Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

When it comes to nutrition, street food often gets a bad rap. Many people assume that it’s unhealthy and loaded with calories, fat, and salt. But is this really true? In this article, we’ll explore the nutritional benefits of street food and separate myth from reality. We’ll look at the ingredients and preparation methods used in popular street foods, and examine the science behind their nutritional content. So whether you’re a foodie or just looking for a quick and tasty meal, read on to discover why street food might be the healthy choice you’ve been missing out on.

What is street food?

Definition and history

Street food refers to ready-to-eat food that is sold by vendors on the streets or in markets. It can include a wide variety of dishes, from grilled meats and vegetables to soups and sandwiches. The history of street food is long and varied, with roots dating back to ancient civilizations. In many cultures, street food has been a staple of the food system for centuries, providing affordable and convenient meals for people on the go. Today, street food continues to be a popular and important part of the global food culture, with many cities around the world offering a wide range of street food options.

Types of street food

Street food refers to ready-to-eat food and beverages sold by vendors in public places such as streets, markets, and parks. It is often considered a convenient and inexpensive meal option for busy individuals, tourists, and locals alike.

There are numerous types of street food available around the world, ranging from traditional snacks to more complex dishes. Here are some of the most common types of street food:

Tacos

Tacos are a popular street food in Mexico and other Latin American countries. They are made with a soft or hard corn tortilla filled with various ingredients such as meat, vegetables, cheese, and salsa. Tacos are a good source of protein, fiber, and nutrients like vitamin C and iron.

Samosas

Samosas are a type of street food that originated in South Asia and are now popular in many parts of the world. They are made with a thin pastry dough filled with spiced potatoes, vegetables, and meat. Samosas are a good source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein.

Sushi

Sushi is a popular street food in Japan and other parts of Asia. It consists of cooked rice, raw fish, vegetables, and seaweed wrapped in seaweed or soy paper. Sushi is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamins like vitamin C and B12.

Pizza

Pizza is a popular street food in Italy and other parts of the world. It is made with a doughy crust, tomato sauce, cheese, and various toppings like vegetables, meat, and seafood. Pizza is a good source of protein, fiber, and nutrients like vitamin C and B6.

Dumplings

Dumplings are a type of street food that originated in China and are now popular in many parts of the world. They are made with a doughy or wheat-based wrapper filled with meat, vegetables, and spices. Dumplings are a good source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein.

These are just a few examples of the many types of street food available around the world. Whether you prefer traditional snacks or more complex dishes, street food can be a delicious and nutritious meal option for those who enjoy it.

Popularity and global impact

Street food has become increasingly popular around the world, with millions of people turning to this type of cuisine for its convenience, affordability, and flavor. From tacos in Mexico City to banh mi in Ho Chi Minh City, street food offers a diverse range of culinary experiences that cater to various tastes and dietary preferences. In recent years, street food has gained recognition as a legitimate form of cuisine, with numerous international food festivals and events dedicated to showcasing the best street food offerings from around the globe. As a result, street food vendors have expanded their reach, with many establishing themselves as reputable and respected culinary businesses that contribute to the local economy and community. Despite its growing popularity, street food remains a controversial topic, with some arguing that it is unhealthy and unsafe, while others champion its nutritional benefits and cultural significance.

The nutritional benefits of street food

Key takeaway: Street food can offer nutritional benefits when compared to traditional restaurant meals. While street food can be a nutritious option, it is important to choose dishes that are prepared with whole, nutritious ingredients and to practice moderation. Technology is also playing a significant role in promoting healthier street food options through mobile apps, QR code menus, smart vending machines, and digital kiosks. Collaboration between street food vendors and public health officials can help ensure that street food remains a safe and nutritious option for consumers.

Comparing street food to traditional restaurant meals

While street food has often been associated with being unhealthy and high in calories, recent studies have shown that it can actually provide significant nutritional benefits when compared to traditional restaurant meals.

One major advantage of street food is its affordability, which allows for a greater variety of food options and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Street food vendors often offer fresh produce, such as tomatoes, onions, and potatoes, which are commonly used in various dishes. In addition, street food is often prepared using traditional cooking methods, which can preserve more of the nutrients found in the ingredients.

Furthermore, street food vendors are often more willing to adapt their recipes to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences, such as gluten-free or vegan options. This makes street food a more accessible option for individuals with specific dietary needs.

However, it is important to note that not all street food is created equal, and the nutritional content can vary greatly depending on the ingredients and preparation methods used. Therefore, it is essential to choose street food options that are prepared with whole, unprocessed ingredients and avoid those that are high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and sodium.

In conclusion, street food can provide significant nutritional benefits when compared to traditional restaurant meals, particularly in terms of affordability, variety, and adaptability to dietary restrictions. However, it is important to be mindful of the ingredients and preparation methods used to ensure that the street food chosen is nutritious and satisfying.

Comparison of nutritional values

When it comes to the nutritional benefits of street food, it is important to compare the values of these foods to those of traditional, sit-down meals. This can help to shed light on the misconceptions surrounding street food and its nutritional value.

One way to compare the nutritional values of street food is to look at the calorie content. In many cases, street food can be lower in calories than traditional meals, making it a great option for those looking to maintain a healthy weight or even lose a few pounds. For example, a traditional sit-down meal may contain hundreds of calories, while a street food dish like a veggie stir-fry or a grilled chicken skewer may contain only a fraction of that.

Another way to compare the nutritional values of street food is to look at the macronutrient content. Many street food dishes are rich in protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body. They may also be high in fiber, which can help to keep the digestive system healthy and prevent constipation. In addition, street food is often low in fat, which can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and other health problems.

However, it is important to note that not all street food is created equal. Some dishes may be high in sodium, sugar, or unhealthy fats, which can negate the nutritional benefits of the dish. It is important to be mindful of the ingredients used in street food and to choose dishes that are rich in nutrients and low in unhealthy additives.

Overall, when it comes to the nutritional benefits of street food, it is important to take a closer look at the specific dishes and ingredients involved. While some street food may be high in calories, sugar, or unhealthy fats, many dishes are rich in protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients that can benefit the body. By making informed choices and being mindful of the ingredients used, it is possible to enjoy the nutritional benefits of street food without compromising your health.

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Benefits of consuming street food

Consuming street food has been shown to have several nutritional benefits. One of the primary benefits is that it is often more affordable than eating at a restaurant or purchasing prepared food from a grocery store. This makes it a viable option for individuals on a tight budget who are still looking to eat healthy and nutritious meals.

Additionally, street food is often prepared using fresh, whole ingredients that are rich in vitamins and minerals. For example, many street food vendors offer fruits and vegetables that are in season and locally sourced, which can provide a wide range of nutrients that are essential for maintaining good health.

Furthermore, street food often includes a variety of spices and herbs that can provide additional health benefits. For example, turmeric, which is commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

Another benefit of consuming street food is that it can be a great way to try new flavors and cuisines. Many street food vendors offer unique and diverse options that allow individuals to explore different types of food and learn more about different cultures.

Finally, street food is often prepared in small batches, which can help to ensure that the food is fresh and nutritious. This is in contrast to many prepared foods that are sold in grocery stores, which may be processed and packaged for extended periods of time, leading to a loss of nutrients.

Overall, consuming street food can provide a range of nutritional benefits, including affordability, access to fresh and whole ingredients, exposure to a variety of spices and herbs, and the opportunity to try new flavors and cuisines.

Street food as a source of essential nutrients

While street food is often associated with unhealthy and greasy fast food, it can actually be a valuable source of essential nutrients. Many street food vendors offer a variety of dishes that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds. For example, a serving of grilled corn on the cob from a street vendor can provide a significant amount of vitamin C, which is important for immune function and skin health. Similarly, a serving of fresh fruit juice from a street cart can be a good source of vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining healthy skin, eyesight, and immune function. Additionally, some street foods, such as nuts and seeds, are rich in healthy fats, fiber, and protein, making them a nutritious and satisfying snack or meal option.

However, it’s important to note that not all street food is created equal. Some vendors may use unhealthy oils or add excessive amounts of salt, sugar, or unhealthy fats to their dishes. It’s important to be mindful of portion sizes and to choose street foods that are prepared with whole, nutritious ingredients. Additionally, it’s a good idea to ask questions and do research on the nutritional content of street foods before consuming them.

Examples of nutritious street food options

Street food can be a convenient and delicious way to get a quick meal, but it’s important to know which options are nutritious and which ones aren’t. Here are some examples of nutritious street food options:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies
  • Grilled chicken or fish sandwiches
  • Veggie wraps and salads
  • Stuffed bell peppers or portobello mushrooms
  • Quinoa and vegetable bowls
  • Falafel wraps or pita sandwiches
  • Grilled corn on the cob
  • Fresh squeezed juice

It’s important to note that while these options may be nutritious, they can also be high in calories, so it’s important to keep portion sizes in mind. Additionally, not all street food vendors may have the same level of food safety practices, so it’s important to be mindful of where you’re getting your food from and to wash your hands before and after eating.

Debunking myths about street food

Common misconceptions

While street food has been a popular source of sustenance for many, it has also been plagued by a number of misconceptions regarding its nutritional benefits. In this section, we will examine some of the most common misconceptions associated with street food.

It’s all junk food

One of the most prevalent misconceptions about street food is that it is all junk food. While it is true that many street foods are high in calories, fat, and sodium, this does not mean that they are devoid of nutritional value. In fact, many street foods offer a range of essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. For example, a study conducted in India found that street food vendors offered a variety of nutritious options, such as vegetable sandwiches, fruit chaat, and roasted chana dal, which are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Unhygienic conditions

Another common misconception about street food is that it is unhygenic and can cause foodborne illnesses. While it is true that street food vendors may not always adhere to strict hygiene standards, many vendors take great care to ensure that their food is safe and clean. In fact, a study conducted in Thailand found that street food vendors who participated in a food safety training program had significantly improved their hygiene practices, including proper handling of food, storage, and preparation.

Lack of variety

A third misconception about street food is that it lacks variety and is limited to a few select options. However, this could not be further from the truth. Street food is a reflection of the local culture and cuisine, and as such, offers a wide range of options to suit different tastes and preferences. For example, in Bangkok, Thailand, street food vendors offer a diverse range of options, including pad thai, satay, and som tam, as well as regional specialties such as khao soi and gaeng hung lay.

In conclusion, while there are some misconceptions about the nutritional benefits of street food, it is important to remember that not all street food is created equal. With the right knowledge and awareness, street food can be a healthy and enjoyable part of a balanced diet.

Myth: Street food is always unhealthy

While it is true that some street foods can be high in calories, fat, and sodium, it is a myth that all street food is unhealthy. In fact, many street foods can be nutritious and provide essential vitamins and minerals. For example, a study conducted in Mexico City found that street food vendors offered a variety of nutritious foods, including fruits, vegetables, and legumes, as well as lean protein sources such as chicken and fish. Additionally, street foods can be a valuable source of essential nutrients for low-income populations who may not have access to healthy food options. Therefore, it is important to consider the nutritional content of specific street foods rather than making generalizations about their healthfulness.

Myth: Street food is unhygienic and unsafe to eat

One of the most common misconceptions about street food is that it is unhygienic and unsafe to eat. While it is true that there have been instances of foodborne illnesses associated with street food, it is important to note that this is not necessarily a reflection of the overall quality or safety of street food. In fact, many street food vendors take great care to ensure that their food is prepared and handled safely, using proper cooking and storage techniques to prevent the spread of bacteria and other pathogens.

Additionally, street food vendors are often subject to regular inspections by local health departments, which help to ensure that they are following proper food safety protocols. While it is always important to be cautious when eating food from any source, street food can be a safe and delicious option for those who are willing to take the time to do their research and choose vendors that prioritize cleanliness and safety.

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Myth: Street food is high in calories and can lead to weight gain

One common misconception about street food is that it is high in calories and can lead to weight gain. While it is true that many street foods are calorie-dense, this does not necessarily mean that they are unhealthy or will cause weight gain. In fact, many street foods can be a nutritious and satisfying part of a balanced diet.

For example, a serving of grilled chicken or fish taco from a street vendor can provide a good source of protein, while a serving of vegetable fried rice from a food truck can provide a variety of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, many street foods are prepared with fresh, whole ingredients and do not contain excessive amounts of unhealthy fats, sugars, or sodium.

It is important to note that not all street foods are created equal, and some may be higher in calories, fat, or sodium than others. To make informed choices, it is best to choose street foods that are prepared with whole, nutritious ingredients and to practice moderation.

Myth: Street food lacks variety and is limited to unhealthy options

One common misconception about street food is that it lacks variety and is primarily composed of unhealthy options. This could not be further from the truth. In reality, street food offers a wide range of nutritious and delicious options that cater to various dietary preferences and needs.

Here are some examples of nutritious street food options:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Many street vendors offer fresh produce such as bananas, apples, oranges, tomatoes, and potatoes. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making them an excellent choice for a healthy diet.
  • Whole grains: Street food also offers a variety of whole grains such as rice, quinoa, and bread. These foods are rich in carbohydrates, which provide energy and support healthy brain function.
  • Protein-rich options: Street food offers a range of protein-rich options such as grilled chicken, fish, and tofu. These foods are essential for building and repairing tissues, supporting a strong immune system, and maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails.
  • Low-fat dairy products: Many street vendors offer low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. These foods are rich in calcium, which is essential for strong bones and teeth.

While it is important to practice caution when consuming street food, it is possible to make healthy choices by selecting options that are rich in nutrients and low in calories. With the right knowledge and awareness, street food can be a convenient and enjoyable way to maintain a balanced diet.

Tips for making street food healthier

Choosing the right ingredients

When it comes to making street food healthier, one of the most important factors is choosing the right ingredients. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Opt for whole grains: Instead of opting for refined grains, choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread. These are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals that can help you feel fuller for longer and keep your energy levels up.
  • Load up on veggies: Vegetables are an essential part of any healthy diet, and street food is no exception. Choose dishes that are rich in color and loaded with veggies like tomatoes, leafy greens, and bell peppers. These can provide a range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help keep you healthy.
  • Watch your protein sources: Protein is an important nutrient that can help you feel full and satisfied, but not all protein sources are created equal. Opt for lean protein sources like chicken, fish, and tofu, and avoid high-fat options like red meat and fried chicken.
  • Beware of added sugars: Many street foods are loaded with added sugars, which can contribute to weight gain and other health problems. Be sure to read labels carefully and choose options that are low in added sugars or better yet, go for options that use natural sweeteners like honey or fruit.
  • Choose healthy fats: Fats are an important part of any diet, but not all fats are created equal. Opt for healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and nuts, and avoid trans fats and saturated fats that can increase your risk of heart disease.

By following these tips, you can make street food a healthier and more nutritious part of your diet.

Customizing your order

Customizing your order is a great way to make street food healthier. Here are some tips to help you do so:

  • Ask for less oil: Street food is often fried in oil, which can add excess calories and fat. Ask for your food to be cooked with less oil or choose grilled or steamed options instead.
  • Choose whole grains: Opt for whole grain rice, roti, or chapati instead of refined white rice or maida-based roti. Whole grains are rich in fiber, which can help you feel fuller for longer and regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Ask for vegetables: Add more vegetables to your street food dishes. For example, add more vegetables to your bhel puri or pani puri, or ask for extra veggies in your omelette or wrap.
  • Skip the sauces: Many street food dishes come with unhealthy sauces, such as high-fat mayonnaise or sugary chutneys. Ask for your food to be served without sauces or choose healthier options, such as hummus or yogurt-based dips.
  • Choose lean protein: Opt for lean protein sources such as chicken or fish instead of high-fat options like pork or beef. You can also ask for less oil or butter in your protein dishes.
  • Watch portion sizes: Even healthy street food can be high in calories and fat if consumed in large portions. Watch your portion sizes and choose smaller servings to avoid overeating.

By customizing your order, you can enjoy street food while still maintaining a healthy diet.

Eating in moderation

Street food is often associated with unhealthy and greasy foods, but it is possible to make healthier choices when consuming street food. One way to do this is by practicing moderation when eating street food. Here are some tips for eating street food in moderation:

  1. Choose the right items: When ordering street food, choose items that are lower in calories and fat, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, grilled chicken or fish, or whole grains. Avoid fried and greasy foods, as well as those that are high in sugar and salt.
  2. Portion control: Even healthy street foods can be high in calories and fat if consumed in large quantities. Be mindful of portion sizes and try to stick to one or two items per meal.
  3. Combine with other foods: To make a balanced meal, combine street food with other healthy foods. For example, pair a grilled chicken wrap with a side salad or a bowl of soup.
  4. Be mindful of frequency: While it’s okay to enjoy street food occasionally, it’s important to be mindful of how often you’re consuming it. Try to limit your intake of street food to once or twice a week to avoid consuming too many calories and potentially unhealthy ingredients.

By practicing moderation when eating street food, you can still enjoy the flavors and variety of these foods while also maintaining a healthy diet.

Balancing your meal with fruits and vegetables

Street food can be a nutritious and affordable option for a meal, but it’s important to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet. One way to do this is by incorporating fruits and vegetables into your meal. Here are some tips for doing just that:

  • Look for street food vendors that specialize in fruits and vegetables. Many cities have vendors that specialize in produce-based dishes, such as salads or fruit cups. These can be a great option for getting a serving of fruits and vegetables without the added calories and fat of meat or cheese.
  • Consider adding a side of fruit or vegetables to your meal. If you’re ordering something like a sandwich or a burrito, consider adding a side of fruit or vegetables to round out your meal. This could be as simple as asking for a side of lettuce and tomato on your sandwich, or adding a serving of steamed broccoli to your burrito.
  • Be mindful of sauces and dressings. While a little bit of sauce or dressing can add flavor to your meal, it can also add calories and fat. Be mindful of the amount of sauce or dressing you’re using, and try to choose options that are lower in calories and fat.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. If you’re ordering something that doesn’t come with fruits or vegetables, don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. For example, you could ask for extra veggies on your pizza, or request a side salad with your burger. Many street food vendors are happy to accommodate special requests, so don’t be afraid to speak up.
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The future of street food and its impact on public health

Trends in street food consumption

  • The popularity of street food has been on the rise in recent years, with an increasing number of people turning to this mode of dining as a convenient and cost-effective option.
  • This trend has been driven by several factors, including the growing interest in authentic and diverse cuisines, the desire for unique dining experiences, and the increasing availability of street food vendors in urban areas.
  • As a result, street food has become a significant part of the food culture in many cities around the world, providing consumers with a wide range of flavors and culinary experiences.
  • However, this rise in street food consumption has also raised concerns about the nutritional value of these foods and their potential impact on public health.

Opportunities for improving street food nutrition

Street food has the potential to be a valuable part of a healthy diet, but it often falls short due to the high prevalence of unhealthy ingredients and lack of nutritional information. To address this issue, there are several opportunities for improving the nutritional quality of street food.

Firstly, there is a need for more education and training for street food vendors on healthy cooking techniques and the use of nutritious ingredients. This could include training on how to reduce the amount of salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats in their dishes, as well as incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into their menus.

Secondly, providing street food vendors with access to nutritional information and resources can help them make informed decisions about the ingredients they use and the nutritional content of their dishes. This could include providing them with nutritional labels or working with nutritionists to develop healthier menu options.

Lastly, encouraging collaboration between street food vendors and nutritionists or chefs can help to develop innovative and healthy street food options. This could involve creating new dishes that incorporate more nutritious ingredients, or modifying existing dishes to reduce their calorie and fat content.

By taking these steps, street food vendors can play a crucial role in promoting healthy eating and improving the nutritional quality of street food. This can have a positive impact on public health, particularly in low-income communities where street food is often a primary source of nutrition.

Collaboration between street food vendors and public health officials

In order to ensure the safety and nutritional value of street food, it is crucial for street food vendors to collaborate with public health officials. This collaboration can take many forms, such as:

  • Training programs: Public health officials can provide training programs for street food vendors on food safety, hygiene, and nutrition. This can help vendors improve their practices and provide safer and more nutritious food to consumers.
  • Regulatory oversight: Public health officials can also provide regulatory oversight to ensure that street food vendors are complying with food safety standards. This can include regular inspections of food preparation and storage facilities, as well as enforcement of proper hygiene practices.
  • Education campaigns: Public health officials can also educate the public about the nutritional benefits of street food and how to make informed choices when purchasing food from vendors. This can include providing information on the types of ingredients used in street food, as well as the nutritional content of different dishes.

By working together, street food vendors and public health officials can help ensure that street food remains a safe and nutritious option for consumers, while also promoting the growth and sustainability of the street food industry.

The role of technology in promoting healthier street food options

With the increasing awareness of the importance of a balanced diet and the negative impact of unhealthy food options on public health, technology is playing a significant role in promoting healthier street food options. Here are some ways technology is making a difference:

  • Mobile Apps: Mobile apps are being developed that provide nutritional information about street food options. These apps allow customers to make informed choices about the food they consume, based on factors such as calorie count, fat content, and sodium levels. This helps customers make healthier choices, even when they are dining out.
  • QR Code Menus: Many street food vendors are now using QR code menus, which can be scanned using a smartphone camera. These menus provide detailed nutritional information about each dish, including ingredients, calories, and macronutrient breakdowns. This allows customers to make informed choices about the food they eat, even when they are in unfamiliar territories.
  • Smart Vending Machines: Some cities are now using smart vending machines that offer healthier food options. These machines are equipped with sensors that monitor the nutritional content of the food being dispensed, ensuring that the food meets certain health standards. Additionally, these machines often offer customizable meal options, allowing customers to choose the ingredients they want in their meals.
  • Digital Kiosks: Digital kiosks are being used in some street food markets to provide customers with nutritional information about the food they are purchasing. These kiosks display information such as calorie counts, fat content, and sodium levels, allowing customers to make informed choices about the food they eat.

Overall, technology is playing a crucial role in promoting healthier street food options. By providing customers with access to nutritional information, technology is helping to shift the focus from unhealthy, high-calorie options to healthier, more balanced meals. As technology continues to evolve, it is likely that we will see even more innovative solutions that promote healthier eating habits.

FAQs

1. Is street food really healthy?

Yes, street food can be healthy. Many street food vendors use fresh, nutritious ingredients to make their dishes. Additionally, street food is often cooked in front of you, which reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses.

2. Are street food vendors required to follow any health and safety regulations?

Yes, street food vendors are required to follow the same health and safety regulations as restaurants. In many cities, street food vendors must obtain permits and pass inspections to ensure that they are following proper food handling and preparation practices.

3. Are street food dishes high in calories?

Many street food dishes can be high in calories, but this does not necessarily mean that they are unhealthy. Calories from whole, nutrient-dense ingredients like fresh produce and lean proteins can provide important energy and nutrients. It’s important to choose a variety of street food dishes and practice moderation to maintain a balanced diet.

4. Is street food a good option for people with dietary restrictions?

Many street food vendors offer options for people with dietary restrictions, such as vegetarian or gluten-free diets. However, it’s important to communicate any dietary restrictions to the vendor to ensure that you are getting a safe and appropriate meal.

5. Is street food more affordable than restaurant food?

Street food can often be more affordable than restaurant food, making it a great option for those on a budget. However, it’s important to remember that price does not always equal quality, and it’s important to choose street food vendors that prioritize fresh, nutritious ingredients.

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