What Vegans Should Know Part 1 – MSG
This is the first in a series of planned articles concerning what vegans and vegetarians should know.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) has gotten much publicity for several years. One would think that a reasonably intelligent adult would be very familiar with MSG today. Unfortunately, many misconceptions persist. My guess is that if you ask ten people at random why MSG is used in food, eight of the ten would say “it’s a preservative”. Well, the correct answer is “no”, it is not a preservative.
Before continuing, this article presents facts that are available to anyone willing to do some research on the internet. It also presents some of the authors opinions which you can take or leave. The author is not intent on convincing you that MSG or the food industry is good or bad. The goal of this article is to induce you to think about what is in your food, to do some investigation and to decide for yourself. Even vegans and vegetarians who, in general, are more conscience of what they eat, are frequently unaware of MSG in their food (check the label on that can of organic beans).
So, what is wrong with MSG? It can cause migraine headaches, upset stomach, fuzzy thinking, diarrhea, heart irregularities, asthma, mood swings and has been linked to obesity. Don’t believe it? Go to the website (U S Library of Medicine) and type MSG in the search box. You will get 620 articles on MSG toxicity.
If we assume at this point that MSG is something you do not want to be eating, the question arises, if it is bad, why does the food industry put it food? As mentioned earlier it is not a preservative. MSG is a flavor enhancer. It has the ability to make even tainted food taste good to us. Additionally, it has an addictive effect on the human body. Quite simply, it makes us want to eat more. Is it any wonder the food industry puts it in virtually everything?
So, how do you know if MSG is in your food? First, if you eat fast food, it is in the hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, chicken and practically everything else served at every major fast food restaurant in America. Nearly everything you eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken is loaded with MSG. So about the only way to avoid it at fast food outlets is not to eat fast food or stick with salad. No wait…there is MSG in the salad dressing.
However, at your grocery store, you can do something about it. Simply read the ingredient label on everything you buy. But, be aware that the food industry does not make it easy for you. MSG is disguised under about forty different names. You will seldom see the words monosodium glutamate. Instead look for:
Anything with the word “hydrolyzed” (like hydrolyzed flour)Anything with the word “…protein” (like textured protein)Anything with the word “glutamate” or “glutamic” (like Glutamic acid) Yeast extract, Yeast food, Yeast nutrient, Autolyzed yeastVetsinAjinomotoCalcium caseinate, Sodium caseinateGelatin
Yes, it takes a little effort, but after a time you will recognize the brands to avoid without reading the labels. Just be aware that MSG may be in any canned, bottled, packaged and processed food in the store. Fresh fruit and vegetables, of course, have no MSG. And many foods labeled “health foods” are careful not to use MSG.
Starting today, check those labels, make fast food a rare occasional treat and provide your family a healthier MSG-free choice.