Saturday, July 28, 2007

Answers From Food Post and MSG

Thanks to all of you who commented or emailed me with encouragement and questions on my food post. I am not a nutritionist or food expert but I have done a lot of reading and my Grandma Hopkins taught me a lot. I am just now starting to apply those things and it really helps to have the encouragement along the way as I pursue total health for myself and for my family.

We live in a time where the variety of food choices are virtually unlimited. But never before has there ever been so little actual food in our food. Big corporations are making money by perfecting chemicals which can take the place of real food at a lesser cost or preserve food unnaturally. All these cost saving, time saving chemicals, preservatives and products take a costly toll on our health. Personally I think that we have become like that age old description of the frog boiling in water. It happens so gradually, it doesn't realize what happened to it. If you look back to your childhood and what you ate and compare it to what is on the supermarket shelves now, I think you will agree.

So, how do you know what is right? You can't always know. There is so much information out there...some is good and some is "hogwash." A lot of it is conflicting. You have to sift through it and discern. I pray that God will help me discern with wisdom. And it's always good advice to use "common sense".

Interestingly, my husband just walked in the room a minute ago with a supporting statement. Now, you need to know that he grew up on Marshmallow creme sandwiches, sugar cereals, processed meats, TV dinners, fast food burgers etc. His vegetables were ketchup, potatoes and occasionally corn! LOL We have been married 8.5 years and that has gradually changed. So, what did he say? He told me that now that I have been making fresh and homemade foods for him, whenever we eat something that is packaged or eat at a restaurant he can taste all the chemicals! It's true! I notice it as well and those foods are not so satisfying. It reminds me of my Grandpa Johnson. He was a heavy smoker for more years than I can remember. He heavily peppered all of his food. Thinking back, I wonder how much pepper Grandma bought through the years. We would all be sneezing when he peppered his dinner plate. After he quit smoking and could actually taste his food again, he would complain that we put too much pepper on it! LOL

My friend Lynette (who is an awesome CE director at our church), asked about the other sneaky names of MSG. So today I wanted to write about that because I think it is really important. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is the salt of the amino acid Glutamate. It occurs naturally which compounds the confusion in labeling of foods because it can simply be listed as "natural flavoring". It is important to know that there are many things which are "natural" that are not good for you.

The Japanese first started using MSG developed from a seaweed and discovered that it is a "flavor enhancer". It tricks the taste buds on the tongue. But it is a nasty deceiver that wreaks havoc. It makes you feel hungry. It does this by alarming the pancreas, causing it to produce more insulin. The body does this and ends up with more insulin than it needs for the food you just ate. So, you feel your blood sugar dropping and you need to eat more. Anyone who has ever experienced this with eating Chinese food, knows what I mean. It is infamous for this effect. Today it is easier to get Chinese food without *added MSG*, but it is virtually impossible to find it without any.

Okay, so you might be thinking that it is a harmless side effect that makes you eat too much, however one of the worst problems with MSG is that it is an excitotoxin. An excitotoxin is a substance that hyper stimulates nerve cells, which in the end causes damage. I watched an interview on The 700 Club awhile back with the author of Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. I have not read the book, but I want to try and get it at my library. He said some things that really "clicked" for me with my own experiences both in pediatrics and in my own health. I am highly sensitive to food preservatives, especially sulfides, sulfates and nitrates, most likely secondary to my Sulfa allergy. And MSG wreaks havoc with my migraines. Excitotoxins like MSG overstimulate nerve endings, even damaging them. The effect is more dangerous on children whose brains are still developing. MSG is believed to be or suspected to be the blame for the following: Allergies, seizures, headaches, Vitamin B deficiencies, nerve damage, compromised liver, endocrine disorders, obesity possibly ADHD and Autism. Of course it is not the only cause of allergies, seizures, headaches etc, but it does not help them. Sometimes it takes a particular group of circumstances to cause an illness or condition to develop and sometimes the body can only take so much and then there is the straw that broke the camels back.

Personally, I believe that MSG is somewhere in between harmless and "the greatest evil there ever was"! I do believe that if you can, you should eliminate it from your diet. Truth In Labeling has a page that lists some of the names that MSG may use on your label. This Squidoo page on MSG has some great information too. I also have found suggestions at Tammy's Recipes for alternatives to high MSG foods like taco seasoning and Cream of Chicken soup.

Whether or not you agree on the MSG issue, I think common sense boils it down to: eating food closest to its original format is the best!

I must say a disclaimer...I am not a doctor and no longer working as a health care professional. I am not trying to dispense medical advice. I am just sharing what is working for my family. In future posts I hope to share with you simpler and easier ways we have found to make good home-made foods for our family. All the TV commercials would have you think that you just cannot do it because it is too exhausting. Well, who said the right way is always the easiest? But it doesn't have to be the hardest either. There are so many technological advances in kitchen wares these days. I think it is just being a "smart cookie" as Grandma H. would say, to take advantage of the ones that help you do what is best for your family. If you have resources you find helpful, I would love to hear about them too!

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