Many of us have heard that MSG is an unhealthy ingredient in Chinese food. Some of us have also heard that there are other names for MSG, under the guise of which it sneaks into many other foods we eat. But there is some misconception surrounding the ingredient and the harm attributed to it. Let’s clear that up.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the salt form of glutamic acid, a neurotransmitter that causes nerves in the body to fire. Glutamic acid is the real culprit here, not just MSG, and it is found in many other forms. A build-up of this excitatory acid can over-stimulate the central nervous system, damaging and even killing nerve cells.
Some people are especially sensitive to MSG and other glutamic acid-containing ingredients and may experience migraines, chronic pain, and other symptoms upon consuming it. Whether or not you have an established sensitivity, avoiding foods loaded with glutamic acid is a smart move in the direction of healthy eating. Make good choices by learning the mischievous names for MSG and other glutamic acid-containing ingredients.
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Ingredients which Definitely Contain Glutamic Acid
Glutamate (including monosodium, monopotassium, calcium, monoammonium, magnesium and natrium glutamate)
Anything “hydrolyzed” (such as hydrolyzed protein)
Caseinate (calcium or sodium caseinate)
Whey protein (including concentrate or isolate)
Soy protein (including concentrate or isolate)
Anything “protein fortified”
Soy sauce (including extract)
Anything “enzyme modified”
Anything containing “enzymes”
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Ingredients which Sometimes Contain Glutamic Acid
“Flavors” or “flavoring” (including natural flavors)
Citric acid, Citrate
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Foods Commonly Containing Glutamic Acid
Prepackaged and frozen foods
Some cottage cheeses
Reduced fat milk
It should be noted that glutamic acid is not only an excitatory neurotransmitter, but a building block for proteins in the body. It’s found in many healthy, protein-packed foods, such as chicken and eggs. The acid is not pure evil, but the health risks come when we’re getting too much of it from foods that aren’t good for us. Your best bet for avoiding too much glutamic acid is to eat clean, whole foods that you make yourself, avoiding packaged and pre-made foods whenever possible.
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