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Most processed food contains hidden MSG or its equivalent, processed free glutamate. Since free glutamate makes otherwise tasteless food delicious and addictive, food companies have a huge incentive to hide it in their products that consumer's expect to contain "no MSG".

MSG is hidden in even the most "natural" products, including many "pure" juices in the form of "natural flavor" for example.

MSG has been reported to cause anything from migraines, irritable bowel disease, hemorrhoids and insomnia to seizures, fibromyalgia, mood disorders and signs consistent with autism in sensitive individuals, with the effects usually occurring at the same time interval after an individual's exposure (which can vary from immediate to up to 48 hours later).  For individuals with even more nebulous reactions than mine, it can be nearly impossible to identify MSG as the cause.  In fact it may only become clear once processed free glutamate is avoided entirely. If you need more convincing that MSG may be the on-off switch you've been looking for when it comes to your health (or the health of a family member), watch this TedX Talk


One of the most confusing aspects of the MSG issue (which is often deliberately overlooked by MSG-defenders) is the difference between naturally-occurring and processed free glutamate (or MSG).

MSG-defenders use the presence of naturally-occurring glutamate in healthy whole foods to erroneously conclude that MSG is safe. Naturally-occuring free glutamate is L-glutamic acid, whereas processed free glutamate contains its mirror image D-glutamic acid (and other contaminants).  Many studies have investigated the safety of L-glutamic acid (the naturally occurring form) while very few have looked into D-glutamic acid.  Nobody would conclude that the D-methamphetamine ("crystal meth") was safe just because the mirror image L-methamphetamine (an over-the-counter nasal decongestant) is, but this is how studies justify the safety of D-glutamic acid.

Glutamate is toxic in high concentrations. As a result, the body tightly regulates glutamate levels to avoid neurotoxicity. Unfortunately, these glutamate detoxification pathways only work on the naturally occurring L-glutamic acid, not D-glutamic acid. When processed free glutamate is ingested, D-glutamic acid accumulates and acts as a excitatory neurotoxin in the body.

For further information on the difference between L- and D-glutamic acid, check out this article, from Eden Foods. Certain whole foods naturally contain higher levels of L-glutamic acid which makes them great sources of "umami" flavour without MSG (for example aged cheese, ripe tomatoes, mushrooms and fermented foods such as fish sauce) and if you're like me, you will tolerate those foods fine even though you react to D-glutamic acid.

Lists of hidden sources of processed free glutamate are available (mine is below).  These lists are valuable but they do have one major downfall - almost every product you look at will fall into the list of things you CAN'T have, and they don't tell you what you CAN have.  The food finder on this site is designed to make it easier to shop for foods you can have without worrying about hidden MSG or sugar.  Eating out on the other hand, can be particularly challenging when it comes to avoiding MSG. Chipotle is one of the only restaurant chains that lists their ingredients and almost all of their ingredients are unprocessed! Or if you're in New York City go to Hu Kitchen! New York Fries French fries do not contain processed ingredients as long as you avoid the toppings other than salt and white vinegar. Sashimi may also be a good option if you like sushi. Otherwise the safest option is to order a salad with no meat, cheese, dried fruit or nuts, and olive oil and salt instead of dressing. There will be times when eating MSG is unavoidable if you are eating out. In those cases, there are some things we have found we can take to block glutamate receptors and prevent a reaction - please contact me if you'd like more information.

Hopefully this site will make it easy for you to enjoy eating Before Natural food that will give you back your health! Enjoy!

Hidden MSG

Hidden MSG:

Here is my list of ingredients that contain hidden manufactured free glutamate (MSG).  See below for links to other lists I have found useful.

Balsamic Vinegar (note: the real stuff should be fine but costs ~$100-300/bottle. All other "balsamic vinegar" likely contains processed free glutamate)

Bouillon, Broth, Stock

Carageenan (E 407)


Casein or Caseinate

e.g. calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate


Citrate (E 330) or Citric acid (it's usually chemically by breaking down proteins rather than being taken directly from citrus fruit)


Corn Syrup

Disodium Guanylate or Inosinate (their only purpose is to enhance the effect of MSG, so if they are added it's because the product contains MSG)

E-numbers (used in Europe in place of food additive names)

eg. E-620 and many others

Enzymes, Protease, any ingredient ending in -ase (which denotes an enzyme)


Flavor or Flavorings (this includes natural flavor)

e.g. natural flavor, artificial flavor, natural vanilla flavor, etc


Gelatin, Pectin

Glutamic acid or Glutamate

e.g. monosodium glutamate, monopotassium glutamate, calcium glutamate, monoammonium glutamate, magnesium glutamate, natrium glutamate

Hydrolyzed or Autolyzed

e.g. hydrolyzed protein, autolyzed yeast

Malt or Malted...

e.g. barley malt, malted barley, malt extract, malted flour


Maltodextrin, Oligodextrin



e.g. modified corn starch, modified food starch, modified milk ingredients


Molasses, Brown Sugar (which is actually refined white sugar with molasses added back in)

Protein (whole protein is great, but when "protein" is listed on a label it has been processed, resulting in free glutamate)

e.g. textured vegetable protein, soy protein, soy protein isolate, whey protein, "protein-fortified"

Artificial Rennet (enzymes)

e.g. Vegetarian Rennet, Microbial Rennet, Microbial Enzyme

*Note: these do not appear on many lists of MSG sources but are a huge source of hidden MSG*

Soy Sauce and other products fermented with Aspergillus orizae (this fungus produces D-glutamic acid in the fermentation process)

Spices, Seasonings (while these sound innocent, they are frequently included in ingredient lists to hide MSG)

Umami, Vetsin, Ajinomoto

Yeast products (yeast is fine, but MSG is produced when it's processed)

e.g. yeast extract, yeast food, yeast nutrient, autolyzed yeast

( ... ) - BRACKETS! (when brackets are used, the FDA does not require all the sub-ingredients to be listed, meaning anything can be included without listing it!)

Other sites with lists of ingredients containing hidden MSG:

Here are some other lists to refer to if you are avoiding hidden MSG.

Hungry for Change

Truth in Labeling

Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills

Healthy Holistic Living

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