However, I will say that my regular, favourite Fresh Juice vendor lady has my order down pat. I just appear in front of her and she reiterates ‘no sugar and a little bit of ice. Right?’ without a word leaving my lips (Otherwise, she’ll pour half a cup of liquid sugar into what should be a healthy freshly blended juice).
Catherine warned me that it isn't so healthy to eat out, long term, OK if you’re here on holidays or here for a short stay. At the time I thought bah humbug! She must be referring to the dangers of food poisoning and the fore mentioned perils.
Then somehow the subject of MSG (Monosodium Glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, or Ve-tsin or E621, a food flavour enhancer ) came up when Stray and I were chatting one night and I vowed to start cooking more
The night before leaving we sat and waited for our meal to be cooked at a road side stall. We go this place regularly because of the wide variety of dishes they cook and well, it all tastes so delicious. I see the chef empty a large-ish spoonful of white powder into our meals and while eating, wonder, why it doesn’t taste too salty or too sweet...that couldn’t have been salt or sugar he just added so liberally, could it?
Other than being naturally present in foods such as: meat, fish, vegetables, grain products, tomato, milk, potato, soy sauce and many kinds of cheese in the free form, glutamate is a NON-essential amino acid and makes up about 2 kg of our body weight. It's also said that it imparts a taste called ‘umami', the scientifically recognised fifth taste of 'savoury', after salty, sour, sweet and bitter.
The types of symptoms experienced in response to large amounts of MSG may vary from individual to individual, but can include headache, numbness/tingling, flushing, muscle tightness, and generalised weakness. These reactions, while unpleasant, tend to be transient and do not produce any long-lasting effects - Food Standards Australia New ZealandThat’s all fine and dandy, but if extra doses can cause these symptoms, that can't be good, can it? And, if you’re eating added MSG every day, couldn’t that cause a perpetually-lasting effect?
I looked up the Thai word, so I would be prepared whenever I’m dining out. (ผงชูรส phohng chuu roht)
In Thai class the other day we were discussing eating on the streets and in cafés, when our teacher (Kruu K) walked in. We asked about phohng chuu roht and she told us that many Thais put it in their cooking and in excessive amounts. One of the reasons she cooks for herself.
In Australia (and I’m sure in other countries) it’s not uncommon to feel sickly after eating at a Chinese Restaurant, which are renowned for using it. Hence the name ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ was coined back in the 60’s, to cover a range of adverse reactions caused by consuming extra MSG. (Back in the 1960's, Chinese would have been just about the only variety of Asian restaurants in many Western countries). I thought it was banned in food outlets back home, but it’s not...it’s just frowned upon and there are food labelling conformities in place. Because certain foods contain it in their natural form, eateries or products in Australia cannot advertise as ‘MSG free’, however they can display ‘no added MSG’ signs and labels.
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generally acknowledges MSG as safe a product as salt, pepper and sugar...and deemed it was safe to eat at 'customary levels'. So what's a customary level?
So, it's already in our raw foods. It's not necessary to add more, is it? Our teacher assured us that it IS, and sometimes in huge quantities. She says “you know the big pots of soup?” and motions pouring "half a kilo" of MSG into the mix. My jaw is dropping by this time.
I know we don’t always get what we need from our diets and become lacking in some nutrients, therefore, need to take supplements. But I’d never heard of anyone diagnosed as being glutamate deficient or of it being used for good, and not evil...until now.
Glutamic Acid (same, same as Glutamate) ‘is considered to be nature’s ‘Brain Food’ by improving mental capacities; and is used in the treatment of depression, fatigue, alcoholism, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, mental retardation and schizophrenia....supplemental L-glutamine is also used therapeutically for arthritis, autoimmune diseases, developmental disabilities, impotence...tissue damage from cancer medication treatments...deficiency of this nutrient is rare’ Health Vitamins GuideKruu K then told us about a Thai grandmother who mistakenly put a large amount of MSG, instead of flour or sugar?, in the bread she was making and fed it to her grandchild...the child died. It could be an urban myth, but a mix up in the kitchen is a scary notion all the same.
Glutamate can also provoke neurotoxicity (damage to nerve tissue by toxins). For this reason the psychiatric world has pointed the finger at it, as being a possible contributor to the cause and or development of several CNS (Central Nervous System) neurodegenerative disorders, for example Alzheimer's disease. I'm not sure if this could occur from eating food without artificially added MSG, but it does raise the question ‘why put any more in your diet?’
‘C’ one of my class mates (a young funny, knowledgeable bloke who’s been floating around Asia for more than a decade) likes to eat vegetarian and comforted himself (and us) with the thought that vegetarian restaurants here are healthy, therefore wouldn’t use MSG. He decided to check it out and reported back that he was correct. He’d asked, and they said they "don’t use MSG".
My teacher says “What? You went out into the kitchen while they were cooking?”
She didn’t seem to trust ‘C’s’ good news at all...not one iota. Of course he hadn’t, and you could see a deflated look of defeat and disappointment come over his face. She implied that even if he had managed to take a look while they were cooking, that it had probably already been put into pre-prepared and marinating food.
Others in the class said you can tell MSG is in your meal, because you become very thirsty afterwards...I’m sure everyone doesn’t though. Apparently it can be addictive, like salt for some people, in the respect that food just doesn’t taste as good without it. Then someone pipes up and says it can make you fat! Oh...so that’s why I’m not losing any weight! Not likely from what I’ve read...that would be way too simple to remedy.
Monosodium glutamate is not associated with obesity or a greater prevalence of weight gain over 5 years: findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese adults... ...These findings indicate that when other food items or dietary patterns are accounted for, no association exists between MSG intake and weight gain.Mind you, that quote came from Glutamate.org ...perhaps they’re just a trifle bias?
My head's starting to spin right about now.
Effects of MSG and excitotoxins cause people to eat again after a meal of foods containing MSG because MSG and excitotoxins trigger the effects of insulin, adrenaline, storing fat, and addiction to eating. Esthetician SalaryIs that why I always feel like eating an hour after consuming Asian food? And, there's the 'fat' thing again.
When we were in Chiang Rai, I quizzed Nong Mum about this very subject (I knew I’d need to say MSG in Thai sooner or later). She agreed, many Thais put it in everything, but she doesn’t use it. Good to know as I was chowing down on a lovely piece of home cooked grilled, seasoned pork.
So we returned from our weekend stay in Chiang Rai over a week ago. Stray flew off to Australia and I went shopping for groceries (a coincidence, I assure you) and I’ve been cooking for myself ever since. I’m not saying I won’t eat out, because the food here is wonderful.
But, frankly I’m still a little undecided about MSG and was much happier when I was blissfully unaware that it was possibly being shovelled into my food on a daily basis.
What do you think about the white powder...bum rap, or what?
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