Recently, I was at an all-day event where lunch was provided. The lunch was either salad for the vegetarians, or pizza. All of it came from a well-known pizza chain. Since MSG (monosodium glutamate) gives me migraines, I had to make some choices. I knew the salad would only work without dressing because most (all?) commercial salad dressings contain MSG. I looked up the pizza place online and found that they actually had information on MSG (not everyone does). Some of their pizzas had it, others did not. So I was able to eat lunch.
A friend at the event saw me looking up the information and said that she thought that the food industry had pretty much done away with MSG. This could not be further from the truth.
The food industry, contrary to what you might want to believe, is only in it for the money. That’s their bottom line. And they like MSG because:
- MSG enhances flavors so that they can add less of the more expensive herbs and spices.
- MSG makes you feel as though you’re eating more protein than you actually are
- MSG makes not-so-tasty foods taste better
Most people associate MSG with Chinese food. Unfortunately, MSG is ubiquitous. And it may be found in more traditional American foods than in Chinese food. Often, MSG is added at the end in Chinese restaurants, yet is mixed directly into much American restaurant food and processed foods.
A general rule is that it is found in most commercially prepared soups, salad dressings and sauces. But, you’ll also find it in many flavored foods. For example: regular potato chips usually don’t contain MSG but barbecue flavored chips from the same company often contain MSG to enhance the flavor. Read your labels carefully. It’s in nearly every commercial soup, salad dressing, sauce, but can also be found in many other items.
MSG is also extremely common in American restaurants, especially the chain restaurants. It can be difficult to know if MSG is in restaurant food because the employees at the restaurant may not know if foods have MSG in them, all they know for sure is that they didn’t add any.
If given the choice, I will not eat at most chain restaurants. Depending on the restaurant, I may eat their house salad dressing because if they make it themselves, it’s likely to not have MSG in it. MSG is one of the reasons that I avoid most processed foods.
Following are some other reported sources of MSG. I think, in all cases, these are only possible sources of MSG: hydrolyzed protein, sodium caseinate or calcium caseinate, autolyzed yeast or yeast extract, gelatin, textured protein, carrageenan, vegetable gum seasonings, spices, flavorings, natural flavorings, flavorings of chicken, beef or pork, smoke flavorings, bouillon, broth or stock, barley malt, malt extract, malt flavoring, whey protein, whey protein isolate, soy protein isolate or concentrate, soy sauce or extract.
Reactions to MSG are varied. For me, I will have an instant migraine and be out of commission for the remainder of the day. So, for me, it is imperative to avoid it.
Do you have a reaction to MSG? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.