The MSG Catastrophe

While writing yesterday’s GSS, I realized that I’ve mentioned monosodium glutamate, or MSG, in several of my posts, but I haven’t explained exactly what it is and all of its harmful side effects.  By now many of you may know that it’s not good for you, but you may not have all the facts.  So hold on to your seats, because I’m about to go off!

MSG is salt of the amino acid, Glutamic Acid, and is used as a flavor enhancer found in many foods.  However, clever labeling practices serve to camouflage its presence.  You may think that you’re avoiding MSG if you stay away from Chinese restaurants, but it’s found in almost every bottled, bagged, frozen, or canned processed food on super market shelves.  However, because MSG is usually a component of another formulation, it is often labeled discreetly.  Once you start looking for MSG by all of its sneaky little names, you see that it’s in chips like Lays and Doritos, Campbell’s soups, Ramen noodles, salad dressings, frozen meals and tons of other processed foods.

MSG is proven to make food more addictive.  Food processors and fast food restaurants have studied this more than anyone, and they purposely engineer their food to keep you coming back for more and eating way more than your body needs!

We can’t afford to sugar coat this one.  MSG is a TOXIC substance, causing headaches, diabetes, adrenal exhaustion, seizures, high blood pressure, excessive weight gain, stroke and many other health problems.  Since its introduction about 30 years ago, the incidence of Type II Diabetes has doubled and obesity in children has skyrocketed.  In fact, scientists inject MSG into lab animals to induce obesity so that pharmaceutical companies can test their drugs on them!

Doritos and Lays chips contain large amounts of MSG. This gives new meaning to the phrase, "Betcha can't eat just one."

Here are the steps you can take to limit the MSG in your diet:

  • Limit processed foods.  It’s so hard to know what’s really in them.  Prepare fresh meals at home and you’ll always know exactly what you’re putting in your body!  If it swam in the ocean, walked on the ground or grew from the earth (i.e. fish, chicken, beef fruits, veggies, etc.), it probably doesn’t contain MSG or other additives!
  • Carefully read product labels at the market and avoid the products with MSG in their ingredients.  Here is a sample of some of the other names for it: MONOPOTASSIUM GLUTAMATE, GELATIN, SPICE, GLUTAMIC ACID, VEGETABLE PROTEIN EXTRACT, HYDROLYZED PROTEIN, AUTOLYZED YEAST OR PROTEIN, SODIUM CASEINATE, CALCIUM CASEINATE.  Some processed foods contain several of these ingredients, meaning they contain large amounts of MSG and are even more harmful!  Don’t be fooled by misleading labeling that says “No added MSG” or “MSG Free”…the food might still contain other forms of glutamic acid that is just as harmful.

When buying marinades, dressings, frozen pizzas, and other packaged goods, stick to places like Whole Foods or the natural section of the grocery store...and STILL read the labels carefully!

  • At restaurants, ask if they serve dishes containing MSG (Hint: Places like TGI Fridays and Chili’s use it!).  At Chinese establishments, request that your food be prepared without it.  The saltiest dishes are usually the ones with the most MSG, so go for simple veggie/meat entrees and use tamari instead of the salty sauces that come with them.  Better yet, make an Asian recipe at home and you’ll know it’s MSG free!
  • Avoid fast food restaurants.  Most of them use MSG in their fries, sandwiches and drinks to enhance the flavor and keep you coming back for more.  As if we needed one more reason to stay away from fast food!

Here are a few more resources on MSG, its many names and the foods that contain it:

MSG Truth

The Problem with MSG

MSG Exposed

Truth in Labeling

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news today, but the more informed we are about our food supply, the better choices we can make!  Take steps to rid your diet of MSG and reap the benefits for years to come.

If you know of any companies, restaurants or markets that have made a commitment to be MSG free, please share them with us here so we can support these businesses!

Have a great weekend!


Filed under Rants and Cravings

4 responses to “The MSG Catastrophe

  1. Katie

    Thanks for this one! I love salt too much and needed to see this.

  2. Morgan

    Joanna, I am loving your blog! How is it not false advertising and in some way illegal to put “spice” (which to me conjures up warm fuzzy images of cinnamon, ginger etc) in lieu of glutamic acid?! Totally baffled by the lies in our food and food labeling industry. Thanks for putting the cautious word out.

    • I know! Basically food companies and fast food restaurants will do anything to get around the food labeling laws that are put into place so that they can continue feeding us additives that keep us coming back for more. It’s easy to get discouraged, but all we can do is make ourselves aware and speak our mind with the products we purchase. If enough people go for MSG-free products, hopefully more and more companies will respond by getting it out of their stuff. Thanks for reading the blog my dear!

  3. emily b.

    blast! my all time favorite greek seasoning has MSG in it! i just discovered this last night after inspiration from your post to start checking. it really is everywhere. however, i will not be defeated! i plan to concock my own MSG-free greek seasoning!

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