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Solving the nation’s water problems before the tap runs dry

(BPT) – Cooking dinner, washing dishes, showering and flushing toilets — these are daily activities for most Americans. If you did any of these in the last 24 hours, you’ve contributed to the roughly 355 billion gallons of water that are used each day in this country.

Water is our most basic, physical need, but it’s also one many people take for granted. While most Americans are fortunate enough not to know a world where they don’t have access to clean water, continuing that same safe access in the future is not guaranteed. In fact, preserving the nation’s clean water supply requires significant change from current practices, along with a commitment from both utility workers and the general public to work together in solving one of America’s greatest challenges.

Understanding the true cost of water

The average person uses about 70 gallons of water every single day, and this number does not factor in the water allotted for general uses such as agriculture, energy production, fire protection or manufacturing. Yet despite this myriad use, the average consumer’s monthly water bill remains around $45, far below what many Americans pay for their cell phone, a night out or their television package.

It appears a bargain, yet 50 percent of Americans surveyed by Grundfos for the Who Runs the Water that Runs America Initiative believe they are paying a fair price for water, and only 2 percent report they should be paying more when comparing their water use to their water bill. Those in the utility sector tell a different story, with 70 percent reporting they aren’t generating enough revenue to cover their costs and fund infrastructure improvements.

A side seldom seen by consumers

Jayne Swift, project manager for the global engineering firm CH2M, knows firsthand the difficulties utilities face. Responsible for water delivery in Crestview, Florida, Swift recognizes that most people don’t think about their water beyond their immediate needs. “Few people think much about where the water comes from when they turn on the faucet, or where it goes and who manages it after it goes down the drain,” she says. “We treat wastewater to protect public health, and we treat and deliver clean, safe water for consumption. When something goes wrong, we have to respond and correct the issue ASAP.”

Across the nation, those issues are arising more and more often. America’s water infrastructure is aging, and each year more than 240,000 water mains break at a total repair cost of more than $1 trillion. These breaks and/or leaks in the water mains account for 12 percent of the nation’s water being wasted each year. And as the infrastructure system continues to age, that number is expected to grow.

Consumer challenges around what not to flush

An aging infrastructure isn’t the only challenge utility professionals face. In some communities a much larger problem already exists. For example, when Jim Holzapfel, water utility director for the city of Naperville, Illinois, is asked the largest problem his department faces, the answer comes quickly. “Flushable wipes,” says Holzapfel. “They are nearly indestructible.”

Naperville Water Distribution and Collections Manager Tony Conn agrees. “We have a multi-residential facility that feeds into a particular pump station. Normally we’d pull the pumps twice a year to do maintenance. But in the last four months we’ve pulled these pumps 53 times, all because of flushable wipes.”

Holzapfel says that wipes flushed down the drain can cling and weave together. When they do, the wipes form a rope-like mass that plugs pumps and damages equipment. Sometimes this plug can be so large that it can break a 2-inch-diameter pump shaft. The plugs can be expensive for consumers as well.

Holzapfel says Naperville’s utility — which serves a population of about 151,000 — receives approximately five calls per week for sewer backups in homes. “After investigating the issue, we often find out flushable wipes have plugged their service line,” says Holzapfel. “At that point, it’s not a utility issue. Unfortunately, it’s now an individual customer that has a sewer backup that they have to take care of and pay for.”

“The word ‘flushable’ can be interpreted by others (the consumer) to mean something different than intended or what is recommended and/or practical,” says Conn, recommending that flushable wipes are better disposed of in the trash can. “Just because it’s flushable doesn’t mean you should flush it.”

Working together to improve water use

While water utility professionals work tirelessly to preserve the nation’s water system, they cannot do it alone. To stave off the problems threatening the nation’s water supply and make real improvements to the existing water infrastructure, it will require consumers to think about their water beyond the point it leaves their tap. It will require them to reduce their water usage and realize that if change is not enacted now, the results down the road will be even more expensive for everyone.

The Who Runs the Water that Runs America initiative is working to increase consumer awareness of the water challenges that exist in the United States. Visit www.whorunsthewater.com to learn more about the water situation in your area, how it compares to other regions of the nation and what you and your family can do to improve it. Ten minutes — the length of a shower — could make all the difference in the world.

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Access to mental health care may be just a virtual visit away

(BPT) – Mental health disorders impact thousands of people every day, including many of our friends, neighbors and co-workers. Everyone reading this likely knows someone struggling with mental illness and is aware of the toll it can take on individuals, families and communities. Mental health challenges do not discriminate — they affect people from all walks of life regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic level.

While stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders impact an estimated 43 million adults nationwide each year, the World Health Organization reports that only about one in four people with a diagnosed disorder is likely to pursue treatment.

Unfortunately, barriers prevent people from getting the mental health care they may need. The reasons are many. Consider these statistics: 4,000 areas in the U.S. have only one psychiatrist for 30,000 or more people; the average waiting time for a first psychiatric visit is 25 days; and stigma is the fourth highest-ranked barrier to help-seeking.

The good news is that people who access care more quickly may be more likely to engage in their treatment and have a better outcome. With the right treatment and support, people can recover from mental health disorders to live healthy, self-directed lives as valuable members of their community. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle nudge from a friend or loved one to help someone take that first step on their path to recovery.

For some people, that best first step may be a virtual visit with a mental health provider via a mobile device or computer. For many, access to virtual care may already be available as part of their health care benefits.

Virtual care can shorten wait times for an appointment, fit work and personal schedules, and eliminate travel time and expense. An appointment conducted in the safe, comfortable environment of home may reduce stigma. And, research shows that outcomes of a virtual visit with a mental health provider are similar to in-person sessions for multiple disorders.

Raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health issues are keys to supporting well-being within our communities. Today, people can access effective, proven treatment in a variety of formats, including using video-calling technology. It’s up to all of us to reach out and encourage our friends, neighbors and family members in need to access these available resources.

For more information and links to recovery support resources in your area, visit www.optum.com/recovery. To learn more about available health care benefits, call the number on the back of your health plan identification card.

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Access to mental health care may be just a virtual visit away

(BPT) – Mental health disorders impact thousands of people every day, including many of our friends, neighbors and co-workers. Everyone reading this likely knows someone struggling with mental illness and is aware of the toll it can take on individuals, families and communities. Mental health challenges do not discriminate — they affect people from all walks of life regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic level.

While stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders impact an estimated 43 million adults nationwide each year, the World Health Organization reports that only about one in four people with a diagnosed disorder is likely to pursue treatment.

Unfortunately, barriers prevent people from getting the mental health care they may need. The reasons are many. Consider these statistics: 4,000 areas in the U.S. have only one psychiatrist for 30,000 or more people; the average waiting time for a first psychiatric visit is 25 days; and stigma is the fourth highest-ranked barrier to help-seeking.

The good news is that people who access care more quickly may be more likely to engage in their treatment and have a better outcome. With the right treatment and support, people can recover from mental health disorders to live healthy, self-directed lives as valuable members of their community. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle nudge from a friend or loved one to help someone take that first step on their path to recovery.

For some people, that best first step may be a virtual visit with a mental health provider via a mobile device or computer. For many, access to virtual care may already be available as part of their health care benefits.

Virtual care can shorten wait times for an appointment, fit work and personal schedules, and eliminate travel time and expense. An appointment conducted in the safe, comfortable environment of home may reduce stigma. And, research shows that outcomes of a virtual visit with a mental health provider are similar to in-person sessions for multiple disorders.

Raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health issues are keys to supporting well-being within our communities. Today, people can access effective, proven treatment in a variety of formats, including using video-calling technology. It’s up to all of us to reach out and encourage our friends, neighbors and family members in need to access these available resources.

For more information and links to recovery support resources in your area, visit www.optum.com/recovery. To learn more about available health care benefits, call the number on the back of your health plan identification card.

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Access to mental health care may be just a virtual visit away

(BPT) – Mental health disorders impact thousands of people every day, including many of our friends, neighbors and co-workers. Everyone reading this likely knows someone struggling with mental illness and is aware of the toll it can take on individuals, families and communities. Mental health challenges do not discriminate — they affect people from all walks of life regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic level.

While stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders impact an estimated 43 million adults nationwide each year, the World Health Organization reports that only about one in four people with a diagnosed disorder is likely to pursue treatment.

Unfortunately, barriers prevent people from getting the mental health care they may need. The reasons are many. Consider these statistics: 4,000 areas in the U.S. have only one psychiatrist for 30,000 or more people; the average waiting time for a first psychiatric visit is 25 days; and stigma is the fourth highest-ranked barrier to help-seeking.

The good news is that people who access care more quickly may be more likely to engage in their treatment and have a better outcome. With the right treatment and support, people can recover from mental health disorders to live healthy, self-directed lives as valuable members of their community. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle nudge from a friend or loved one to help someone take that first step on their path to recovery.

For some people, that best first step may be a virtual visit with a mental health provider via a mobile device or computer. For many, access to virtual care may already be available as part of their health care benefits.

Virtual care can shorten wait times for an appointment, fit work and personal schedules, and eliminate travel time and expense. An appointment conducted in the safe, comfortable environment of home may reduce stigma. And, research shows that outcomes of a virtual visit with a mental health provider are similar to in-person sessions for multiple disorders.

Raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health issues are keys to supporting well-being within our communities. Today, people can access effective, proven treatment in a variety of formats, including using video-calling technology. It’s up to all of us to reach out and encourage our friends, neighbors and family members in need to access these available resources.

For more information and links to recovery support resources in your area, visit www.optum.com/recovery. To learn more about available health care benefits, call the number on the back of your health plan identification card.

Read more

Access to mental health care may be just a virtual visit away

(BPT) – Mental health disorders impact thousands of people every day, including many of our friends, neighbors and co-workers. Everyone reading this likely knows someone struggling with mental illness and is aware of the toll it can take on individuals, families and communities. Mental health challenges do not discriminate — they affect people from all walks of life regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic level.

While stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders impact an estimated 43 million adults nationwide each year, the World Health Organization reports that only about one in four people with a diagnosed disorder is likely to pursue treatment.

Unfortunately, barriers prevent people from getting the mental health care they may need. The reasons are many. Consider these statistics: 4,000 areas in the U.S. have only one psychiatrist for 30,000 or more people; the average waiting time for a first psychiatric visit is 25 days; and stigma is the fourth highest-ranked barrier to help-seeking.

The good news is that people who access care more quickly may be more likely to engage in their treatment and have a better outcome. With the right treatment and support, people can recover from mental health disorders to live healthy, self-directed lives as valuable members of their community. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle nudge from a friend or loved one to help someone take that first step on their path to recovery.

For some people, that best first step may be a virtual visit with a mental health provider via a mobile device or computer. For many, access to virtual care may already be available as part of their health care benefits.

Virtual care can shorten wait times for an appointment, fit work and personal schedules, and eliminate travel time and expense. An appointment conducted in the safe, comfortable environment of home may reduce stigma. And, research shows that outcomes of a virtual visit with a mental health provider are similar to in-person sessions for multiple disorders.

Raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health issues are keys to supporting well-being within our communities. Today, people can access effective, proven treatment in a variety of formats, including using video-calling technology. It’s up to all of us to reach out and encourage our friends, neighbors and family members in need to access these available resources.

For more information and links to recovery support resources in your area, visit www.optum.com/recovery. To learn more about available health care benefits, call the number on the back of your health plan identification card.

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An empowered patient is a healthy patient: 4 tips to make health care work for you

(BPT) – While the future of health care is still undetermined, one thing is certain: It’s important for consumers to take steps to educate themselves about their health and well-being and become active participants in their plan of care. However, it can feel overwhelming to a patient to make complicated decisions that can impact their health (and finances) in the short and long term.

Rather than relying on health care providers or insurance companies, patients can take ownership of their own health care management. AAAHC, which works with health care providers to optimize patient safety and quality of care, offers four tips to help you become a more confident, empowered patient:

1. Make the Most of Your (Face) Time

With the advancement of health care technology and digital requirements, many doctors find themselves spending more of their time in front of a computer screen, with one study revealing doctors can spend less than one-third of their time with patients.

Health care professionals are, however, transitioning towards a more patient-centered approach to care that focuses on enhancing the holistic experience and needs of each patient. To make each interaction more meaningful, health care providers should discuss your medical history, lifestyle choices and other behaviors to get a better idea of how to tailor recommendations and treatments that support overall wellness.

“Remember to always be open and honest with your doctor, and come with a list of questions,” said Mona Sweeney, RN, of AAAHC Accreditation Services. “Having a list prepared helps you stay focused on getting the information you want, and taking notes will keep new information organized for reference later. If you’ve received a diagnosis that leads to a discussion of treatment options, it also can be helpful to have someone with you as a second set of ears. It’s hard to remember all you’ve been told if you’re under stress.”

2. Know Your Risks, Options and Personal Data

Many patients do not realize it is the health care provider’s responsibility to disclose important details of any treatment plan — including potential benefits, risks and alternative options — and confirm patient understanding prior to moving forward with care. This ensures patients are able to ask questions and make informed decisions. Remember, you are the driver of your care.

“Because patient-centered health care providers want patients to play a bigger role in their health and wellness, many are providing access to information and opening up new channels of communication,” said Sweeney. “These resources help patients develop stronger relationships with providers and have a better understanding of their care.”

One way providers are achieving this is with patient engagement tools, which connect people to their personal health records and educational resources and facilitate communication with health care professionals. Ask about access to wearable health trackers, online patient portals, telemedicine channels and social media apps to learn what is available from your provider.

3. Go Through the Dollars and Cents

Once you are familiar with the medicine side, you can tackle the costs — which can be tricky. It is well within your rights as a patient to ask for your treatment costs upfront. This will allow you more time to review the price and ask questions before committing to any specific treatment or approach to care, or have a point of reference when reviewing the bill after treatment.

A survey from one payment and claims company, Navicure, found 75 percent of health care providers offer cost estimates upon request, but less than 25 percent of patients request them. You should feel comfortable discussing any concerns, including your bill or the cost of each treatment option, with your provider team.

4. Make Your Voice Heard

Helping patients become more engaged in their health care will benefit both patients and providers. Health care organizations seek feedback from patients to learn how to enhance the patient experience — which in turn will help them improve the quality of care they deliver.

“Most providers have some formal means of asking for feedback via a survey or customer service portal. Most negative patient experience issues are not the result of poor care, but of poor communications. Be authentic when providing feedback; it’s the only way a health care team can know where they need to improve,” said Sweeney.

For more information on standards for safety and quality that your health care provider must follow in order to earn accreditation, visit www.aaahc.org.

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4 ways to become an empowered patient

(BPT) –

While the future of health care is still undetermined, one thing is certain: It’s important for consumers to take steps to educate themselves about their health and well-being and become active participants in their plan of care. However, it can feel overwhelming to a patient to make complicated decisions that can impact their health (and finances) in the short and long term.

Rather than relying on health care providers or insurance companies, patients can take ownership of their own health care management. AAAHC, which works with health care providers to optimize patient safety and quality of care, offers four tips to help you become a more confident, empowered patient:

1. Make the Most of Your (Face) Time

With the advancement of health care technology and digital requirements, many doctors find themselves spending more of their time in front of a computer screen, with one study revealing doctors can spend less than one-third of their time with patients.

Health care professionals are, however, transitioning towards a more patient-centered approach to care that focuses on enhancing the holistic experience and needs of each patient. To make each interaction more meaningful, health care providers should discuss your medical history, lifestyle choices and other behaviors to get a better idea of how to tailor recommendations and treatments that support overall wellness.

“Remember to always be open and honest with your doctor, and come with a list of questions,” said Mona Sweeney, RN, of AAAHC Accreditation Services. “Having a list prepared helps you stay focused on getting the information you want, and taking notes will keep new information organized for reference later. If you’ve received a diagnosis that leads to a discussion of treatment options, it also can be helpful to have someone with you as a second set of ears. It’s hard to remember all you’ve been told if you’re under stress.”

2. Know Your Risks, Options and Personal Data

Many patients do not realize it is the health care provider’s responsibility to disclose important details of any treatment plan — including potential benefits, risks and alternative options — and confirm patient understanding prior to moving forward with care. This ensures patients can ask questions and make informed decisions. Remember, you are the driver of your care.

“Because patient-centered health care providers want patients to play a bigger role in their health and wellness, many are providing access to information and opening up new channels of communication,” said Sweeney. “These resources help patients develop stronger relationships with providers and have a better understanding of their care.”

Ask about access to wearable health trackers, online patient portals, telemedicine channels and social media apps to learn what is available from your provider.

3. Go Through the Dollars and Cents

Once you are familiar with the medicine side, you can tackle the costs — which can be tricky. It is well within your rights as a patient to ask for your treatment costs upfront. This will allow you more time to review the price and ask questions before committing to any specific treatment or approach to care, or have a point of reference when reviewing the bill after treatment.

A survey from one payment and claims company, Navicure, found 75 percent of health care providers offer cost estimates upon request, but less than 25 percent of patients request them.

4. Make Your Voice Heard

Helping patients become more engaged in their health care will benefit patients and providers. Health care organizations seek feedback from patients to learn how to enhance the patient experience — which in turn will help them improve the quality of care they deliver.

“Most providers have some formal means of asking for feedback via a survey or customer service portal. Most negative patient experience issues are not the result of poor care, but of poor communications. Be authentic when providing feedback; it’s the only way a health care team can know where they need to improve,” said Sweeney.

For more information on standards for safety and quality that your health care provider must follow in order to earn accreditation, visit www.aaahc.org.

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5 health ‘facts’ that are actually myths

(BPT) – Get eight hours of sleep at night, eat your vegetables, and an apple a day keeps the doctor away – these are all common health sayings you’ve heard and probably believe to be true. While commonly told health myths may have some truth to them, there are some that don’t hold up to further examination.

1.) Starve a cold and feed a fever. This one has been told for years, though most people can’t remember which one you starve and which you feed. However, according to WebMD, the best advice is to starve neither. You’ll recover from the flu or a cold more quickly with a healthy, balanced diet, so eat sensibly and you’ll be yourself again in no time.

2.) Small and soft toothbrushes make for an ineffective clean. This one isn’t true. The American Dental Association actually recommends using a small brush head with soft bristles. Using a brush like Oral-B’s new Compact Clean provides a small brush head that can get to those hard-to-reach places and provide a precise clean. Because of its unique ultra-dense feathered bristles which offer multiple cleaning tips per filament, Compact Clean will also gently remove plaque in a comfortable, effective way. “As a hygienist, one of the biggest obstacles my patients face is finding the balance between using a brush that is soft enough and achieving an effective clean,” says Andrew Johnston, RDH. “Compact Clean’s design allows you to remove plaque while keeping your teeth and gums safe against toothbrush abrasion.”

3.) Cold weather increases your chance of catching a cold. It seems to make sense, but it’s not true. There is no proof colder temperatures increase your chances of catching a cold, according to LiveScience.com. Instead, research shows the spike in colds during the winter months is actually due to people spending more time indoors, around one another, making it easier for the cold to spread from one person to the next.

4.) Reading in poor lighting is bad for your eyes. While it certainly makes it more difficult to focus on what you’re reading, there is no evidence that reading under such conditions will cause any permanent structural or long-term damage to your eyes according to WebMD.

5.) An aerobic workout will significantly boost your metabolism all day long. Nope, but you will enjoy a nice boost while you’re actually doing the workout along with a small boost throughout the day, though only about 20 extra calories according to WebMD. If you want improved all day benefits, strength training is actually the better way to go because it conditions your body to burn calories more efficiently.

So the next time you’re tempted to starve your cold, or only read a book with lights blazing, remember that these five commonly held health myths are now debunked! To learn more about how Compact Clean can lead to powerful results, visit www.oralb.com.

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Is seaweed the next superfood?

(BPT) – There’s a new superfood in town. And it’s not kale.

Seaweed may be a hot new food trend in the United States, but this leafy green from the sea has been used in Asian cuisine for thousands of years. Not only is seaweed low in calories and fat, it’s also packed with essential nutrients like vitamins A, B and C. Better yet? Research shows it’s a good source of antioxidants and calcium and can prevent and reduce inflammation.

You may know seaweed as a crunchy, salty snack or the wrap that holds together sushi rolls. What you may not know is that seaweed is an important food ingredient that improves the taste of foods, makes them better for us and benefits the environment.

For example, carrageenan, an ingredient naturally derived from red seaweed, makes our ice cream creamy, keeps chocolate milk from separating and is the reason the ground nuts in our nut milk don’t settle to the bottom of the carton. It can also be used instead of sodium in deli meats and to replace fats and sugar in other foods.

Some sweets, like puddings and gummy candies, get their unique texture from gelatin, an animal-based ingredient. But what about those who follow a vegetarian or kosher diet? Have no fear, seaweed is here! Plant-based carrageenan can be used in place of gelatin to make sure these tasty snacks are vegetarian, vegan, halal and kosher.

Another way seaweed improves the foods we eat every day? Alginates, also a seaweed-based ingredient, are added to baked goods, such as bread, and even your favorite energy bars to make them taste better and stay fresh for longer. Alginates are also used to make beer foamy and replace the fat in low-fat ice cream.

But seaweed doesn’t just benefit the foods we eat; it’s also good for the environment and the people who farm it.

Seaweed is one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly crops on the planet. It requires none of the fertilizers, pesticides or other chemicals that are used in land-based farming. And seaweed sequesters carbon and cleans ocean water of phosphorus and nitrogen. Some scientists and researchers believe seaweed might even be the biofuel of the future.

More than 75,000 farmers around the world rely on seaweed farming to support their families. Before they started farming carrageenan seaweed, many coastal communities lived at or below the poverty level. With the income they earn harvesting carrageenan seaweed, these farmers are able to improve their homes, enhance their diets and send their children to school. And in some countries, seaweed harvesting provides a way out of poverty for women who do not have access to other jobs.

Seaweed isn’t just a healthy snack or ingredient that makes our favorite foods better tasting and better for us. It’s revolutionizing dinner plates and economies around the world, restoring our oceans and improving lives.

For more information about the benefits of seaweed, including how it is used in foods we love, visit www.foodsciencematters.com.

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Decoding food labels: Scary additives or gifts from nature?

(BPT) – Food-ingredient labels are getting shorter. Why? Because the people have spoken: We want fewer, better ingredients in our foods. We asked, and the companies that make our food responded by replacing artificial colors and flavors, removing what’s unessential, and using naturally derived ingredients.

But even shorter “clean” labels can still read like a technical manual. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — just because a food ingredient is unfamiliar or has a difficult-to-pronounce name doesn’t mean it’s not good for you.

For instance, you might not have heard of cholecalciferol, and it sounds a little scary. But cholecalciferol is just another name for Vitamin D. You might not have heard of rickets, either; that’s because this once-common childhood disease became nearly obsolete when Vitamin D, which prevents rickets, was added to milk (Vitamin D also helps our bodies absorb the calcium in milk).

Another ingredient with a somewhat strange name is carrageenan. This seaweed-based ingredient makes some of our favorite foods more nutritious. It replaces the sodium in lunch meat and can take the place of fats, oils and sugar, which is why that nonfat yogurt you had for lunch tastes just as good as the full-fat option, without the guilt.

Microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) might look like a mouthful, but MCC — also called cellulose gel — is just cellulose derived from fruits, vegetables and trees. Cellulose, which is the most common organic compound on earth, is one of only seven FDA-approved sources of fiber. So when microcrystalline cellulose or cellulose gel appears on a food label, it means your food contains the same plant fiber found in broccoli and apples.

Other ingredients that might not ring a bell? Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family that has been used as a medicine and spice in India for thousands of years. Modern science has shown it is also a powerful antioxidant that settles upset stomachs and may lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks, all while brightening your food with its deep yellow color.

Some of the unfamiliar ingredients on your food label might literally be found in your own backyard. Pectin, for example, comes from the peels of lemons or other citrus fruits and is commonly used to thicken jams and jellies.

Understanding what goes into our food is important. But it’s also important that we don’t say “no” to a product just because we don’t recognize every ingredient on its label. When we research the ones we’re not familiar with, we might come to find that those “scary additives” are actually delicious gifts from nature.

To learn more about what’s in your food, visit foodsciencematters.com.

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