i have wanted to write about monosodium glutamate (msg) for over a year now. i guess i have put it off for so long because i don’t really feel qualified to share…but i have done research (and taken notes!) and now i want to share my knowledge with you. knowledge is power, people.
msg is essentially is a salt of the amino acid, glutamate (http://www.msgtruth.org/whatisit.htm), also known as a ‘flavor enhancer’. i certainly don’t understand the scientific aspect or the chemistry of what msg is…so please do your research too. what i mostly want to share is…
1. what side effects/health risks are associated with msg,
2. how to spot msg in a list of ingredients, and
3. what foods typically have msg in them.
according to the mayoclinic.org website, msg can cause the following reactions:
facial pressure or tightness
numbness, tingling, burning
maybe it’s just me, but i don’t think food should give you any kind of reactions unless you’re allergic to it. right??? i know lots of people who have had one or more of these reactions to eating msg…
why is msg added to foods at all? msgtruth.org provides the answer…
- “MSG tricks your tongue into making you think a certain food is high in protein and thus nutritious. It is not a “meat tenderizer”. It is not a “preservative”. The food industry is trying to confuse the issue by focusing on the “fifth” taste sense they call umami. Free glutamic acid is detected by the taste buds as a simple way to signal the presence of protein in a food, just as there are fat receptors to detect fats and receptors that sense carbohydrate or sweet flavors. The purpose is to help us discern real food from inedible matter. It changes your perception of not simply taste but the nutritious qualities of what you put into your mouth. However, and here is the main problem with free glutamic acid – It is the very same neurotransmitter that your brain and many organs including your ears, eyes, nervous system and pancreas in your body use to initiate certain processes in your body.
- MSG stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. So many diets these days are concerned about the Glycemic Index of foods and yet none of them address the fact that MSG and free glutamic acid stimulate the pancreas to release insulin when there doesn’t even have to be carbohydrates in the food for that insulin to act on. The food industry has found their own “anti-appetite suppressant”. It’s a convenient way to keep consumers coming back for more. The blood sugar drops because of the insulin flood. And you are hungry an hour later. Sound familiar?
- The body changes excess glutamate to GABA. GABA may be addictive. It is calming and affects the same receptors in the brain as valium.
- Cost. The illusion created by adding MSG to a food product enables the food processor to add LESS real food. The illusion of more protein in a food allows the food producer to put LESS protein in it. The consumer perceives the product – say chicken soup – to have more chicken in it than is actually there. Example: A well-known brand of dehydrated chicken noodle soup. Is that chicken in there, or a piece of confetti?”
so i think most people have misconceptions about what msg is and where msg is found (Chinese food). i’m sorry friends…but it is WAY more widely used than just in Chinese food. first, you need to know that in a list of ingredients, it’s not just listed as simply ‘msg’ or even ‘monosodium glutamate’, although sometimes it is. it can also go by a very long list of other names….which i shall share with you now (some of these are ingredients that contain msg):
hydrolized soy protein
hydrolyzed vegetable protein
hydrolized oat flour
nonfat dried milk
soy protein isolate
malted barley flour
free glutamic acid
textured vegetable protein
this is certainly not an exhaustive list, but i wanted you to get the idea that msg is disguised as loads of other ‘ingredients.’ basically msg is in most packaged products found at the grocery store. it’s in a lot of condiments (i.e. dressing, seasoning packets, gravy, sauce), flavored chips, canned products (soups!), soup mix, Goya Sazon, dips & dip mixes, lunch meats, basically most foods that are at the grocery store, honestly. of course it is frequently found in most fast foods (i.e. McDonald’s, BK, Chik-Fil-A, KFC etc.)
it’s definitely not popular to avoid msg laden foods. i see recipes everyday that call for cream of mushroom/chicken/celery soups, which are loaded with msg. everybody’s favorite ranch dressing, full of msg. (i’ve found an organic one at my grocer, and actually, you can make your own too!). all those quick & easy dinner recipes that use a packet of dressing mix…you guessed it, msg. all those yummy sour cream & onion and bbq chips, Pringles, Doritos….they all have it. and don’t forget everybody’s favorite…Stove Top stuffing! basically if it’s supposed to be quick, easy and convenient, it most likely has msg or a form of msg in it. it’s not easy to avoid. even foods that are ‘natural’ usually have one (or more) of those disguised msg ingredients. it’s really crazy.
once i realized this, i went thru my cupboards and threw out all the food that had msg. it was a lot. it was frustrating but also empowering. it’s also kind of difficult to shop at the grocery store….but i believe it’s worth it. once you realize that most of the food at the grocery store isn’t worth buying, you don’t have to go often at all. i know i felt pretty overwhelmed upon uncovering all of this info…but i did my best. i read all the ingredient labels of every product i considered buying, and tried to buy organic products when possible, as well as local produce. i have also been making my own versions of some of those favorite convenience foods (i.e. taco seasoning, cream of chicken soup)…and loving my version better! score!
the msgtruth.org website is a great resource…and they offer 4 good rules of thumb to follow…
- “The more salty a processed food is, the more likely it is to contain MSG or free glutamate.
- The more processed a food is, the more likely it is to contain MSG or free glutamate: powdered stuff that used to be food is likely to have added MSG because the original flavor has been degraded, AND processing concentrates and frees glutamate already bound and present.
- The more ingredients in a packaged food, the more likely MSG is present. Read labels carefully . Time is money. If a food has more than five ingredients and you don’t have half an hour to read one ingredient label – put it back on the shelf – you’ll be better off.
- Do not trust something simply because it is in a health food store and the label states it is natural or even organic. The US allows “natural flavors” to include protein hydrolysates which can contain up to 20% MSG by weight. A distinction without a difference.”
there is lots more info out there…and i hope that you have been enlightened enough to want to find out more and make better choices for yourself and your family. it can be done!!!***