From the drive–thru to prepackaged dinners to school lunches to even infant formula, processed foods are everywhere. And while it’s clear a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains supports health, more research is concluding that processed foods do the opposite.

Experts warn against the dangers of MSG (monosodium glutamate), a primary ingredient in processed foods. Visceral fat, which scientists say forms in response to high doses of glutamate in the system, is thought to be a cause of hypertension, obesity, insomnia, and diabetes. And a recent study found that a diet high in processed foods causes depression and inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease. What can you do?

  • To minimize your exposure, cut down on eating out. There are currently no regulations on MSG labeling, so restaurants don’t have to fess up. You can remove this unknown variable by dining in.
  • Stay as close to the original state as possible. An organic apple from a local farmer maintains its raw integrity, while individual packs of applesauce are farther from their purest form; a store-bought apple pie is even farther. Keep your plate full of mostly natural earth-grown foods.
  • Opt for frozen produce over canned — which usually has added salt or syrup. Sub–zero crops are picked at their ripest and flash-frozen to retain nutrients, without additives.

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