TOTW Tuesday: Check Your Spice Rack for Bad Ingredients

by Ashley on July 16, 2013

Hi friends! How are ya today? All is well over here. As I mentioned yesterday, we went to visit my grandfather in the hospital and he still seems a little confused but hopefully on the rise. All fingers crossed he is going to be discharged today. Thank you for your prayers.

Following our visit, we hit the gym for a great evening workout (normally, I strongly dislike working out at night because of the crowds and lack of motivation on my part) and then enjoyed a delicious dinner with my parents al fresco.

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My mom made a fresh marinara sauce with tomatoes from the garden served over rice pasta fusilli with fresh green beans and salmon.

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It was delicious!

Following dinner, my mom and I went to a friends garden who is out of town to check on everything and we found this beauty…

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This zucchini is seriously over a foot long. I’ve never seen anything like it – this picture does not do it justice. I’m going to use it to make zucchini pizza rounds this week!

On to today’s Tip of the Week Tuesday! As noted in the title of this post, I want to you check your spice rack and seasonings that you use to flavor your foods for bad, even harmful ingredients.

Last week when we were at the beach, Dustin’s mom started seasoning some fresh fish with a seasoning that she said they’ve used for years. She looked at me and said, “What is monosodium glutamate?”

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My reaction might have been a little extreme as I quickly responded, “Oh no, that’s one of the worst ones. It’s can cause blindness,” but I also consider blindness extreme, so I won’t beat myself up too much. My mother-in-law immediately threw it away, thankfully, so today I want to encourage you to do the same.

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So, like she asked, what is monosodium glutamate (MSG)?

MSG is a flavor enhancer used often in Chinese food and processed foods like canned soups, ramen noodles, chips, crackers, frozen meals, salad dressings, processed meats and other seasonings (soy sauce, bouillon/bouillon cubes, broths). MSG tricks our taste buds into thinking the food we are eating is more savory, meaty and tastes better (our fifth basic taste, umami). It is a salt of glutamic acid (an amino acid) now made in a lab through fermentation, but it also occurs naturally in foods like tomatoes and cheese.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still classifies MSG as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS), however, according to their website, they have “received reports of symptoms such as headache and nausea after eating foods containing MSG,” therefore, this classification is very controversial. Other self reported reactions to MSG have included (known as the MSG symptom complex or Chinese Restaurant Syndrome):

  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Facial pressure or tightness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

The science is vey mixed. While some researchers, like those from the FDA and, obviously recognize MSG as safe, other scientists report serious issues with the additive. Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD reports that MSG is an excitotoxin, meaning it overly excites our cells to the point of cell death.

Despite the controversy, one thing is sure: researchers have acknowledged that some people may be sensitive to MSG. It is hard to determine the difference between not feeling your best and symptoms caused by MSG, therefore, if you’re anything like me, I at least attempt to decrease my intake of this additive when I can.

But unfortunately we can’t just look for “monosodium glutamate” or “MSG” to be written on our labels. All of the following ingredients contain MSG too, therefore, if any of these are listed they should be tossed (or limited, your choice 😉 ) too:

  • Autolyzed Yeast
  • Calcium Caseinate
  • Gelatin
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Hydrolyzed Protein
  • Monopotassium Glutamate
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Textured Protein
  • Yeast Extract
  • Yeast Food
  • Yeast Nutrient

So you haven’t read anything here about blindness, like I mentioned to my mother-in-law, so why did I say this? While in university in a Nutritional Biochemistry class, my professor (note: a chemist, not a nutrition professor, meaning she wasn’t trying to convince us to eat one way or the other) told us a story that hasn’t left my mind since that day. She told us that her father (or someone she knew, I can’t remember exactly) was able to link his later-in-life blindness to his MSG consumption. I have emailed her to get more on the story (how they know the two were linked, etc.), so I will update you if/when I hear back from her. While the science might not back every single report, to me, a scare like that is far too serious to ignore.

What can you use instead of your favorite seasonings if they do happen to contain a few garbage ingredients? What I do is closely look at the ingredient list of the seasoning you normally use and then make my own based on that list.

For example, from the Zatarain’s ingredient list above.

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I would make my own dry seasoning by combining salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, white pepper, chili powder, onion and garlic. While it might not taste exactly the same, it will still be flavorful, delicious and free of any additives or chemicals.

I’m not trying to scare you away from any of your favorite foods, I just want to spread the knowledge and encourage you to make your own educational decisions. Take your health in your hands and live the life you were designed to live!

Were off to the gym, to pack and then are hitting the road again for the a week long road trip! Have a great Tuesday!

Good health!

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