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Monosodium Glutamate, more commonly known as MSG, is a flavour enhancer typically found in North American Chinese cuisine, canned foods, processed meats, and many prepackaged meals and snacks. A highly controversial ingredient, its safety remains a hot topic of debate, particularly since the Food and Drug Administration recognizes it as safe to consume but many studies have proven otherwise.

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The controversy has prompted many restaurants to proudly display on their windows that they do not cook with MSG in an effort to appeal to health-conscious consumers — another fine example of what voting with your dollar can accomplish. Because of the myriad of confusion over this ingredient’s potential health risks, many people, myself included, have opted to avoid it altogether.

Safety Concerns Over MSG

Many studies have been conducted to prove that MSG does have negative side effects for some people who consume it. These side effects include, but are not limited to: burning sensations of the mouth head or neck, weakness of the arms or legs, headaches, and/or upset stomach.

It may not affect everyone right away, but the effects are cumulative, meaning that the substance can build up over time, until we reach what Dr. Russell Blaylock, author of Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, calls our “threshold of sensitivity.” MSG over-stimulates our nervous system, which excites our nerves and triggers an inflammatory response. Inflammation can be extremely damaging to the body, and anything that can cause inflammation should be avoided whenever possible.

Already Avoid MSG in Your Food?

Personally, I know if I’ve had MSG, because I get a pretty immediate headache. Something I recently learned, however, definitely threw me for a loop: Food manufacturers are aware of a growing public concern for additives such as MSG and have figured out a way to work around this by hiding MSG under innocuous sounding names. It is so important to check the labels and ingredient lists of the foods you’re eating, but what I have come to realize is, it is just as important to know what those ingredients are, and which of them you should avoid.

Here are some of the names MSG is always hiding behind, according to the Truth In Labelling website:

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  • Glutamic Acid (E 620)
  • Glutamate (E 620)
  • Monosodium Glutamate (E 621)
  • Monopotassium Glutamate (E 622)
  • Calcium Glutamate (E 623)
  • Monoammonium Glutamate (E 624)
  • Magnesium Glutamate (E 625)
  • Natrium Glutamate
  • Yeast Extract
  • Anything “hydrolyzed”
  • Any “hydrolyzed protein”
  • Calcium Caseinate
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Yeast Food
  • Yeast Nutrient
  • Autolyzed Yeast
  • Gelatin
  • Textured Protein
  • Soy Protein
  • Soy Protein Concentrate
  • Soy Protein Isolate
  • Whey Protein
  • Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Whey Protein Isolate
  • Anything “…protein”
  • Vetsin
  • Ajinomoto

Names MSG is often hiding behind according to the Truth In Labelling website::

  • Carrageenan (E 407)
  • Bouillon and broth
  • Stock
  • Any “flavors” or “flavoring”
  • Natural Flavor
  • Maltodextrin
  • Citric acid, Citrate (E 330)
  • Anything “ultra-pasteurized”
  • Barley malt
  • Pectin (E 440)
  • Protease
  • Anything “enzyme modified”
  • Anything containing “enzymes”
  • Malt extract
  • Soy sauce
  • Soy sauce extract
  • Anything “protein fortified”
  • Anything “fermented”
  • Seasonings
  • “Spices”

No! Not you, Kettle Chips…

Final Thoughts

The good news here is that, as the consumer, we have the power to vote with our dollars, and by avoiding products containing these ingredients, and raising awareness about them by sharing resources like this article, we force food manufacturers to either change the ingredients they use or risk bankruptcy. That is the strength behind raising awareness and putting your money where your mouth is. We have the power; we just have to remember that every time we make a purchase. Another great way to avoid MSG and many other sneaky and potentially harmful chemicals in our foods is to choose a whole foods diet. Remember: “Real food doesn’t have ingredients, real food is ingredients.”

Much Love


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