Natural Flavors, Autolyzed Yeast, Calcium Caseinate, Gelatin, Glutamate, Glutamic Acid, Hydrolyzed Protein, Monopotasium Glutamate, Sodium Caseinate, Textured Protein, Yeast Extract, Yeast Food, Yeast Nutrient..
Were any of these ingredients in your lunch today? If so, your meal contained Monosodium Glutamate, more commonly known as MSG.
I'm sure you've heard of MSG - most likely in relation to Chinese food. Maybe you've heard that this MSG is something you should avoid - an opinion that is supported by the many food labels in the grocery store touting products contain "No MSG" If it's important enough to advertise on the label, it must be something to avoid, right?
But what is MSG, and why should you avoid it? Monosodium glutamate is an Amino Acid. That doesn't make it bad - but understanding that it is not a spice, or herb is important. MSG is considered a flavor enhancer. That means it makes other things taste better, but alone, is not something you would find appealing. MSG brings forth a flavor in foods known as Umami - a beefy flavor that was originally discovered in seaweed. Naturally occurring umami flavor is the reason a fresh steaming bowl of miso soup is so appealing, even though there's not much more than broth in the bowl.
Sounds like a wonderful discovery, doesn't it? You can feel like you've eaten something heartier than you actually have - fewer calories, less expensive, and yet you are quite satisfied - for the moment.
But things that sound too good to be true often are. MSG carries with it a whole host of negative effects. Nausea, headache, drowsiness, rapid heartbeat, weakness, numbness, chest pain or difficulty breathing, numbness, burning sensation have all been confirmed by the FDA to be short term reactions to consuming MSG - they call this 'MSG Symptom Complex'
Longer term reactions from regular consumption of this amino acid can include obesity, eye damage, headaches, fatigue and disorientation and even depression.
There's even been research showing that MSG acts and an excitotoxin. Excitotoxins in large amounts can damage cells and trigger brain related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Avoiding this flavor enhancer can be difficult - as you can see from the list at the top of this page, manufacturers have come up with some creative ways to hide the fact that their products contain MSG. Reading labels can help - sticking with foods that don't have labels is an even better strategy. You can also pay attention to your body's reaction. Have a meal at a new restaurant and are hungry an hour later or feel the need for an immediate nap? Chances are there was some MSG in your food. Take note and try to avoid the same experience in the future.
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