What it Is
MSG stands for monosodium glutamate. That sounds pretty chemically and not-Paleo, but is it really?
Maybe. MSG actually occurs naturally in real whole foods, including the meats and vegetables we’re always promoting, but that’s not what we’re talking about.
A Natural Substance Used Unnaturally
When people ask about MSG, they almost always mean the food additive that’s mass-produced through the fermentation of some form of sugar, whether it’s molasses, beet sugar, cane sugar, or starch (none of which are strictly Paleo). It’s used in plenty of processed foods to enhance the flavor. It’s a cheap way for food manufacturers to enhance the savory flavor profile of their food.
The food manufacturers claim it’s no different from the MSG found in meat and vegetables, but critics say otherwise, maintaining our bodies don’t process isolated MSG the same way they process MSG that comes with all the nutrients and antioxidants of real whole foods. There might be something to that, since we already know foods are more than just the sum of their parts. They work together to enhance or mitigate their effects.
Anecdotal evidence has linked MSG to headaches, fatigue, numbness, and nausea. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t carry much weight in the scientific world, but if you notice any of these symptoms (or any other negative effects) after eating MSG, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry and avoid it in the future.
Some studies have suggested MSG can cause retinal damage and impair appetite regulation (which could explain why food producers are so keen to use it in their food).
Eat Whole Foods
Regardless of whether MSG really is harmful, the bottom line is you likely aren’t consuming it (at least not the concentrated form) unless you eat industrialized foods, and we don’t generally condone eating industrialized foods. They tend to come loaded with sugar, rancid vegetable oils, and all sorts of chemical additives.