Sharon Hubbs-Kreft, Herbalist - Amazing Grace Herbals LLC

  (Keyport, New Jersey)
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Fiber . . how much . . how often?

What is fiber?

A variety of definitions of fiber exist. In an attempt to develop one definition of fiber that everyone can use, the Food and Nutrition Board assembled a panel that came up with the following definitions:

  • Dietary fiber consists of nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants. This includes plant nonstarch polysaccharides (for example, cellulose, pectin, gums, hemicellulose, and fibers contained in oat and wheat bran), oligosaccharides, lignin, and some resistant starch.

  • Functional fiber consists of isolated, nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans. This includes nondigestible plant (for example, resistant starch, pectin, and gums), chitin, chitosan, or commercially produced (for example, resistant starch, polydextrose, inulin, and indigestible dextrins) carbohydrates.

  • Total fiber is the sum of dietary fiber and functional fiber. It's not important to differentiate between which forms of each of these fibers you are getting in your diet. Your total fiber is what matters.

You may also hear fiber referred to as bulk or roughage. Call it what you want, but always remember that fiber is an essential part of everyone's diet. While fiber does fall under the category of carbohydrates, in comparison, it does not provide the same number of calories, nor is it processed the way that other sources of carbohydrates are.

This difference can be seen among the two categories that fiber is divided into: soluble and insoluble.

  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. Sources of soluble fiber are oats, legumes (beans, peas, and soybeans), apples, bananas, berries, barely, some vegetables, and psylluim.

  • Insoluble fiber increases the movement of material through your digestive tract and increases your stool bulk. Sources of insoluble fiber are whole wheat foods, bran, nuts, seeds, and the skin of some fruits and vegetables.

How much do you need?

Adults - The National Academy of Sciences established an Adequate Intake (AI) level of 38 grams of total daily fiber for males 19-50 years of age and 25 grams for women in the same age range.

Children 3 to 18 years - A simple formula can be used to determine the number of grams of fiber recommended for children:

Child's age + 5 = fiber grams per day

As you gradually increae your fiber intake per day, you should also consume more water, juice or milk (daily fluids).

Beans and legumes are great sources of fiber and usually contain about 6-7 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup cooked serving. They can blend into almost any meal, even mashed potatoes, soups, sauces or as a nice side dish. If beans make you "toot" check out my blog on why beans make us toot and my helpful suggestions to aid with cooking with beans and adding good fiber sources into your diet.

Happy Fiber Hunting and Peaceful Blessings!


Hidden Sources of MSG

The food additive monosodium glutamate, or MSG, has been linked to many health concersn including migraine headeaches and even hyperactivity in children.

If you see the word "hydrolyzed" in any ingredient list on any food item, the product contains MSG. Some companies try to not use the term MSG and will use other terms such as hydrolyzed and terms from the list below to make their customers think the product is MSG free.

These terms are other hidden sources of MSG -

Autolyzed yeast, calcium caeinate, gelatin, glutamate, glutamic acid, hydrolzed corn gluten, hydrolzyed protein (such as wheat, soy or vegetable protein),  monopotassium glutamate, sodium caseinate and textured protein

Please read all product labels and be sure there is not a hidden source if your favorite grocery item. The above are most commonly found in processed and boxed foods.

Peaceful Blessings!


How To Make Yogurt

I just came across a fabulous recipe on how to make yogurt and wanted to share it with everyone.

1. Heat 1 quart milk (cow's, goat's, soy or rice) slowly to near boiling, about 185 degrees. Stir frequently to prevent scalding.

2. Cool milk to about 112 degrees

3. Add 2-3 tablespoons room-temperature plain yogurt, or one packet of freeze-dried yogurt starter, and stir. For thicker yogurt, add 1/4-1/2 cup nonfat powdered milk (optional).

4. Incubate yogurt at 108-112 degrees for four to eight hours. Use a towel-covered heating pad set on medium (or an electric yogurt maker) to keep temperature steady. The longer it sits, the firmer and tangier the yogurt becomes.

5. Stir yogurt and pour into sterilized glass jars.

6. Refrigerate for 12 hours to stop acid development; it will keep for a week refrigerated. Eat plain or add your favorite fruit or sweetener. Then use some of the homemade yogurt as a starter for your next batch.

Plain yogurt can be used in place of sour cream in may dips, dressings and recipes.

Peaceful Blessings and Happy Yogurting!!


Beans and why they make us "toot"

-          The scientific name for a group of vegetables that research has proven may provide protection against certain cancers. Cruciferous vegetables contain antioxidants (Beta Carotene and the compound sulforaphane). These vegetables, which are all high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, are: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kale, mustard greens, rutabagas and turnips. The health benefits of these vegetables seem to have been known for some time. Around 234-149 BC, Cato the Elder, a Roman statesman, wrote a treatise on medicine that included the following insight: "If a cancerous ulcer appears upon the breasts, apply a crushed cabbage leaf and it will make it well."  Today these vegetables have been found to combat cancer of the breast, endometrium, lung, colon, liver, colon and cervix. Many cruciferous vegetables cause flatulence after eating and may increase a feeling of bloat.

-          Many edible beans, including broad beans and soybeans, contain oligosaccharides, a type of sugar molecule also found in cabbage. An anti-oligosaccharide enzyme is necessary to properly digest these sugar molecules. As a normal human digestive tract does not contain any anti-oligosaccharide enzymes, consumed oligosaccharides are typically digested by bacteria in the large intestine. This digestion process produces flatulence-causing gasses as a byproduct.

-          Though beans are good and good for you, they have the unfortunate side effect of causing the formation of gas in the lower digestive tract. This digestive dilemma can be mollified by adopting some or all of the following practices: Discard the soaking water prior to cooking: Some nutrition-in the form of minerals-is lost, but you are getting rid of up to 80% of the oligosaccharides that cause flatulence. The best way is to bring the beans to a boil for 3 minutes, remove from the heat, cover, and allow soaking for 4 hours, then draining and cooking in fresh water. Cook the beans thoroughly: You should be able to easily mash the cooked beans with a fork. Thorough cooking softens starch and fibers, making digestion more efficient, the main reason why refried beans are easier on the digestive system than whole beans. Give your body time to adjust: If you don't eat beans often, your body never fully adapts to the extra work required to digest the complex sugars in beans. Beginning with small amounts, try eating beans at least 3 times a week while gradually increasing quantity. Choose beans that are easier to digest: A general rule is that the sweeter the bean, the easier it is to digest. Adzuki, Anasazi, Black-eyed Peas, Lentils, and Mung beans top the list. The most difficult beans to digest include Navy, Limas, and whole cooked Soybeans. Cook beans with a bay leaf, cumin, epazote, or kombu: Certain herbs have gas-reducing properties, with epazote being one of the most effective. Add 2 teaspoons dry or 6 fresh leaves to a pot of beans before cooking. Kombu sea vegetable also works well and has the added advantage of replenishing some of the minerals lost in soaking. Add a two-inch strip per one cup of dried beans during cooking. Avoid beans that are cooked with added sweeteners: Some people who easily digest most beans have trouble with sweetened beans due to the added carbohydrates. If adding brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup to beans stresses your digestion, opt for plain beans instead. Try a digestive enzyme product: Digestive enzymes made from a safe, food-grade mold help break down the oligosaccharides before they reach the large intestine, which is where the flatulence problem begins. They are sprinkled on cooked beans or taken in tablet form with the first "beany" bite. 

      I offer a tea called "I Had Beans!" here on the Local Harvest website, it can come in handy when you feel the rumble tumble in your belly after a delicious and healthy meal.

      Peaceful Blessings and Happy "Tooting"!




Are you getting your daily nutrients?

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is quite "sad" when you really look at what most American's comsume in a day. We have the poorest diets and are the highest for obesity and heart related conditons. As the fast food capital of the world, we need to ask ourselves  . . what are we doing?

SAD's are high in meats (especially red) and lack vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Without these essentials our metabolism becomes very poor and can result in serious health issues and concerns. Recent studies have shown that American lack the essential nutrients for healthy and balanced systems based on US Dietary Guidelines. Now you may say, "How can these studies be taken or even true?" Well, they are taken and are true, American's are the highest for heart disease and its no wonder with fast food hang out's on every corner.

There are basic nutrients and vitamins the human body needs on a daily basis to sustain health and balance within the overall system. Here they are, take note and see if you can try and get some more of them into you daily diet habits.

Vitamin A - This aids vision, reproductive function and the role in creating new cells. It can be found in dairy products, liver; precursor beta-carotene in dark green and orange-yellow vegetables, apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, kale, collards, leaf lettuce, mango, mustard greens, pumpkin, romaine lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes and winter squash (acorn, hubbard).

Vitamin C - This aids in numerous, numerous functions (too many to mention) but mainly focuses on boosting immunity and supporting the circulatory system. It can be found in broccoli, brussel sprouts, citrus, red peppers, strawberries, apricots, cabbage, canatloupe, cauliflower, chili peppers, collards, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi fruit, mango, mustard greens, pineapple, plum, potatoes (skin on), spinach, tomatoes and watermelon.

Vitamin E - This aids in protecting the cell membranes from free-radical damage and can also act as a natural blood thinner. It can be found in egg yolks, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, wheat germ oil and whole grains.

Fiber - This aids in regulating bowel function, blood sugar and cholesterol. It can be found in brans (wheat, oat and others), apple, banana, blackberries, blueberries, brussel sprouts, carrots, cherries, cooked beans and peas (kidney, navy, lima, pinto, lentils, black-eyed peas), dates, figs, grapefruit, kiwi, orange, pear, prunes, raspberries, spinach, strawberries and sweet potatoes.

Calcuim - This helps maintain strong bones and teeth as well as helps to support healthy weight levels. It can be found in dairy products, leafy greens, sardines, tofu, soy.

Potassium - This aids in regulating blood pressure, fluid balance as well as cardiac electric impulses. It can be found in beans, fruits (banana), milk, mushrooms, peas and various vegetables.

Magnesium - This helps create energy, relaxes the muscles to reduce spasm and aid in insulin production. Most people notice they lack this one when there legs get achy and paired with Potassium it can help balance your overall mood too! It can be found in beans, dark green vegetables, fish, grains and nuts (almonds are great!)

Try whole grain muffins or bagels in place of a donut or even better add a piece of fruit in at breakfast. Instead of the same old caesar salad for lunch, spice it up with fresh herbs like Basil and Cilantro tossed with spinach - you will need less dressing because it will be so tasty and you will be helping you body get what it needs. Late night snacks a problem - get local - what's in season now - in New Jersey strawberries are in and tasty as ever, in a few weeks blueberries will begin - these are a better late night snack then the fat loaded ice cream. It is not to say to not enjoy but maybe try topping your vanilla sundae with fresh berries and granola in place of the high fructose sorn syrup laden choclate syrup! There are lots of little things you can do, be creative and you will be surprised what really tastes good blended together.

Peaceful Blessings and Happy Cooking!


Simple facts about Fructose

When I talk about weight loss with most the first thing I mention is reduce your intake of fructose and eliminate high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) products. With the commercials on television about how great HFCS is; many ask me why I say this, so let me explain.

Fructose is a type of sugar found in foods such as fruits. Most fruits contain fructose, this is what gives it is sweetness. Some fruits that are high in natural occuring fructose are peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums to name a few. The best way I describe a "frucky fruit" is this - any fruit you leave out on the counter and it ripens to the point that you have a gooey puddle under the fermenting fruit is "frucky". Fructose can also be added to many, many other foods and food products like juices, soda, sauces, breads, pasta and condiments. This form is fructose is usually processed and is called High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). HFCS is manufactured and is about one half of fructose and one half glucose. Glucose is another sugar and another topic - let's focus on fructose here.

Fructose can increase appetite, did you ever notice you are never really "full" from a glass of soda or sweet juice, you tend to want to snack on something or follow it up with a glass of water? Research has shown that when fructose is consumed before or with a fat, that fat is more likely to be stored in the body rather then burned. Consuming HFCS is showing to cause resistance to leptin, a hormones that tells your brain how much fat is stored and also signals the feeling of fullness. With all that we eat and drink without label reading, we are causing our own problems.

By limiting your intake of sweet juices and sodas and by label reading for HFCS you could actually help yourself loose excess pounds naturally without any major changes to your system. An easy way to help reduce fructose is to add ice to a sweetened beverage or soda - simply water it down! HFCS is found in tons of products and you will be very surprised to see where it will come up next.

Breakfast a problem, have to have maple syrup on those pancakes? The organic brands can be very pricey - try agave nectar or local honey instead - delicious!!! You may never go back or even better, grind Fenugreek seeds to a powder and add it to your pancake mix - a natural maple flavor instantly and you are helping to aid in digestion, reduce gas and bloating as well as aiding in healing any inflammation to your lungs. If you are a nursing Mom - perfect - Fenugreek helps promote lactation and is safe to ingest. I will caution, don't add Fenugreek if you are pregnant as it can stimulate the uterus use the agave!!

Another concern I am asked is - "I don't eat a lot fructose and I am a label reader, no HFCS in our house but we do use white table sugar - no big deal, right?" Yes, very big deal - table sugar is equivalent to HFCS it's a 50/50 mix, just crystallized and not gooey!! It can have the same effect on the body as HFCS. My general rule of thumb is avoid any and all "white" products - flour, sugar, cakes, pasta (semolina), bread  . . . packaged and processed goods - instead of table sugar try stevia, demerara or take a look in the natural section of your grocer or market for pure cane sugars.

I hope this helped clarify a little bit about fructose basics. There is lots of info out there, don't be fooled, be a label reader and be sure to buy local - produce is always better fresh picked with care rather then in a can!!

Peaceful Blessings and enjoy trying some new flavors!


Organic Food Labeling and Ingredient Terms

I have found that after label reading for many years that some terms most people are not familair with unless that have some type of nutrition background. I am frequently asked by many people what certain words mean when they are labled on a box or are vitamin bottles or are even on everyday essentials.

Here is a great glossary of terms I had come across and have been compiling to help answer those "what does that mean" questions. I hope it is as beneficial to you as it has been to many other curious shoppers.

Additive describes a substance added to products in order to improve color, flavoring, texture and / or preservation; change characteristics and aid processing.

Amino Acid
Amino acids are nitrogen bearing molecules that form the basis of proteins. The sequence of amino acids (of which there are 20) establishes the structure and function of a protein.

Food anti-microbials are compounds that are capable of destroying or prohibiting the growth of pathogenic microorganisms, such as bacteria, moulds and yeast that may cause spoilage of foods.

Ascorbic Acid
Ascorbic acid, commonly known as Vitamin C, is an antioxidant and water-soluble vitamin, essential to the construction of connective tissue. Ascorbic acid is needed for the formation of collagen, the body’s main protein, and deficiencies can cause a negative impact on the body’s ability to heal itself. The body stores insignificant amounts of ascorbic acid, therefore requiring daily replenishment.

Baking is a cooking procedure that uses dry heat in an enclosed chamber. Baked goods generally refer to cereal-based products, such as bread or cakes.

Blanching is the heat treatment of foodstuffs by boiling or steaming in order to kill natural enzymes, soften the tissue and remove raw flavoring.

Capsaicin is the chemical oil found in chili peppers that gives them their hot taste. The higher the volume of capsaicin, the hotter the chili pepper.

Carotene is a carotenoid that is commonly found in yellow / orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, mangoes and apricots. Carotene provides health benefits in its capability to be converted into Vitamin A, and the neutralization of free radicals.

Carrageenan is a natural thickening compound extracted from carrageen seaweed and red algae. Carrageenan is commonly used in dairy products, such as milk shakes and ice cream, to stabilize the color and the flavor of the product

Cereals are foods that are produced using edible grass grains, such as barley, wheat and corn. It is also commonly used to describe breakfast meals made from these substances.

Cholesterol is a steroid found in animal cell membranes. It is created by the liver, and is present in many food types. Cholesterol is essential to nerve fiber insulation, transportation of fatty acids and the production of Vitamin D, bile acids, testosterone, estrogens and cortisol. High levels of cholesterol in the blood stream are indicative of potential heart disease.

Citric Acid
Citric acid is found in almost all plants and animals. Substantial quantities are found in citrus fruits (oranges, lemons and limes) and berries (strawberries, raspberries and currants). The salts found in citric acid are commonly used for emulsification, pH adjustment (to improve flavoring) or as a mineral source for food

Corn Syrup
Corn syrup is a syrup made from cornstarch and is widely used as a sweetener in food processing due to its high glucose content. Corn syrup also prevents crystallization and can help increase shelf-life in baked goods.

Cornstarch, also known as corn flour, is a fine flour ground from the endosperm portion of corn kernels. Cornstarch is commonly used as a thickening agent in sauces, and making corn syrup and sugars.

Dextrose Glucose (D-glucose)
Dextrose glucose (also know as D-glucose) is a simple sugar composed mainly of carbohydrates, but dextrose glucose also contains protein and fat. Dextrose glucose is the major source of energy for cells and is used by the body in combination with insulin. In food processing, dextrose glucose is widely used as a sweetener.

Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber refers to the indigestible carbohydrates found in fruit, vegetables, grain and nuts. Dietary fiber is not found in meats or dairy products. Soluble dietary fiber plays a role in lowering blood cholesterol and regulation of blood sugar levels. Insoluble dietary fiber assists in maintaining optimal bowel movements, reducing the risk of colon cancer, hemorrhoids and diabetes. Dietary fiber contains no calories and is not absorbed by the body.

An emulsifier is an additive that produces a stable mixture of food components; oils, fats, water, air, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins and flavors. Emulsifiers blend the ingredients of the mixtures and prevent them separating during processing

An enzyme is a protein that catalyses or accelerates a biochemical reaction without altering the nature of the reaction.

Food Irradiation
Food irradiation exposes food to high-energy rays (x-ray or gamma ray), killing bacteria and helping extend the shelf life of products. Methods of food irradiation include electronic or cold pasteurization.

Free Radical
Free radicals refer to molecules that contain unpaired electrons, making them unstable and highly reactive. They react with other molecules, possibly resulting in successive electron transfer between molecules (a chain reaction). This can cause a disruption in cellular processes, resulting in oxidative stress and cellular damage.

Freeze Drying
Freeze drying defines the process of preserving food products by freezing them, and then evaporating the water (in the form of ice) directly into vapor by sublimation. Freeze drying produces one of the highest quality food products obtainable through any drying method, and allows for rapid and near complete re-hydration.

Functional Food
Functional foods can be beneficial to one's health by contributing nutritional value beyond the expected level of nutrients. These foods can make treatment and risk reduction claims, in addition to providing nutritional information.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are organisms with manipulated genes to introduce new, or alter existing, characteristics, or produce a new protein or enzyme. Genetic modification is used to increase the yield or quality of various crops.

Gluten is the protein element found in cereal grains, such as wheat, oats and barley. The gluten in flour gives dough its elasticity when mixed with water.

Homogenization is the process of ensuring a uniform composition and stable structure throughout a product. Often used with dairy products to maintain an unvarying consistency in the end product.

Lactose is a natural disaccharide sugar that is found in milk products. Lactose is often referred to as milk sugar, and is considered a nutritive sugar due to its calorie content. Some people are lactose intolerant due to the lack of lactase, the enzyme required to digest milk sugar.

Lipids refer to the fatty substances found in animals and plants. Lipids are insoluble in water and can be classed as tri-glycerides, glycerophosphatides and sphingolipids. Lipids can act as a fuel source, and are easily stored in the body. Some lipids are essential to cell structure (Omega-3 and Omega-6 oils), but cannot be produced by the body, relying solely on dietary sources.

Nutraceuticals refers to any food product, supplement or dietary substance that has proven health and medical benefits. These are usually derived from phytochemicals, and help reduce the risk of disease. Common nutraceuticals include calcium, vitamins, Echinacea and ginseng.

Nutrients are the elements and compounds required for growth, development and maintenance of life in plants and animals. Includes vitamins and minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Palm Oil
Palm oil is orangey-red oil that is extracted from the pulp of the fruit from the African palm tree. Palm Oil is high in saturated fat and is often used in the production of margarine and lubricants.

Pasteurization is the process by which harmful organisms, pathogenic bacteria and viruses in liquids are eliminated by heating it to a critical temperature for a specified amount of time. When a liquid is pasteurized there are a number of neutral or beneficial organisms remaining, as opposed to sterilization, which destroys all life forms.

Pathogens are micro-organisms, such as bacteria or fungus that are capable of causing disease or illness after entering the body.

Pectin is a gelling and thickening agent found naturally in ripe fruit. Pectin is commonly used in the production of jams, jellies and preservatives, and can be found in dried and liquid form.

Phytochemicals are substances derived from plants, and are excellent dietary sources of phenolic metabolites. Phenolics are important to food preservation and are also used in medicinal applications due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is a strong, lightweight plastic resin and form of polyester. PET is commonly used in food packaging due to its strong barrier properties against water vapor, dilute acids, gases, oils and alcohols. PET is also shatter-resistant and can be recycled in the form of Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (RPET).

Polypropylene (PP)
Polypropylene (PP) is a strong, light-weight, low-density plastic used in food packaging. PP has a high melting point, making it suitable for hot food processing and packaging.

Processing is the treatment of food substances in such a manner as to change its properties with a view to preserving it, improving its quality or making it functionally more useful.

Proteins are large, complex molecules composed of chains of one or more amino acids. The sequence of the base pair of nucleotides in the encoding gene determines the order of amino acids and the protein's function. Proteins each have a unique function and are essential to the function, structure and regulation of the body's cells and tissues. Proteins include antibodies, hormones and enzymes.

Shelf Life
Shelf life specifies the period of time which a product can be stored, under specified conditions, and remain in optimum condition and suitable for consumption.

Shortenings refer to any fats, used in baking or frying, in order to tenderize the final product and make it richer and / or flakier. Shortenings are made from refined vegetable oils that have been partially hydrogenated, and include products like butter, lard, and margarine.

Soya Beans (Soybeans)
Soybeans / Soya beans are legumes that are high in protein, fiber and fatty acids, as well as being a good source of vitamins and minerals. Soybeans have been recognized to provide considerable health benefits, including reducing LDL cholesterol and acting as an anti-oxidant. Soybeans are used in the production of tofu, milk, and soy sauce and their extracts are used in margarine and as emulsifiers in processed foods.

Spray Drying
Spray drying requires the product to be dried, to be dispersed into a stream of hot air. The dry particles are then separated and collected. Spray drying is often used to dry juices and products that are easily damaged by heat and oxidation.

Stabilizers are substances or chemicals that allow food ingredients, which do not mix well, to remain in a homogenous state after blending.

Sterilization is the process of removing all living cells, micro-organisms, pathogenic bacteria and spores from a product. This is usually done by subjecting the product to dry heat or pressure steaming.

Sucrose is a sugar composed of two molecules, one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule. Sucrose is commonly found in sugar cane and most fruit and vegetables - table sugar.

The term surfactant is a condensation of 'surface active agent'. Surfactants are substances that are used to adjust the surface properties, and surface tension, of the liquid or solid to which it is applied. Emulsifiers, detergents, foam inhibitors and wetting agents are all examples of surfactants.

Vitamins are nutritive substances essential to normal growth and maintenance of life. They regulate the metabolic process, converting carbohydrates and fat into energy, and forming tissue and bone. The body cannot create vitamins itself, and is reliant on dietary intake to provide vitamins. Vitamins are frequently added to foods to increase their nutritional value.

Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide gum that is commonly used as a natural thickener and emulsifier. Xanthan gum is produced through the fermentation of corn sugar, and is widely used in food and cosmetics production.

Many blessings and hope this makes your next trip to the grocer a little easier! With summer right around the corner there will be plenty of fresh fruits and veggies available at your local market so there will be much less to read!!!!

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