Mysterious Secret InGredient: What is MSG?

MSG

Mysterious Secret InGredient: What is MSG?

We have a few notions about MSG. It’s salty. It makes an appearance in Asian cuisine. And it may not be good for us. But what exactly is it? Can we really experience side effects from eating it? And overall, could it actually cause harm so that we can never eat instant ramen and Chinese cuisine again?? HELP!

What exactly is MSG?

To explain it in a way that is not terrifyingly scientific, MSG or monosodium glutamate is a compound of glutamic acid (a non-essential amino acid) and a sodium molecule.

You can find glutamic acid naturally in foods like tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. MSG on the other hand, was manufactured by a University of Tokyo chemistry professor Kikunae Ikeda in 1908. The discovery of MSG, added to the four basic tastes of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter with a new taste called umami. Umami is used to describe a meaty and savory taste like in a juicy cheeseburger hence the popular burger chain called UMAMI Burger.

What about Side Effects? How did MSG gain a bad reputation?

Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, or MSG symptom complex is a group of conditions some people report after having a meal that includes MSG. Symptoms reported included nausea, headaches, and numbness.

However, these symptoms were not reported until 1968 after a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine became popular. Ironically, a Chinese-American man, Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok in the letter theorized that MSG was the culprit for his symptoms of numbness, general weakness, and palpitation after eating at Chinese restaurants. What adds to this interesting history is that MSG was actually quite popular prior to letter and not just in Chinese cuisine as it was heavily used in World War II to add flavor to bland soldiers’ rations.

Since 1968, studies have been done to confirm the safety of MSG as a food additive.

Harmful for my health?

The FDA has determined that MSG is generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

Double blind studies have shown little correlation between MSG and negative symptoms. The amount of MSG you eat in foods is also typically a very small amount so it’s not likely to cause any problems. But pun intended, take this information with a grain of salt. Because those that are against MSG claim that MSG producers fund these studies (and skew results…), while those that are for MSG claim those that are anti-MSG are just instilling fear in the public.

TLDR

Studies indicate that MSG is generally safe for most people. There may be an occasional person who is sensitive to it. If that is the case, read labels and avoid foods with added MSG. In addition, the FDA’s designation for MSG doesn’t mean that other aspects of the ingredient, like the sodium level are not of concern. So even though MSG is safe, it does not necessarily mean no consequences can come from eating a spoonful of it everyday. But feel free to enjoy your instant ramen with MSG flavoring as a treat once in awhile!

Resources:

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151106-is-msg-as-bad-as-its-made-out-to-be

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/its-the-umami-stupid-why-the-truth-about-msg-is-so-easy-to-swallow-180947626/

 

 

Undercover Veggies

veggies

Undercover Veggies

Vegetables are not everyone’s favorite thing to eat, but the vitamins, minerals and fiber in vegetables and fruits are essential for health. According the USDA, individuals between the ages of 19-30 years old are recommended 2.5-3 cups of vegetables per day… that is not even counting fruit.  It can be difficult to eat that much in just one day! Check out some tips below; eating the recommended amount can become easier, and tastier too, with a little practice.

  1. Include vegetables in your pasta sauce

Be sure to take advantage of fresh and frozen veggies when making your pasta sauce.  You’re looking for 50% of the food on your plate being veggies!!  Add some mushrooms, zucchini, and broccoli into your tomato sauce before mixing in your pasta. For a rich vegetable flavor, use an immersion blender to partially puree the vegetable pieces in the sauce.  Try blending some cauliflower into the cheese sauce of your mac and cheese; you’ll be packing on the vitamins and minerals while giving the sauce a bright flavor.

  1. Kale and spinach blended into your smoothies

This one isn’t groundbreaking; if the flavor of greens isn’t your favorite, try mixing kale or spinach (or both) with tropical fruits such as pineapple, mango and citrus fruits. The powerful flavors of tropical fruits hide the flavors of these leafy greens. It’s a great way to add vitamin K and a serving of vegetables to your smoothies without a trace!

  1. Add zucchini to your baking

This one’s a little bit of a cheat, but adding the zucchini makes it healthy, right? This is for my sweet tooth friends, adding zucchini actually adds moisture to baked products and provides potassium and vitamin C.   So bring on the carrot cake and zucchini muffins when you feel like baking.

  1. Roast up several pounds of veggies once a week

Now you‘ve got ready to eat, cooked veggies at your command.  For the seasons, try:

  • Summer: zucchini and yellow squash, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, green beans
  • Winter: Acorn, butternut or delicata squash, carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, onions and cabbage
  • Spring: Asparagus and cabbage along with your root veggies cellared from winter.

Add these to casseroles, salads, and eat with meat meals as you go through the week.

Here is a great resource for roasting veggies.

References

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables

 

Things to do today to improve your tomorrow

WalkingJoggingHeaderImage

When a person has no aches and pains and no major health concerns, it’s easy to forget that such luxury is not forever. For most of us, there will come a day when our bones are not as strong, our muscles not as flexible, and our joints not as pain free. However, taking care of yourself early can really improve how you feel in the future. Staying healthy later in life starts early, and there are many small habits and routines you can develop to keep your body running it’s best as you age. In addition to eating your fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, here are some easy things you can do now, for a better tomorrow.

 

Weight Bearing Exercise

Most exercises are beneficial long and short term, however weight bearing exercises in particular can help in strengthening your bone for the future. Bone fractures are very prominent in older individuals because as a person ages, bones naturally begin to weaken and deteriorate. This process can be slowed down by reaching a higher bone density peak. Exercises involving weight and resistance maintains and builds bone density. In addition, it improves strength and muscle mass for better balance.

 

Find Time to De-stress

Stress is clearly not a positive emotion but it also has negative long term effects. Studies have shown a link between stress and heart disease. This is largely due to the short term effects of stress; stress often causes people to overeat, smoke, and be involved in other health depreciating activities.

 

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Though alcohol has been known to have heart protective properties, more often than not, people misunderstand other implications. Drinking to excess can raise blood pressure, weaken the heart’s ability to circulate blood, and increase cancer and stroke risks. In addition, long term alcohol use can lead to the risk of brain damage and neurobehavioral defects. This is because alcohol affects the sensitive chemical balance in the brain, which also can have negative effects on emotional state.

 

Regular Visits to the Doctor

It may not seem like you need to visit the doctor if you are not experiencing any medical concerns, but problems can sometimes surface without detectable warning. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are virtually undetectable without medical screening. Keep yourself in check by making sure your body is as healthy on the inside as you feel on the outside.

 

Protect Your Skin

As the weather gets warmer, tanning and sunbathing tends to become a go to activity for many people. While sun-kissed skin may be highly desirable, sun exposure is linked with skin cancer, which is one of the most common types of cancers in the United States. Effects of skin cancer are also undetectable until years down the line. Keep your skin protected now and limit your sun exposure, wear sunscreen, and cover up as much as you comfortably can.

 

Remember that preventing one is more effective than trying to fix a health problem. Though everything seems fine right now, as you age you may realize that many health concerns could have been prevented if you had developed good habits earlier in life. Look out for your future and aim to live a long and healthy life.

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9927006

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/LifeAfteraHeartAttack/Lifestyle-Changes-for-Heart-Attack-Prevention_UCM_303934_Article.jsp#.WQvEqhLyu9Y

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-disease-prevention/art-20046502?pg=1

http://alcohol.addictionblog.org/alcohol-long-term-effects/

https://familydoctor.org/what-you-can-do-to-maintain-your-health/

 

 

Sweet and Sour Japanese Eggplant Bruschetta

PC: RachelRayMag.com

Ingredients:

  • 4 Japanese Eggplants

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 1 White Onion

  • 4 Tablespoons Honey

  • ½ Cup Vinegar

  • ½ Cup Tomato Sauce

  • 1 Medium Ball of Fresh Mozzarella

  • 1 French Baguette

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Sauté peeled and thinly sliced Japanese eggplant in olive oil; reserve.

2. In the same skillet cook thinly sliced onions. Deglaze with honey and vinegar. Add tomato sauce and reserved eggplant. Simmer for 10 minutes, let cool.

3. Spoon onto baguette slices and place mozzarella slice on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Butternut Squash (1/2 inch cubes)

  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 1 Cup Quinoa (Uncooked)

  • 2 Cups Water

  • 1 Pomegranate Seeds

  • 2 teaspoons Chopped Fresh Sage

  • ¼-1/2 Cup Crumbled Goat Cheese

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil.

2. Toss the squash with the olive oil and salt and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for about 20 min, or until tender, tossing after 10 min.

3. While squash is roasting, prepare the quinoa according to the package.

4. In a bowl, combine the squash, quinoa, and remaining ingredients. Sprinkle goat cheese on top.

Sweet Spaghetti Squash

PC: ASweetPeaChef.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash

  • 6 Tablespoons of butter

  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

Preparation:

1. Cut squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds then place the halves cut side down in a baking dish filled with enough water to cover the bottom of the dish.

2. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour or until the shell of the squash is flexible and the inside is tender.  Let the squash cool for 10-15 minutes.

3. Using a fork, scrape out the inside of the squash to form strands.

4. Place all of the squash strands into a large bowl and toss with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon.  Serve hot.