Though more restaurants are showing the NO MSG sign here in Asia, Asians just love to add it by the spoon to nearly all their dishes. Not so long ago I asked my Cambodian friends to watch our house and when we came home there was a big bag of pure MSG crystals standing on the kitchen counter. All other spices were untouched.
Without even giving it a second thought, the bag ended up in the bin. Why you may ask. Is it that bad? MSG has been the subject of many debates. Is MSG harmful or not? Some studies say it is, some say it isn’t. Allow me to say a thing or two about this highly processed flavoring and why we only dine at restaurants that do not use MSG in their cooking!
What is MSG?
MSG is the acronym for monosodium glutamate, a food additive often used in Asian cooking that enhances its flavor and gives that ‘umami’ taste. But MSG is not only used in Asia. You can find it in most packaged foods like chips and in fast food restaurants to add extra flavor
MSG was invented back in 1908 by extracting the glutamic acid from the seaweed used as an ingredient in the Japanese broth called kombu dashi. Glutamates may be considered natural since it can be found in everything from milk to meat to wheat and corn, but MSG is purely man-made and is strictly considered a food additive.
MSG is available in a white crystalline form that easily dissolves in water. It’s being sold in sacks to Asian restaurants and to food manufacturers. You may not know it but that burger you’re eating right now might have MSG in it.
Is MSG Harmful?
You might have heard of people who claim they experience a few or more of the following symptoms after eating food with MSG in it:
- chronic headaches
- Skin rash
- Excessive sweating or flushing
- Intense thirst
- Ringing Ears
- Sleepiness or lethargy
- Tingling in the mouth
Now you may think this is being unfair to MSG because other ingredients could have caused these symptoms as well. Or these people might have just experienced allergic reactions to the food they eat. The only way to prove that MSG is harmful then is to do a double-blind study, right?
A double-blind study is done by not informing neither the test administrator nor the subject who would be getting the substance being tested.
These blind studies have shown that some of the symptoms we’ve listed were experienced by people who have been known to be sensitive to MSG. Now would you consider yourself lucky if you’re not one of these people and go pig out on those MSG-laden goodies? Hold on to your horses just yet.
The effects of MSG have been found to be cumulative. If you’re not feeling the symptoms now, you might later. That’s because of sensitivity to MSG kind of builds up inside our bodies. This happens when you cross that sensitivity threshold and start feeling those symptoms.
MSG has been shown to overstimulate the nervous system which causes an inflammatory response. With repeated exposure, the body produces more of these MSG sensitive nerve cells and we get more of the symptoms. More and more research is coming to the conclusion most of our modern diseases – such as auto-immune diseases and cancer – are caused by chronic inflammation. Still so sure about adding MSG to your meals?
Wrapping It Up
With all that’s been said, you should now be convinced to stay away from MSG. It’s not natural and it’s been proven to cause a myriad of unwanted symptoms that get worse over time. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have to give up that ‘umami’ taste. There are natural and safe ingredients out there that does the same thing as MSG and they won’t hurt your system.
Thanks for reading. Until next time!
Crazy cat lady, life and food lover, certified biologist, and holistic health coach.