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/

 

 

Protect your Skin from the Summer Sun

sun

Are you glowing with that summer tan?

Unfortunately there is a pervasive belief in our society that a tan connotes health, affluence and beauty.  You’ll hear that a tan offers protection against sunburn.  The truth is that a tan offers very little protection against sunburn and we’re starting to learn some startling new truths from recent research, namely that UV harms skin cells’ DNA.  This destruction triggers melanogenesis which is a scientific word for production of pigment cells where melanoma (skin cancer) forms.  Some of the time the body’s immune system tracks down these mutations and repairs them; when it doesn’t, skin cancer takes hold.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a tan is never a good thing from a health perspective.  The only safe tan is a non-UV self-tanner, which may carry its own risks.

Protect yourself!

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones:

  • Wear long sleeves/pants when possible.
  • Use a swim shirt to block UV rays in the pool.
  • Take advantage of a wide brimmed hat.
  • Aim for 20 minutes of sun exposure, avoiding the strong midday sun, for production of Vitamin D before heading for shade or covering up!
  • Use broad spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen. If you’re concerned about chemicals, make your own sunscreen.
  • Apply to face, ears, neck, hands, legs, any exposed skin, 15 minutes before heading into the sun.
  • Reapply after swimming or sweating as even water resistant sunscreens are diluted.
  • Reapply every two hours.

Resources:

http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/tanning/is-a-tan-ever-a-good-thing

National Institutes of Health / U. S. National Library of Medicine

https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_166902.html

 

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.

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara Sauce

PC: FromTheBartoliniKitchens.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash

 

  • 2 Cups Marinara Sauce

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

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 marinara sauce , salt and pepper.  Serve hot.