Do You Know Nutrition: Read labels closely when searching for MSG

Dec. 6, 2011 at 6:06 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

By Phylis Canion

After fighting headaches for years, and through the process of elimination and testing, I now know I have a severe sensitivity to MSG. Is MSG listed on product labels as MSG only, or under other names?

MSG, monosodium glutamate, is a salt of the amino acid, glutamic acid. MSG was introduced in the food supply in the 1940s and has been the subject of much controversy since.

MSG, an invisible flavor enhancer, is notorious for triggering headaches. Like sugar, there are many alternative names listed on food products for MSG; therefore, it is important to know what to look for. The following are some common additives that are actually hidden sources of MSG: calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, yeast food, glutamate, soy protein extract, natural flavors and textured protein.

Even though foods that have "MSG free" claims listed on the label, the food may contain these other forms, so be diligent in your label reading.

Can you please tell me about buckwheat and if there is a buckwheat honey? I have a gluten sensitivity, and, therefore, try to avoid anything wheat.

Any buckwheat product is safe for Celiac's or those trying to avoid gluten, since it is not a wheat at all. In fact, buckwheat is not even a member of the grass family, but is a dicot, in the fruit family, which also includes rhubarb and sorrel.

When roasted, the buckwheat seed is called kasha and is an excellent substitute to potatoes and rice.

The milled seed results in buckwheat flour, which makes an excellent pancake.

Buckwheat flowers release a fragrant smell that attracts bees that produce a special, strong-flavored, dark honey. While all honeys contain minerals, darker honey varieties, like buckwheat honey, have higher levels of minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc and iodine.

Buckwheat honey contains seven of the eight essential amino acids, is very high in antioxidants and has a taste similar to raisins or molasses.

If you find a buckwheat honey that is lighter in color, this means it came from hives where the bees fed too much on other types of plants, which results in a less pure product. Buckwheat honey is an alternative to over-the-counter cough medicines for children, according to Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Because honey takes so long to digest, and a child's digestive system is not fully developed that young, children under the age of two should not be given any type of honey.

Call today to sign up for the next nutrition class, Dec. 12, at Organic Emporium, 361-576-2100.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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