Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavour enhancer that is regularly added to Chinese food to make it taste delicious. Even if you eat at MSG free restaurants, you can’t get away from it. MSG lurks in thousands of other products such as processed meats, soy sauce, stock cubes, crackers, frozen foods, salad dressings and even baby food and formula.
Many people have a sensitivity to foods that contain MSG with symptoms ranging from migraine headaches, sweating, numbness, nausea, thirst, asthma attacks, chest pain and heart palpitations. The World Health Organization would have you believe that MSG is safe, saying that studies have not found any conclusive evidence that links MSG to the above symptoms. They do, however, acknowledge that some people may experience short-term reactions.
Dr Russell Blaylock, a noted neurosurgeon and author of “Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills”, is convinced that MSG is a silent killer. Having studied the effects of MSG on brain function, he said that MSG over-excites the cells to the point of damage and can potentially cause neurological diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease as well as behavioural problems in children.
How can you avoid eating MSG? First of all you need to be aware that food manufacturers will go to great lengths to hide the fact that their products contain MSG. They do this by using names that you wouldn’t associate with MSG such as low sodium, flavour enhancers, natural flavours, umami, free glutamic acid, glutamate and E620-E625. Basically a rule of thumb is that if a food is processed, it probably contains MSG.
Eating out is also a problem. You can assume that unless a restaurant states that they do not add MSG that it is present in some form. Even if a restaurants says that they do not add MSG to their food, you need to check whether they use pre-prepared sauces, dressings and seasonings.
Here are a list of vegetarian restaurants that do not add MSG to their food.
2Q Lorong Delima 7, 11700 Island Glade, Penang. Open: Daily: 5.30pm to 10.30pm (last orders 10pm).Closed: Monday.
All food is freshly made without the use of MSG.
Coya Healthy Cuisine
4A Lorong Selamat, 4A Lorong Selamat,10400, Penang. Open: Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 3pm and 5.30pm to 10pm. Closed Monday.
No added MSG or preservatives are used. All the pastes and sauces are made in their kitchen. The soya sauce is bought in and does not contain MSG.
3rd Floor, Gurney Plaza, Persiaran Gurney,10250, Penang. Open: Daily: 10am to 10pm.
27C Gottlieb Road, 10350, Penang. (beside Waterfall Hotel). Open: 8am – 3pm and 6pm – 8pm. Closed Monday.
3F-10A, Queen’s Street, Queensbay Mall, 11900 Penang. Open: Daily: 10.30am to 10.30pm.
Idealite guarantee that there is no MSG in their soy sauce which is specially made for them.
JanxDen Greenlife Cafe
21 Jalan Chow Thye, 10050, Penang. Open: Daily, 9.30am to 9.30pm.
6G-1-16 All Seasons Place, Lebuhraya Thien Thean Teik, Bandar Baru, 11500 Air Itam, Penang. Open: Daily 11am to 11pm.
JanxDen have some freshly made sauces, but do use mushroom seasoning, soy sauce and ready made tomato sauce which may contain MSG.
The Leaf Healthy House
5 Penang Street, 10200, Penang. Open: Monday to Friday: 9.00am to 5.00pm, Saturday: 9.00am to 3.00pm. Closed: Sunday.
Leaf Healthy House do use some pre-prepared sauces and cannot guarantee that there is no MSG included in these sauces.
Nutriland Vegan Health Food Centre
11 Jalan Rangoon, 10400, Penang. Open: Daily, 11.30am to 2pm. Closed Saturday.
Nutriland do use some pre-prepared seasonings which we checked do not contain MSG.
Real Food Sonnentor
Ground Floor, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, 10470, Penang. Open Daily: 10am to 10pm.
All sauces are freshly made and do not contain MSG. The only pre-made item they use is organic tomato sauce which they guarantee does not contain MSG.
Seed Natural Food Cafe
6 Nagore Road, 10050, Penang. Open: Monday to Saturday: 9am to 6pm. Closed Sunday.
All Seed’s ingredients and sauces are free from MSG.