First, before I tell you the alternatives, let me explain briefly what MSG is. Monosodium glutamate is a non-essential amino acid. It occurs naturally in food in different quantities. The natural MSG is the reward amino-acid, so to say. Without it eating would be a very burdensome activity. Since most food producer's biggest priority is to sell you more, they use the synthetic form of MSG in order to achieve that. They are also worried of being left behind in the rat race, because everyone else does it.
Natural MSG and its synthetic form are two totally different animals. If the natural MSG is a reward for eating, the synthetic one is a dangerous chemical that messes with your metabolism. How can something without its own taste affect your perception of taste? The answer is by over-stimulating your brain through a chemical stimulation. In other words - giving you the food-highs.
Bag of MSG
Because more and more people are becoming aware of the effects of MSG on their health, food producers are trying to disguise it by using different forms of glutamates. The following ingredients are just some of the food additives that contain high level of free glutamates: monopotassium glutamate, glutamic acid, glutamate, vegetable protein extract, gelatin, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, Accent, hydrolyzed plant protein, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, senomyx, textured protein, yeast extract and autolyzed yeast. My advice is, always read the labels.
Five years ago I thought that Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein added to frozen chicken breast was used to increase the protein value of the chicken. I was so wrong. The only reason HVP was in the chicken breast was for its free glutamates.
I have heard some people saying that msg just have a bad rap, and is otherwise harmless and a legitimate flavor enhancer. Why then do I get a headache after trying something that contains msg? How can a legitimate flavor enhancer give you a headache? There are a lot of natural foods with lots of free glutamates, but I don't get any adverse effects after eating them. One such food is the demi-glace sauce, which gets its glutamates from the bones. I think that is probably because the demi-glace has a natural balance of nutrients. That is what is wrong with the added msg, it distroys the balance of the food nutrients. You don't have to get a headache to know that it is not good for you.
The biggest MSG offenders are the fast food companies. How can a hamburger cost $1.39 and still taste like food without monosodium glutamate? If you are consuming fast food or processed food, you are likely eating lots of msg. Next time you drive past KFC try to notice what you are feeling. That is the power of addiction. If you want to be their junky, feel free.
Have you seen a package of Dodoritos? On the front they say with big letters "0 Trans Fat". On the back, though, there are five different forms of glutamates listed.
What are the alternatives?
1. Cook your own food anytime you can. Use only fresh seasonal ingredients. Mother nature knows what she is doing. There are a lot of natural flavor enhancers that you can use, and they are cheap too: garlic, onion, green onion, fresh basil, fresh thyme, curry powder, leaks, balsamic vinegar, sweet paprika. I do not recommend the mixed store-bought seasonings, because they often contain a hidden form of glutamates.
2. Slow cooking tend to release more of the natural msg from your food. It also helps to preserve the nutritional value of your food.
3. Some other ingredients that I have used to enhance flavor naturally are: onion powder, sesame oil, fresh ginger juice, rice vinegar (not seasoned vinegar), mustard oil, chili flakes, cumin powder, fresh rosemary, etc. Most of the recipes on this website are cooked with at least one of those ingredients.
4. Do not use creamers for your coffee. Non-dairy creamers contain caseinate, which is a form of msg. Try your "Timmy" without the cream next time. Maybe you won't like it as much.
5. Do not use broth cubes, they often contain some form of added msg. Make your own broth or stock using bones. Beef or chicken bones contain a lot of the natural glutamates.
Cheers and good luck.
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