded, largely unprocessed diet is superior to taking supplements and eating a processed diet because real foods have complex chemical structures that are very difficult to replicate. For example, antioxidants and phytochemicals found in many plant foods support the immune system, the body’s detoxification processes and cellular repair.

What foods are most nutrient-dense?

Based on the amount of nutrients in proportion to the amount of calories that these foods have, here are the most nutrient-dense foods available to us:

  1. Seaweeds
  2. Liver (beef and chicken)
  3. Leafy greens, like kale, collards, spinach, watercress, dandelion greens and arugula
  4. Broccoli rabe, broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous veggies like cabbage or Brussels sprouts
  5. Exotic berries like acai, goji and camu camu
  6. Red, yellow, green and orange bell peppers
  7. Carrots and parsnips
  8. Garlic
  9. Parsley, cilantro, basil and other herbs
  10. Berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  11. Asparagus
  12. Beets
  13. Wild salmon and sardines
  14. Bone broth
  15. Grass-fed beef
  16. Green beans
  17. Egg yolks
  18. Pumpkin
  19. Lentils
  20. Artichokes
  21. Tomatoes
  22. Wild mushrooms
  23. Seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, chia and flax
  24. Raw cheese and kefir
  25. Sweet potatoes
  26. Black beans
  27. Wild rice
  28. Yogurt
  29. Cacao
  30. Avocado

Why Are Nutrient-Dense Foods Important?

Healthy, whole foods provide us with essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids (that form protein), fatty acids and more. Another way a nutrient-dense diet could be described is as an anti-inflammatory diet, which we know is important for preventing chronic diseases and risk factors like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Many experts believe that your overall health may be determined in part by your nutrient intake divided by your calorie intake. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture tells us that the overall quality of people’s diets depends upon factors, including:

  • The level of micronutrients and macronutrients they obtain per calorie that they eat.
  • Whether they continuously eat an appropriate amount of calories (in the form of macronutrients) in order to meet their individual needs. This means the ability to avoid excessive caloric intake but also avoiding under-eating or nutrient deficiencies.
  • Avoidance of toxic substances, such as trans fats, sodium and refined sugars.

Here’s another way to look at it: In terms of the amount of nutrients you’d get per calorie consumed, 600 calories worth of fast food french fries is obviously NOT the same as 600 calories of kale.

In the same vein, 600 calories of brown rice is NOT the same as 600 calories of kale either. Sure, brown rice is a natural food, but it is also far less nutrient-dense than kale (and a host of other foods, too).

On Dr. Fuhrman’s “Nutrient Density Scale,” oatmeal has a score of 53. To give a little perspective, you would have to eat four bowls of oatmeal to equal the nutrient density of just one bowl of strawberries. And you’d have to eat about 20 bowls of oatmeal to get the equivalent nutrients of one bowl of kale!

Top 9 Most Nutrient Dense Foods on Earth

Like most dietary topics, identifying the most nutrient dense foods on earth is subject to bias and misinformation. There are nutrient-dense food lists out there that rank potatoes and garlic among their top 10, which is simply ludicrous! 

Nutrient density means the combination of essential macronutrients (fat and protein),  along with an array of vitamins, and minerals per calorie. The truth is that the most nutrient dense foods all come from animal sources. Full stop. 

If you want to make your calories count towards your nutrition goals, this list is the place to start. 

1. Beef Liver

Beef Liver on a slate

Beef liver comes in at number one on our list of most nutrient dense foods. Commonly referred to as “nature’s multivitamin,” a 3.5 ounce serving of beef liver exceeds many of the minimum recommended daily intake of numerous hard-to-get nutrients. It’s also a rich source of protein. 

Let’s take a look at some of the key nutrients found in abundance in beef liver: 

Heme Iron 

Found only in red meat, heme iron is vital for many physiological functions. It plays an essential role in the formation of red blood cells, energy metabolism,  immune function, cognitive ability, and fertility. The heme iron in red meat is far more easily absorbed and used by your body than the non-heme iron in plant foods .

Nucleic Acids 

Your body produces nucleic acid on it’s own, but its ability to do so decreases with age. And when the body is stressed, there can be greater demand for nucleic acids than the body can generate. 

Though you won’t find nucleic acids on a nutrition label, Beef liver contains uniquely high amounts . 

Nucleic acids in food can contribute to numerous health benefits, including :

  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Improved digestion
  • Expedited muscle recovery
  • Reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation
  • Metabolic regulation

B Vitamins

Beef liver is rich in B vitamins that may help you stay energized and lose weight. These vitamins are known as lipotropic, or fat-liberating.  Research shows that the B vitamins found in liver can support the health of your own liver.

Beef liver an excellent source of the B vitamin folate, critical for healthy fetal development.

Liver Enzymes

Yet another example of the like-supports-like concept of organ meats is the cytochrome P450  found in liver. Cytochrome P450 is an important family of liver enzymes that assist with hormone production, detoxification, and the overall health of your own liver.

Carotenoids 

Beef liver is one of the worlds richest sources of vitamin A. In fact, there is so much vitamin A in liver that it should be consumed in limited quantities, and not every day. This vitamin comes in various forms including b-carotene and preformed A. They are essential for maintaining healthy skin and vision . 

Beef Liver
Based on 100 grams
Calories135
Fat3.6g
Protein20.4g
Net Carbs3.9g
Vitamins%Daily Value
Vitamin A   Vitamin B6  Vitamin B12  ThiamineRiboflavinNiacin Folate CholineVitamin C  Vitamin D   Vitamin K  4968μg1mg59.3μg0.2mg2.8mg13.2mg290μg333.3mg1.3mg1.2μg3.1μg552%84%2471%13%163%66%73%61%3%8%3%
MINERALS
Iron MagnesiumPhosphorus Zinc  CopperManganeseSelenium4.9mg18mg387mg4mg9.8mg0.3mg39.7μg62%6%39%27%488%16%57%
img src=”https://thesuperhealthyfood.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/GRASS-FED-PASTURE-RAISE-BEEF-ORGAN-SUPPLEMENTS-884-82-2.png” alt=””/>

2. Oysters

are oysters good for you?

These mighty bi-valves are some of the most nutrient dense and beneficial foods on earth. The nutrient profile of oysters makes them a food that can:

  • Reduce oxidation
  • Support fertility
  • Improve body composition

Oysters are remarkably rich in vitamin D, zinc, and selenium, three hard-to-get nutrients  that work in synergy to support a healthy immune function

Adequate vitamin D intake has been found to reduce the risk of respiratory infection by up to 70% . Not getting enough D3 from diet and sunlight may result in various negative symptoms including depression, multiple sclerosis, and an impaired immune response. While studies show that vitamin D3 can help you fight viral infections including Covid-19 

A 3.5 ounces serving of oysters provides many hard-to-get vitamins and minerals

RAW OYSTER CALORIES68 CALORIES% RDV
PROTEIN7 grams8%
FAT2.5 grams1%
CARBS3.9 grams4%
VITAMIN D320 IU80%
VITAMIN B10.1 mg7%
VITAMIN B31.4 mg7%
VITAMIN B1219.5 mcg324%
IRON6.7 mg37%
MAGNESIUM47 mg12%
PHOSPHORUS 135 mg14%
ZINC90.8 mg605%
COPPER4.5 mg223%
MANGANESE0.4 mg18%
SELENIUM63.7 mcg91%

3. Salmon Roe

Salmon eggs are one of the earth’s most nutrient-dense superfoods. Salmon roe is loaded with highly bioavailable vitamins A, B, D, and K2, zinc, iodine.

They’re also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been shown to support healthy brain function.

The abundance of nutrients in salmon roe including robust amount of B12, selenium, along with vitamin D, and E all contribute to various health benefits including: 

  • Neuroprotection
  • Healthy infant brain development
  • Supports male and female fertility 
  • Increased cognitive performance
  • Mood support
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Supports heart health
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Supports healthy immune function. 

You can explore salmon roe’s superfood benefits in-depth here. 

Salmon Roe nutrition per 100g

NUTRIENTSAMOUNT
CALORIES250 kcal
CARBOHYDRATE2.90 g
  FIBER0 g
  SUGARS0 g
FAT14.0 g
  SATURATED FAT2.04 g
  MONOUNSATURATED FAT4.13 g
  POLYUNSATURATED FAT4.12 g
    OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS3.50 g
    OMEGA-6 FATTY ACIDS0.31 g
PROTEIN29.20 g
VITAMINS
COBALAMIN (B12)20.0 mcg333 %
VITAMIN E10mg66%
VITAMIN D232 IU58 %
CHOLINE247.5 mg45 %
PANTOTHENIC ACID (B5)3.50 mg35 %
VITAMIN C16 mg26 %
RIBOFLAVIN (B2)0.36 mg21.2 %
PYRIDOXINE (B6)0.32 mg16.0 %
VITAMIN E2.68 mg13.3 %
FOLATE50.0 mcg12.5 %
VITAMIN A91 mcg RAE10.1 %
THIAMIN (B1)0.14 mg9.3 %
NIACIN (B3)0.40 mg2.0 %
Selenium65.5 mcg93.6%
Magnesium300 mg75%
Iron11.88 mg66%
Sodium1500 mg62.5%
Phosphorus390 mg39%
Calcium275 mg27.5%

4. Ribeye Steak

image of ribeye steak with nutrition data

Ribeye steaks are one of the most popular cuts of steak due to their tender juicy texture and rich flavor. And they happen to be one of the most nutrient dense foods on earth. 

If you’re practicing a carnivore or ketogenic diet the ribeye is one of the fattiest cuts of keto meats here. 

In addition to robust protein and nourishing fats, ribeye also provides robust amounts of B vitamins, zinc, selenium, and beneficial compounds only found in meat. compounds. 

These meat-specific compounds include: 

  • Carnitine: supports male fertility, reduces anemia, improves mitochondrial function, and supports heart heath 
  • Taurine: An antioxidant that can reduce glycation, reduce oxidative stress, and significant improvements in overall mental health .
  • Carnosine: Supports and protects healthy heart and skeletal muscle. Reduces glycation, and protects against damage to telomeres–therby providing anti-aging benefits. 
  • Creatine: Associated with improved cognition and neuroprotection. Enhances athletic performance, and heart health
NUTRIENT200G (7 OZ) 
CALORIES582 cal
FAT55g
SATURATED FAT20g
MONOUNSATURATED FAT
CARBOHYDRATES0
PROTEIN 48g
VITAMINS
B1 (THIAMIN) 14%
B2 (RIBOFLAVIN)35%
B3 (NIACIN)44%
B660%
B12245%
MINERALS
MAGNESIUM12%
POTASSIUM18%
IRON31%
COPPER33%
PHOSPHORUS42%
SELENIUM93%
ZINC113%

5. Anchovies

Anchovies are a nutrient dense food loaded with B3 and selenium and hard-to-get copper. 

B3 plays an important role in turning the food you eat into useable energy. Selenium supports heart health and is crucial to healthy thyroid function 

Fatty fish provide more omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) than most other fish including salmon. 

When combined with selenium, Omega-3 can help prevent tumor growth and is used to treat various types of cancer 

Anchovies (Wild)Amount per 3 oz. % RDA
Fat15.9g
Saturated Fat128g
Cholesterol61mg
Protein28g
Vitamins
Vitamin D103.5IU16.5%
Vitamin K18µg15%
Vitamin B12 1.4µg56%
B330mg186%
B6.3mg24%
B2.6mg42%
B51.4mg27%
Choline128mg23%
Significant Minerals
Selenium102µg186%
Zinc3.6mg26%
Potassium816mg21%
Calcium348mg38%
Iron6.9mg39%
Copper.4mg57%

6. Beef Kidney

Beef kidney is an ultra-nutrient dense organ meat. Highlights include over 1000% of your B12 intake per serving, along with robust amounts of selenium, heme iron, and an important balance of copper and zinc. 

In a demonstration of the like-supports-like properties of organ meats, kidney provides a rare amino acid L-ergothioneine, that promotes kidney health Kidney also offers the rare amino-acid Ergothioneine, known to support fertility

The nutrient density of kidney made it a popular food among Inuit tribes. Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote, “The kidneys are usually given to children, somewhat as if they were candy”

Kidney is also known for the special highly saturated fat surrounding it called suet This fat is high in stearic acid which has been shown to help reduce body fat and improve mitochondrial function

Beef Kidney: Raw
Based on 100 grams
Calories99
Fat3.1g
Protein17.4g
Net Carbs0.3g
VITAMINS%Daily Value
Vitamin AVitamin A IUThiamineRiboflavinNiacinFolateVitamin B6Vitamin B12Vitamin CVitamin DVitamin D IUVitamin D3Vitamin E419μg1397IU0.4mg2.8mg8mg98μg0.7mg27.5μg9.4mg1.1μg45IU1.1μg0.2mg47%–24%168%41%25%52%1146%16%8%––2%
MINERALS
CalciumIronMagnesiumPhosphorusZincCopperManganeseSeleniumRetinolLycopene13mg4.6mg17mg257mg1.9mg0.4mg0.1mg141μg419μg20μg2%58%5%26%13%22%8%202%––

7. Pork Belly 

Pork belly is one of the most affordable highly nutrient dense foods. It comes from the same place on the pig as bacon, but it’s not cured or smoked, so it doesn’t have nitrites. 

In addition to nourishing and satiating fats, including omega-3s and whole food proteins, pork belly provides significant amounts of many B vitamins and selenium

PORK BELLY NUTRITIONAL CONTENT PER 224GAMOUNT% RDA
FAT89g
SATURATED FAT32g
MONOUNSATURATED FAT42g
POLYUNSATURATED FAT9g
OMEGA 3 ALA900mg100%
Protein20g
CHOLINE113mg21%
VITAMIN B121.8mcg75%
PANTOTHENIC ACID (B5)2.5mg50%
NIACIN (B3)9mg56%
RIBOFLAVIN (B2).4mg32%
THIAMIN (B1.7mg56%
COPPER.2mg22%
PHOSPHOROUS300mg24%
SELENIUM23mcg42%
ZINC1.7mg16%
VITAMIN D1.8mcg9%
IRON.9mg5%

8. Lamb

Like the other nutrient dense meats on this list, lamb provides a rich profile of healthy fats, protiens, vitamins, and minerals. 

Some of these vital nutrients and their roles include: 

  • Vitamin B12: essential to healthy brain function and blood formation
  • Zinc: used in the synthesis of numerous hormones including testosterone
  • Glutathione: An antioxidant shown to reduce insulin resistance, oxidative damage in children with autism, risk of autoimmune disease, and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease .
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Found in greater abundance in lamb than any other meat. CLA is a healthy trans fat (not the kind you find in vegetable oils and margarine). CLA supports the immune system, bone strength, heart health, and fat loss

Nutrition information per 4 oz. 

Lamb Chops/Rack
Nutrients per 4 ozAmount% RDA
Fat22g
Saturated Fat11g
Trans Fat (CLA)1.5g
Cholesterol92mg
Protein30g
B121.7µg72%
B38.9mg56%
B6.6mg46%
B2 (RIboflavin).4mg28%
B5.7mg13%
B1.2mg13%
Selenium 15.2µg28%
Zinc3.3mg23%
Phosphorus216 mg22%
Copper.1mg15%
Iron2.4mg13%

9. Eggs

Eggs are an ultra convenient, ultra nutrient dense food. They offer a fantastic balance of healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. 

The choline content of eggs also makes them great for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

Nutrients100 grams (appx 2 eggs)%Daily Value
Calories140
Fat1016% (Not on Ketogenic Diet
Protein12
Vitamins and Minerals
Retinol (vitamin A)98mcg12%
Riboflavin0.4mg33%
Thiamin0.05mg5%
Vitamin B60.02mg2%
Vitamin B120.33mcg100%
Biotin5.2mcg17%
Folate88mcg30%
Vitamin D7.9mcg30%
Vitamin E1.9mg30%
Pantothenic acid1.07mg22%
Potassium131mg3.5%
Magnesium12mg3%
Phosphorus171mg25%
Iron1.8mgMen (23%) Women (10%)
Selenium28mcg50%
Zinc1.0mg10%
Iodine47mcg33%

The Most Nutrient Dense Foods: The Takeaway

The most nutrient dense foods on earth offer robust blend of fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, along with rare amino acids and peptides.

Many of these foods are the center of nose-to-tail ancestral diets. The rich array of fat soluble vitamins in these animal whole foods is likely a factor in the robust health and absence of disease that pioneering dietician and dentist Weston A. Price first identified in ancestral diets nearly 100 years ago.

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