How to Avoid MSG

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is an excitotoxin that may cause brain and central nervous system damage. Many people are allergic to MSG and may suffer reactions like breathlessness, headaches and nausea, upon eating it. The FDA doesn’t require that food manufacturers who use MSG include it in the ingredients list, since it isn’t considered dangerous to humans, and many ingredients, like yeast extract and sodium caseinate, contain MSG, making it hard to tell which foods to avoid. Here’s a guide to how you can avoid eating monosodium glutamate.

Know What Additives to Avoid

Many food additives contain MSG, but since manufacturers aren’t required to tell you when their products contain MSG, it’s your responsibility to look out for products that contain any of the following:

  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Yeast extract
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Plant protein extract
  • Hydrolyzed protein
  • Hydrolized plant protein
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Hydrolyzed oat flour

Many manufacturers use these terms in their ingredients list to avoid listing MSG as an ingredient.

Avoid Snack Foods, Dips, Seasonings, Dressings and Sauces

If you like to eat dips, seasoning salts, salad dressings and sauces, make them at home yourself from scratch. Many commercially prepared sauces, dips and dressings contain MSG. Some soy sauces, fish sauces, seasoning salts, and salad dressings contain MSG, as do some mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, and many sweeteners like Nutrasweet and refined brown and white sugars. Some processed cheeses, flavored potato chips and pretzels, and cheese flavored snack foods contain MSG.

Avoid Fast Foods

Fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King regularly use MSG in their sandwiches and other products. Many popular chain restaurants also use MSG, if often unknowingly, because the food additive appears in their sauces and seasonings. Avoid fast food restaurants or check the company’s allergy information to find out which foods are MSG free. When dining out, ask your server for an MSG free option.

Avoid Processed Foods

Many processed foods, including frozen dinners, pizzas, vegetables and pot pies contain MSG. Some processed and canned meats, including cold cuts and hot dogs, contain MSG. Eat fresh meats instead.


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Posts By Sequoia
  • Rachel Johnson

    Ten years ago I started to have severe restless leg syndrome. My doctor prescribed gabapentin which helped somewhat but I noticed that every time I ate out my legs would suffer. I also noticed that when I used Campbell’s soups that my legs twitched all night. Finally a friend suggested I stop eating prepared foods to avoid MSG. This was successful until I discovered that most of the packaged foods I used contained MSG. I started reading labels and this seemed to put the problem at rest. Then I visited my daughter where that evening my legs gave me a fit. She discovered that Uncle Ben’s flavored rice was the culprit. Even packaged grits and oatmeal do the same. Now most of what I eat is prepared from scratch and my family is aware of the problem. My home cooking tastes better than the canned and packaged meals so why or why do these companies aggravated those of us who find MSG unacceptable? I have a daughter and several good friends, my dental hygienist, etc., who suffer greatly when inadvertantly consuming MSG. It should be banned just as many drugs have been banned. I have spent a lot of money on anti-MSG medicine and think there should be some compensation. Thanks. Yours is the only web site that allows me to sound off. RJ.

  • Bonnie

    Thank you so much for this (and your other article on the four most likely MSG culprit foods). For the third time this week I’ve had heart palpitations and trouble breathing, and finally put my finger on it this morning. McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and beef jerky. I foolishly thought that these companies weren’t putting MSG in everything anymore, and again was fooled by the newer descriptors of the glutamates in their food. I suspect I also have a sensitivity to sodium nitrite, so cured meats are out as well.

    Thanks to you too, RJ. Now I know what I have to do, which is read, read, READ those labels and get used to cooking from scratch again!