Monday, January 6, 2014

Dissecting Labels -- First up MSG

So I usually get an eye roll or silence when I talk about the bad stuff in processed food. Honestly, I know what they are thinking, I used to think it myself. I try not to stand on a soapbox but once this stuff starts registering it's hard to stop it. I thought it might be a fun project to dissect the labels and break it down as to why this stuff makes me cringe.
Here is my disclaimer, I am not a nutritionist nor a medical doctor in any capacity. I am a mom, trying to make sense of these labels, and find choices that will work for my family. 

I'll start where I began, MSG. Dunt, dunt, dun!!! About a year after the twins were born, my husband and I finally felt we could leave them for a weekend with their beloved grandparents. We booked a trip to an all inclusive health and spa resort. Not the beach but something we had been wanting to do, and not too far from our bambino's either. Here we ate well, took 5-7 different workout classes from intervals, to yoga, to cardio classes. You eat in their dinning room. They have cooking classes and recipes for you to take home to integrate into your life. Spa treatments also were a huge bonus. Nothing like an intense weekend of clean eating, exercise, and pampering to jump start a new lifestyle plan. What I loved most were the nutrition workshops and lectures you could also sit in on. The one that started this new path of mine was set in a faux grocery store; equipped with bad, ok, good, and great products. We were to walk around and shop. What items would you choose? Why? The nutritionist then dissected each category and the why's of the good, bad, and ugly. I was shocked to find out that many companies who promote "No MSG" on their labels were really just calling it another name. This pretty much blew my mind.

If you are not sure what MSG is or the affects of Mono-sodium Glutamate are, look here. You may be saying I don't have those reactions so why do I care? And maybe you don't. But how do you know for sure?I can say for certain that I have never noticed a reaction to it and said "oh geez, I just ate MSG and now I have a headache." However, from someone who has suffered from headaches with no known cause most of my life, is it possible that they are partly caused by MSG? Maybe. So if its even a possibility that it is affecting you doesn't that stand the course to eliminate it from your diet? Maybe you agree, maybe you don't. But for me and my family I tend to err on the side of caution.  What I find interesting, while there have been no proven link to the affects of MSG, (if there were the FDA would be forced to spill the beans) in many diseases, ranging from ADD and autism to cancer patients, there are increased levels of glutamate in the brain. And for a whole list of diseases that are enhanced by this "generally recognized as safe" chemical check out this website.

But if it's so safe then why do companies consistently come up with new "names" for it so that they can purposely list on the label, Look Here!!! NO MSG!!!  Why be so sneaky? The big one I find on most processed food labels is yeast extract, but there are nearly 40 more ingredients that contain MSG that don't have to be labelled as such! This is where my frustration and need to start learning more came from. Here is a LIST of ingredients to watch out for. When I first became aware of this, I would take a print out of this list with me to the store. It's amazing how many items got moved to the DO NOT EAT list. Basically any boxed meal, bouillon cubes, seasoning packets, soy sauce... Eventually I found a few that were free of these things but overall I came to find that cooking with whole foods while harder at times, allowed me to avoid this chemical. I started making my own ketchup, seasoning blends, sauces. It's not hard, google it people. I am not a chef and am still learning ALOT on how to even cook, but I can google a taco seasoning, or homemade ketchup recipe. Then I tweek it a bit... Want it sweeter? Add honey. Want it spicier? Add chili pepper... It seems hard but it really is easier than you think. 

Here is a short list of things to avoid to get you started...
  • Yeast Extract = MSG
  • Low Fat or No Fat milk products (most have carageenan or guar gum = MSG!)
  • "Hydrolyzed" anything = MSG
  • It is even in shampoos, sun screens, and cosmetics... Hydrolyzed anything, amino acids, and protein listed in the ingredients = MSG
  • Aspartame, or it's new clever name AminoSweet = MSG
  • Chicken Pox Vaccine and really any LIVE virus vaccines are suspect to me
  • By food industry definition, all MSG is "naturally occurring." "Natural" doesn't mean "safe."  "Natural" only means that the ingredient started out in nature, like arsenic and hydrochloric acid. (Source taken from here)
If I've peaked your interest on this subject, please let me know! Do you agree, find it silly? Above all, I welcome open discussion on this and any topic and am always looking to learn more.