When it comes to food additives, MSG is one of the worst. Sadly, it's in almost every kind of processed food, many fast foods, and restaurant foods. It makes food taste good, inhibits the feeling of being satisfied so you want more, and it's cheap.
So from a food manufacturer's standpoint, what's not to like? Never mind the fact that it's dangerous to your health. Your health is not their problem. Out-selling their competitors is their problem.
MSG stands for monosodium glutamate, but it has many other names. You know how sometimes when you look at the list of ingredients on a package of food and you can't make heads-or-tails of most of those chemical-sounding additives? You can bet one of them is code for MSG. Here are some of its aliases:
- yeast extract
- autolyzed yeast extract
- autolyzed vegetable protein
- hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- hydrolyzed yeast extract
- torula yeast
- textured whey protein
- textured soy protein
- textured vegetable protein
- plant protein extract
- calcium caseinate
- sodium caseinate
MSG is what's known as an "excitotoxin." Like the name suggests, it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees, and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Lou Gehrig's disease. Excitotoxins have been found to dramatically promote cancer growth. They've also been linked to autism and depression.
MSG can cause nausea, headaches (it is a migraine trigger), seizures, and infertility and reproductive disorders. It causes weight gain and obesity by damaging the appetite regulation center in the area of the brain known as the hypothalamus, causing leptin resistence.
Here are some of the main sources of MSG, or one of it's aliases:
- canned soup and dried soup mixes
- diet soda
- salad dressing
- breakfast sausage and other meats
- chips and other junk and snack food
- frozen entrees
- restaurant food and fast food
- Chinese food
- canned beans
- seasoning blends and mixes
- bullion and broths
- microwavable cups
The best way to avoid MSG is to eat whole foods prepared at home. I know people don't like to do this because they think it's too time consuming and too costly. That's not true. In fact the opposite is true. It's actually more time consuming and costly to suffer the medical complications that arise from a lifetime of eating MSG.
Keep in mind that foods that contain MSG usually always contain other horrendous ingredients common in processed, fast and restaurant foods like trans fats, which you can recognize on the label as any oil that's been "hydrogenated," and high fructose corn syrup. GROSS!
The next best thing to eating whole foods prepared at home is to become familiar with the various aliases under which MSG travels, which are listed above. Then scan the list of ingredients in the foods you're considering putting in your body, and rejecting those that contain MSG or one of its aliases.
There are a few packaged prepared items at traditional grocery stores that do not contain MSG. At health food stores, like my favorite, Whole Foods, there are many more. In fact, Whole Foods boasts NONE of their products contain MSG or MSG-like additives, although I have not checked-out that claim for myself.
Once you know how to read labels, you can find better alternatives. If you love an occasional snack of flavored chips (barbecue flavor, nacho cheese flavor, etc.) you now can see how MSG is an ingredient. Instead, try plain potato chips where the ingredients are potatoes, oil, and salt.
Beware of MSG in the seasoning aisle and in recipes. Some of those manufactured seasonings like "accent" and marinades and rubs, blended seasonings in a jar like Cajun or Greek, contain some, or a lot of MSG.