An Attitude of Gratitude Can Help You Live a Longer, Happier Life

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

This article previously ran a few years ago but there are so many good reminders about the benefits of gratitude, I decided to share it with you again this year with a new video. I am grateful beyond words for your support, and for partnering with me to help people all over the world take control of their health.

Besides sharing time with family and friends over food, the primary ingredient of the American Thanksgiving holiday is gratitude. While it’s certainly good to have an annual holiday to remind us to express gratitude, there’s much to be said for the benefits of cultivating the spirit of thankfulness year-round.

People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals. Scientists have even noted that gratitude is associated with improved health.
As noted in the Harvard Mental Health Letter,1 “expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better:”

“The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.

With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

…People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude).

Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further.”

Gratitude — It Does a Body Good

Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center once stated that: “If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.”2

One way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what you’re grateful for each day. In one study,3,4 people who kept a gratitude journal reported exercising more, and they had fewer visits to the doctor compared to those who focused on sources of aggravation.

As noted in a previous ABC News article,5 studies have shown that gratitude can produce a number of measurable effects on a number of systems in your body, including:

Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine) Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)
Reproductive hormones (testosterone) Stress hormones (cortisol)
Social bonding hormones (oxytocin) Blood pressure and cardiac and EEG rhythms
Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine) Blood sugar

Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

Cultivating a sense of gratitude will help you refocus your attention toward what’s good and right in your life, rather than dwelling on the negatives and all the things you may feel are lacking. And, like a muscle, this mental state can be strengthened with practice. Besides keeping a daily gratitude journal, other ways to cultivate a sense of gratitude include:

  • Write thank you notes: Whether in response to a gift or kind act, or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being in your life, getting into the habit of writing thank-you letters can help you express gratitude in addition to simply feeling it inside.
  • Count your blessings: Once a week, reflect on events for which you are grateful, and write them down. As you do, feel the sensations of happiness and thankfulness you felt at the time it happened, going over it again in your mind.
  • Pray: Expressing thanks during your prayers is another way to cultivate gratitude.
  • Mindfulness meditation: Practicing “mindfulness” means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment you’re in right now. A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus, but you can also focus on something that you’re grateful for, such as a pleasant smell, a cool breeze, or a lovely memory.

Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude

Three years ago, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California,6 in collaboration with the University of California, launched a project called “Cultivating Gratitude in a Consumerist Society.” This $5.6 million project aims to:

  • Expand the scientific database of gratitude, particularly in the key areas of human health, personal and relational well-being, and developmental science;
  • Promote evidence-based practices of gratitude in medical, educational, and organizational settings and in schools, workplaces, homes and communities, and in so doing…
  • Engage the public in a larger cultural conversation about the role of gratitude in civil society.

In 2012, 14 winning research projects were announced, with topics covering everything from the neuroscience of gratitude, to the role of gratitude for the prevention of bullying. The organization has a number of resources you can peruse at your leisure, including The Science of Happiness blog and newsletter,7 and a Digital Gratitude Journal,8 where you can record and share the things you’re grateful for. Scientists are also permitted to use the data to explore “causes, effects, and meaning of gratitude.”

For example, previous research has shown that employees whose managers say “thank you” feel greater motivation at work, and work harder than peers who do not hear those “magic words.” As noted in a previous Thanksgiving blog post in Mark’s Daily Apple:9 “[R]esearch10 has shown that being on the receiving end of a person’s gratitude can boost subjects’ sense of self-worth and/or self-efficacy.

It also appears to encourage participants to further help the person who offered the gratitude but also another, unrelated person in an unconscious ‘pay it forward’ kind of connection.”

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

Starting each day by thinking of all the things you have to be thankful for is one way to put your mind on the right track. Also, remember that your future depends largely on the thoughts you think today. So each moment of every day is an opportunity to turn your thinking around, thereby helping or hindering your ability to think and feel more positively in the very next moment.

Most experts agree that there are no shortcuts to happiness. Even generally happy people do not experience joy 24 hours a day. But a happy person can have a bad day and still find pleasure in the small things in life.

Be thankful for what you have. When life gives you a 100 reasons to cry, remember the 1,000 reasons you have to smile. Face your past without regret; prepare for the future without fear; focus on what’s good right now, in the present moment, and practice gratitude. Remember to say “thank you” — to yourself, the Universe and others. It’s wonderful to see a person smile, and even more wonderful knowing that you are the reason behind it! And with that, I wish you all a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!

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Foods That Prevent Inflammation Also Enhance Your Brain Function

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

It is important to realize that chronic inflammation often leads to chronic illnesses and health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and immune-mediated conditions. In fact, inflammation plays a significant role in seven of the top 10 leading causes of death.1

Inflammation is a normal part of your body’s response to the environment to protect you from foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. However, chronic, long-term inflammation increases your risks for devastating health conditions that may change the way you live or may even lead to death.

Many times, inflammation starts in your gut. Your intestines are a large and complex organ designed to pass nutrients to your body and gather waste to pass from your body. What you eat has a considerable effect on the permeability of your intestinal walls and how much waste or toxins may leak into your body. This leakage is a substantial driving force in the development of chronic inflammation.

The degree of permeability is in direct proportion to chemical mediators inside your intestines and in your bloodstream, in real time. This means that you can affect permeability immediately with the choices you make. However, repeated damage reduces the ability of the intestines to respond properly.

Eventually this may lead to impaired absorption of nutrients and overburden your immune system. Inflammation also has an effect on your brain. Recent research has found those with inflammatory markers in their 50s experienced a reduction in the size of their brain 24 years later.2

Inflammation May Lead to Reduced Brain Volume

This study provides more evidence that systemic inflammation may have lifelong effects on your health. The researchers took blood samples from a large, biracial community and analyzed five inflammatory markers at the start of the study and then again 24 years later. Those markers included levels of fibrinogen, albumin, white cell count, factor VIII and von Willebrand factor.3

Using these levels, the researchers created a composite score they could compare against other participant scores and MRI images taken at the conclusion of the study. The participants were divided into three groups based on the level of their inflammatory markers.4 When the group with three or more elevated biomarkers was compared against the group without any elevations, they found the group with higher inflammation experienced a 5 percent reduction in brain volume.5

Brain areas with reduced volume were in the hippocampus and other areas associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Those with higher levels of inflammation also performed poorer on a memory test given to the participants.6

Lead study author Keenan Walker, Ph.D., from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said the effect of one standard deviation increase in inflammation, appeared to correlate to having a copy of the gene that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and was associated with a decrease in size of 110 cubic millimeters of the hippocampus.

Although the results from this study support evidence from others that inflammation negatively affects brain volume7 and cognitive performance,8 the authors acknowledge this study used inflammatory markers from only one point in a 24-year timespan.9 

There are several factors that affect the degree of inflammation you may experience in your body and brain. When you address these factors, you may be able to reduce the long-term effects of inflammation, including cognitive decline, cancer, immune-mediated disease, Type 2 diabetes and numerous other health conditions.

Sleep Clears Your Mind and Detoxifies Your Brain

Achieving quality sleep may be one of the most important factors in developing optimal health. A lack of sleep can have many ramifications, ranging from short-term to lifelong. Research has found sleep loss for just one night may increase the inflammatory response in your body, and a good night’s sleep can reduce your risk of heart disease and autoimmune disorders.10

Subclinical shifts in basal inflammatory cytokines have also been noted in those whose sleep was restricted between 25 and 50 percent of normal.11 The mechanism explaining the alteration in inflammation is not known, but the researchers theorize it’s likely related to metabolic changes. In a recent meta-analysis of 72 studies involving more than 50,000 participants, the data demonstrated that both too much and interrupted sleep had the effect of increasing the inflammatory response.12

Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry, commented on the meta-analysis, stating,13 “It is important to highlight that both too much and too little sleep appears to be associated with inflammation, a process that contributes to depression as well as many medical illnesses.”

Adequate amount of quality sleep not only reduces inflammation, but also helps clear your brain of toxins and metabolic waste products. Sleep is critical to keep your brain’s unique waste management system fully functional. Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center14 found this system is activated during sleep when your brain cells shrink nearly 60 percent, making waste removal easier.15

For example, during sleep your brain removes amyloid-beta in greater amounts than when you’re awake. These are the proteins that form in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. If you have trouble sleeping or would like tips on how to improve the quality of your sleep by addressing your environment, please see my article, “Want a Good Night’s Sleep? Then Never Do These Things Before Bed.”

Too Much or Too Little May Increase Inflammation

Your body works optimally in moderation. In other words, too much or too little sleep and you’ll increase your inflammatory markers. The same is true for exercise. You may think of this as a Goldilocks effect — in other words, not too much and not too little will allow you to reap the greatest benefit.

Consistent overexertion at any exercise can lead to chronic inflammation. The aftereffect of overexertion may also lead to overuse injuries or illness. Fatigue, dehydration and other injuries16 may follow a single intense workout, while chronic secretion of cortisol from overexertion may also negatively impact your immune system and lead to colds and other illnesses.17

Cortisol is released during a physical or psychological stressor. It has different functions throughout your body, such as regulating blood sugar, reducing inflammation and assisting in memory formation.18 Researchers have found that prolonged stress may alter the effectiveness of cortisol by reducing your cells sensitivity to cortisol and increasing the inflammatory response.19 Lead author, Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University, commented on the link between stress and the immune system, saying:20

“The immune system’s ability to regulate inflammation predicts who will develop a cold, but more importantly it provides an explanation of how stress can promote disease.

When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease. Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well.”

Often the greater risk lies in a sedentary lifestyle. Sedentary behavior has influenced inflammatory markers in participants, independent of obesity, single workout during the day or blood sugar levels.21 Sitting during the day has been associated with a 66 percent higher risk of certain cancers, including endometrial cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer.22 For suggestions on how to increase movement in your day, see my previous article, “Here’s What Sitting Too Long Does To Your Body.”

Inflammatory Response to Food

The foods you eat may have a major effect on the inflammation in your body. The National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases wrote about the common Western diet and the relationship to inflammation:23

“While today’s modern diet may provide beneficial protection from micro- and macronutrient deficiencies, our over-abundance of calories and the macronutrients that compose our diet may all lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory disease.”

Foods that increase the inflammatory response in your body include:24,25


High fructose corn syrup

Artificial trans fats

Processed vegetable and seed oils

Refined carbohydrates

Excessive alcohol

Processed meats

Oxidized omega-6 fats

The Nitric Oxide Dump

In this video, I demonstrate a simple exercise called the Nitric Oxide Dump that has several benefits. This three-minute exercise, done three times a day, will stimulate the release of nitric oxide to support your immune system, lower your blood pressure and decrease platelet aggregation. Nitric oxide also helps you to develop more lean body mass.

Since it’s a short exercise you do several times per day, it reduces the potential for overexertion and helps you keep moving throughout the day. You’ll want to wait at least two hours between each session. The exercise doesn’t require any equipment and can be done anywhere you happen to find yourself. A combination of exercise with dietary restriction may increase your benefits and mobilize adaptive cellular stress-response pathways that involve DNA repair, mitochondrial biogenesis and anti-inflammatory cytokines.26

Anti-Inflammatory Foods Help Reduce Inflammation Markers

Just as some foods may increase the inflammatory response in your body, others have an anti-inflammatory effect. According to Harvard Medical School, one of the most powerful tools to fight inflammation does not come from a pharmacy, but rather from your grocery store.27 Some of the top anti-inflammatory foods include: 28,29







Olive oil










Keep in mind that while fish is traditionally recognized as a primary source of healthy omega-3 fats that help reduce inflammation, eating seafood from contaminated waters offsets any benefits. You risk polluting your body and damaging your health with chemicals and heavy metals the fish have absorbed from their environment.

Unfortunately, a large majority of wild-caught fish are too contaminated with mercury, heavy metal and chemicals and farm-raised fish carry their own list of risks from pharmaceutical treatment, overcrowding and unsafe contaminants.30

As a general rule, I recommend eating only authentic wild-caught Alaskan salmon or smaller fatty fish with short life cycles, such as sardines, herring, mackerel or anchovies. These are good choices to get omega-3 fats while avoiding as many toxins as possible.

Although not a specific food, eating a diet high in healthy fats and low net carbohydrates and moderate amounts of high-quality protein has also demonstrated a significant effect at lowering your inflammatory response. Also called a ketogenic diet, recent research from the University of California San Francisco uncovered a potential mechanism that helps explain why the ketogenic diet so effective in reducing inflammation in the brain.31

In short, this mechanism explains how alterations in glucose metabolism influence inflammatory responses in your cells. I would recommend you consider implementing a ketogenic diet in your nutritional plan. My previous article, “A Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet: An Effective Way of Optimizing Your Health,” will show you how to apply it to your lifestyle and the positive benefits you can reap from it.

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Harvard Says This Is the Ultimate Meal Plan

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

It stands to reason that if different foods offer unique nutrients to heal your body and maintain (or regain) health, it might be a good idea to change up your meals to include as many beneficial vitamins and minerals as possible if you’re not doing so already.

Including as many types of nutrients in your overall daily meal plan has a fringe benefit: A little variety in your life really does spice it up, especially in the area of your food choices. Determining which foods provide the most important nutrients is a good strategy to optimize your health.

The reality, however, is that many people eat the same meals over and over, day after day, usually because they feel they don’t have time to research which foods they should eat and often end up eating snacks by default instead of real food. It’s always easiest to choose what you already know works for you.

If sticking to a set of go-to meals you enjoy eating and take the shortest time to prepare are your main considerations, you may be missing out on delicious options and super easy meal plans that will provide the nutrients you need without a lot of fuss.

A One-Day Meal Plan for Optimal Nutrition?

Many people wonder if it’s possible to get all the nutrients they need from food alone, and the answer is generally yes, provided you focus on high-quality foods (vitamin D, which your body produces from sun exposure, would be one exception). According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch:

“Experts agree that the best way to get the nutrients we need is through food. A balanced diet … offers a mix of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients (some yet to be identified) that collectively meet the body’s needs.”

It’s not a new concept. Harvard Health explored the premise in 2009 when they reported on a study involving nearly 162,000 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), with an emphasis on how people could get the vitamins and minerals needed through their diet.1 The study revealed that women who took multivitamins had similar rates of heart disease and certain cancers, as well as longevity, as those who did not, which suggests focusing on dietary interventions may be key.2

When it comes to optimal nutrition, eating foods that will fuel your body and help prevent disease is important, but you need to know what to gravitate toward and what to stay away from. As a reminder, whatever you eat, when it comes to meat and dairy, pastured is best, and for other foods, organic is often crucial to avoid ingesting genetically engineered or chemically treated fare.

Harvard expert Dr. Helen Delichatsios, nutrition educator at Harvard Medical School, suggested a variety of foods to include in a one-day meal plan that would, all totaled, provide the general nutritional requirements for a 51- to 70-year-old woman, which I’ve adjusted slightly:3

  • Breakfast might consist of 8 ounces of raw grass fed yogurt with a handful of walnuts (14 halves) and a cup of papaya and kiwi, along with 4 ounces of raw grass fed milk
  • Lunch could be a colorful garden salad containing 1 cup of dark green lettuce, one red pepper, 1 cup of grape tomatoes and sunflower seeds, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as your dressing and fresh-ground black pepper on top
  • Dinner could be 4 ounces of wild-caught Alaskan salmon, topped with a raw grass fed yogurt, lemon and garlic sauce, and a cup of steamed baby Bok choy

While this might not be enough food for some people, the quantities would vary depending on your size, age and health status. Further, it would be wise to include a wider variety of healthy foods in your diet than is listed above. With that in mind, what would you need to eat to get the right amount of vitamins, minerals and other more obscure compounds to feel and function your best every single day, and even improve your mitochondrial function in the process?

My Take On the Harvard Recommendations

I firmly believe that three meals a day is NOT the optimum meal plan. I personally only eat two and I know many people that only eat one meal a day.  It is pretty clear from the hundreds if not thousands of papers I have reviewed that time restricted eating or intermittent fasting is the best strategy for health.  I personally only eat in a four hour window every day unless I am fasting which I do for five days a month.

‘Fat for Fuel’ Ketogenic Cookbook: A Superior Option for Your Daily Meals

More than half of all Americans struggle with chronic illness, and 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. is obesity-related. This is a direct result of eating far too much sugar and grains, too much protein and far too little healthy fat.

To reduce your risk of chronic disease, maintain a healthy weight and improve your mitochondrial function (a key to long-term weight management and good health) through diet, the key is to eat in such a way that your body is able to burn fat as its primary fuel rather than sugars. Ketogenic diets are very effective for this, which is the focus of my latest book, “Fat for Fuel.”

A companion tool to “Fat for Fuel” is my “Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook: Recipes and Ketogenic Keys to Health from a World-Class Doctor and an Internationally Renowned Chef,” with celebrity chef Pete Evans. It provides you with the delicious, kitchen-tested recipes you can use in your daily life to make the shift to fat-burning.

While the Harvard daily meal plan was an improvement over the typical American diet, it misses some key points, like incorporating healthy fats. Examples of the easy-to-prepare, go-to meals you’ll find in my “Fat for Fuel” cookbook are below. Use these recipes to help ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need, without all the fuss:

Green Eggs and Ham (for Breakfast) (Serves 2)


  • 4 eggs
  • Melted coconut, for brushing
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, mint and/or chervil)
  • 4 to 6 slices of ham, to serve
  • Raw veggies (lettuce, carrot and celery sticks, cherry tomatoes) to serve


  1. Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to simmering, add eggs and cook for 6 to 7 minutes. Drain, and when cool enough to handle, peel the eggs under cold running water
  3. Brush the peeled eggs with coconut oil, then roll them in herbs, gently pressing the herbs with your hands until evenly coated.
  4. Serve the eggs with the ham and raw vegetables.

Fennel, Watercress and Herb Salad with Shallot Dressing (for Lunch)
(serves 4)


  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and shaved, fronds reserved
  • 1 large handful watercress
  • 1 handful mint leaves
  • 1 handful dill fronds, shaved
  • Lemon wedges, to serve

Shallot Dressing

  • 1 French shallot, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, thinly shave the fennel.
  2. Place all the herbs in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. To make the dressing, place all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk.
  4. Pour dressing over the salad just to coat and gently toss to combine, season if needed.
  5. Arrange on a platter to serve, drizzling more dressing on if desired. (Leftover dressing can be stored in a sealed jar and refrigerated up to two weeks.

Crackling Chicken (for Dinner)
(serves 4)


  • 8 chicken thighs, skin intact
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoon coconut oil or good-quality fat
  • 2 teaspoons spice mix (like Cajun or Moroccan)
  • Lemon wedges, to serve


  1. Flatten the chicken thighs with a mallet so they’ll cook evenly. Season with salt.
  2. Melt the oil in a large, heavy pan over high heat; place the chicken, skin side down in the pan and season with the spice mix.
  3. Fry undisturbed for 6 to 8 minutes or until brown and crispy. Flip and fry 3 more minutes until cooked through. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
  4. Serve with lemon wedges and vegetables or salad.

Nutrient-Dense Foods to Include in Your Ultimate Meal Plan

Some of the most nutrient-dense foods to include in your diet, in no particular order, include:


Sardines and anchovies

Crucifers, i.e., cauliflower and Brussels sprouts

Bone broth

Pastured beef

Pastured organic eggs, milk and butter

Berries, i.e., raspberries, blueberries and strawberries

Nuts, i.e., pecans and macadamias

Seeds, i.e., sesame and sunflower

Olive and coconut oils

Wild-caught Alaskan salmon



Red onions and garlic

Sprouts, i.e., broccoli and sunflower

Fresh herbs i.e., oregano, rosemary and basil

Fermented vegetables

Chili peppers

Crimini mushrooms

Dark leafy greens

Some people have decided that, due to time constraints or other inconveniences, taking some kind of one-a-day multivitamin to make up for any glaring inconsistencies in the way of nutrition will do the job. However, Harvard Medical School experts digress. Dr. Clifford Lo, an associate professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, says this approach isn’t as simple or as foolproof as it may seem, and for a couple of reasons.4

Taking dietary supplements to “fill in the gaps” nutritionally may end up providing more of certain vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients than is good for you. Too much vitamin A, for example, can overload your system and actually become toxic.5 While in some cases a high-quality daily multivitamin can be beneficial, it’s important to know what your body needs and what you’re not getting through food before including dietary supplements in your routine.

For nutrients that can only come through ingestion, getting them from food as opposed to through supplements is always best. However, if it’s a nutrient you can’t get through food, it’s an essential nutrient. Unfortunately, nutritional deficiencies are becoming more common, and only being informed can help you move toward optimal health.

Eating Well Is Wise, but Other Elements Are Also Important for Health

Eating well isn’t the only thing to pay attention to as you make progress in taking control of your health; other aspects of your life are just as important, especially as there are so many unhealthy aspects that make illness and disease more prevalent, such as free radicals caused by exposure to air pollution and chemicals in household cleaners, lawn fertilizers, pet products and beauty products.

Protecting your ability to get eight hours of sleep every night is one consideration toward reaching optimal health, as is avoiding setting your cellphone by your bedside or carrying it near your body, exposing yourself to harmful electromagnetic fields (EMFs). As for putting together a nutritionally based meal plan, getting an array of different nutrients is one of the most important strategies for fighting disease.

Coming up with what to eat for your daily meals is half the battle to eating right, which is why relying on a cookbook like “Fat for Fuel” makes getting healthy so much easier. Make it your go-to source for meal planning and soon you’ll have confidence that in at least one area of your life, you actually are taking control of your health.

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