MSG & Natural Flavorings

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Chemicals designed to enhance flavor are found in nearly every packaged food we eat. From cereal to yogurt to anything in a can or jar, you can find “natural flavor” listed in the ingredients. How comforting! Food processors are putting “natural” ingredients into food! Or are they? Despite the healthy sounding name, you will find “natural flavors”—including “natural lemon flavor,” “natural wood hickory flavor,” and “natural chicken flavor”—may contain little to anything you’d consider natural. They can contain no lemon, wood smoke, or chicken. They may actually be completely unnatural; something devised in glass test tubes under hazardous materials precautions. So called natural flavors caught the attention of the CBS investigative news show 60 Minutes. Reporter Maury Safer was able to obtain a unique insiders tour of Givaudan. Based in Switzerland, Givaudan manufactures sense tantalizing flavorings and fragrances; chemicals we find in everything from the food we eat to the detergent we use to clean up after a meal. Among the many places you can find their “natural chicken flavor” are bouillon cubes, BBQ sauce, and salad dressings. “Natural flavors” are tastants” designed to stimulate your brain to crave more. Food shouldn’t leave you feeling anxious., It should satisfy pleasure centers of your brain without taking them to the point of overload. Further, whether and at what levels natural flavors are toxic if ingested, inhaled, or get on your skin are “not determined.” Most concerning are the potential health implications for millions of people exposed at both high and low levels. Natural flavorings may contain MSG derivatives that are excitotoxins, chemicals that can destroy nerve cells. When the nervous system is disrupted, our homeostatic functions—the body’s ability to maintain constant internal conditions—cannot be carried out: think hot flashes you may have felt after a dish laden with MSG. Disruption of our homeostasis affects our ability to feel well, know when we have satisfied our hunger, and maintain our weight. Take a look at the foods you buy the next trip to the grocery store. Count up the items that have “natural flavorings” listed on the label. Decide: do you want a so-called natural flavor—possibly created with genetic engineering, gas chromatography, and other methods of organic chemistry—added to everything you eat? Nature never intended things this way and nor should you. Just say NO to MSG! So where does that leave Holly, who’s recent obsessions include Ramen and Pho? The challenge was to come up her own recipes void of MSG yet full of umami flavor. I think she may have nailed them both! Check out her Ramen and Pho recipes here: Ramen bowl Pho

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