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Friday, February 1, 2013

MSG (and all its woes)

Monosodium glutamate or 'MSG' (labeled as 'Flavour 621' on packaged food) is a common food additive, mostly found in savoury snacks, sauces, seasonings and fast foods. MSG enhances salty flavours and it's favoured among junk food brands because of it's lack of after-taste and wide availability.

If you're unaware of MSG, it's almost guaranteed that you have foods in your pantry with large amounts of the additive. Soups, soup mix, gravy, packaged seasoning, flavoured snacks (such as flavoured rice crackers), instant noodles, preserved meat (such as bacon bits), sweeteners (such as nutrisweet), some brown sugars, tomato sauce, mustard, salad dressings, potato chips and corn chips are all wildly popular and more than likely contain large amounts of MSG. McDonalds and KFC thrive on the use of MSG in their salty foods.

 It kind of looks like rice when dry. It dissolves in water.

Different people have different reactions to MSG, some people may not notice anything different about their body or, if you're like me, you start feeling ill straight away. The most common reactions to consuming MSG are headaches, nausia, flushing, sweating, heart palpitations, nervousness, weakened eye sight, lethargy and chest pain. There are also links to suggest that MSG can damage your metabolic rate, causing you to gain weight and experience uncontrollable lethargy.

But here are the symptoms you're more likely to notice

MSG stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. Your body produces insulin to break down carbohydrates however MSG produces more insulin than is needed for the carbohydrates you're consuming. Why is this bad? Excess insulin makes your blood sugar drop drastically which then makes you hungry. Very hungry.

Have you ever sworn to yourself that you were only going to eat a small bowl of those nacho cheese Doritos you hide in the back of the pantry only to go back for another bowl, then another bowl, then throwing the bowl in the sink and eating the rest straight from the bag? It's because they contain MSG which produces excess insulin which makes you feel hungry.

The same can be said after eating a bowl of MSG laced soup or Chinese take away. You're still hungry when you've finished it, even if you've already eaten too much.

This is obviously a terrible thing for maintaining a healthy diet but it's even worse if you're trying to lose weight.

What can cutting MSG out of my diet do for me?

It depends on how intolerant you are to MSG. You'll be more able to control your hunger and choose how much food you consume straight away. Your energy and metabolic levels will rise and you'll instantly notice these positive effects.

If you have more of an intolerance, which a lot of people do without even realizing you'll notice more drastic improvements in your general health. I no longer suffer from headaches after eating and I don't feel excessively lethargic during the day. My eye sight has improved dramatically (which is linked to lethargy), so much that I no longer wear reading glasses.

How can I avoid MSG if it's everywhere?

Check your packets. MSG is listed in the ingredients list as 'Flavour 621', all you have to do is look for that number on your label and put it back on the shelf when you find it.

Soups, sauces and dressings often contain MSG, but not all of them. You can easily find alternatives in your supermarket. Look out for anything marked 'Low Sodium' or products boasting about 'More Flavour', these products are usually drowning in MSG.

Anything that is artificially flavoured with 'meat' (such as potato chips) will most likely contain MSG. Fast foods most likely contain MSG (McDonalds and KFC are the main culprits), but we don't like to eat that food anyway so it's no biggie!

Here's the challenge:

Go MSG Free for a week and report back with any improvements you've seen in your body and health. Did you discover that you had an intolerance? Did your appetite reduce? Or did you see no changes at all? Let me know in the comments below!

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