Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is flavor-enhancing food additive used in many products. It was first patented in 1909 and was marketed as a product (which is still available today) called “Accent”. Some sources estimate that MSG has been added to as much as 80% of all processed and prepared foods.
MSG is an excitotoxin, which means that it overstimulates the cells in the part of your brain that’s responsible for fat metabolism and storage to the point where it damages and destroys them. It adversely affects the hypothalamus gland, which is responsible for central nervous system and endocrine functions (among other things).
MSG Is Not Keto-Friendly
By interfering with these important functions, MSG contributes to obesity because it interferes with the production of a hormone called leptin. I’ll be exploring the role of leptin in more detail in another article in the near future, but for now just know that leptin is responsible for regulating the way the body stores (or doesn’t store) fat. Impaired leptin functioning will stop you from losing fat, knock you out of ketosis and cause you to gain weight. Your body loses its ability to know when it’s full, so you will continue to eat. Believe me when I tell you, this is exactly what the junk food companies want!
A Rose By Any Other Name
Unfortunately, this “rose” does not smell sweet at all. MSG is referred to by quite a few different names, so when reading the label on any food product, watch out for:
autolyzed yeast extract
modified food starch
modified corn starch
hydrolyzed vegetable protein
All of these are MSG.
Unwanted Effects of MSG
Consuming MSG has a long list of unpleasant and even dangerous side effects including heart arrhythmias, chest pain, hives, rashes, fluid retention, weight gain, irritability/mood swings, forgetfulness, disorientation, joint pain, headaches, fatigue, depression, trouble breathing, nausea, fatigue or weakness, tingling and numbness and eye damage. It’s has been shown to trigger or worsen symptoms of asthma, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s and Parkinson’s diseases, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and learning disabilities. If you are deficient in magnesium, as many people are, these effects can be even more pronounced.
Which Foods Have MSG?
Unfortunately MSG is routinely added to many foods. Some of those that are most likely to contain it are fast foods and restaurant foods, frozen dinners, stocks and broths, bouillon cubes, gelatin, soy sauce, salad dressings, chips and other types of bagged or boxed snack foods, meat flavorings, soy protein and anything that’s protein-fortified or ultra-pasteurized.
Healthier (and Delicious) Alternatives
As a general rule, it’s best to avoid any products that have ingredients you can’t pronounce or identify, because they’re most likely something you should not be eating!
There are better ways to make your food taste great without the addition of harmful chemicals like MSG. Adding a little sea salt or pink Himalayan salt, for example, not only adds flavor but also adds electrolytes and trace minerals, something many people are deficient in. Fresh herbs and spices are another great choice. You can grow them yourself, buy them fresh at the supermarket, or buy dried versions.
The Choice Is Yours
Ultimately the food choices you make in your keto lifestyle are what will determine how healthy you will be. Avoiding products that contain MSG is a big step in the right direction. Keto on, friends, and make it an amazing journey!