I am equally as passionate about learning and education as I am food, so I thought I would combine it all to take a closer look at some common food myths…
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, nor a scientist… But, I am a curious and hungry (both for learning and food!) individual. Through my own desire to learn, I have discovered a lot about some common food myths and misconceptions. As mentioned, I love the sharing of knowledge, so in the spirit of information dissemination, I thought I would share some of my learnings with you all!
MSG is not some terrible chemical put in Chinese Takeaway to make you eat more
Monosodium glutamate (or MSG for short) is a naturally occurring salt from glutamic acid, one of the most abundant naturally occurring amino acids – it is not some weird manufactured chemical that your body has never seen before. We literally eat it every single day, whether we know it or not.
MSG gives a distinct meaty or savoury flavour to foods – known as ‘umami’ – and is found more commonly in protein rich meats. It was once though to be linked to adverse reactions like headaches, sweating, fever and more (known as the Chinese Restaurant fever), however scientists have not yet found any direct links between MSG and these reactions. Trust me, they have been testing it! Sure, if you overdo it and eat too much in one sitting you might not feel too good – it is a salt after all – but the same goes for overindulging in sugars, meat, alcohol… and many other things.
There is no chemical difference between naturally occurring MSG and added MSG – a chemical compound is a chemical compound, and any change to that structure will result in a different chemical all together. You can buy commercially produced monosodium glutamate in a powder form and add it to meals to enhance the meaty flavour, but it is not as dangerous or as bad for you as people once made it out to be. There is plenty of discussion about MSG online, but if you are looking for Australian standards information, make sure you give this a read.
‘Coeliac’ and ‘gluten intolerant’ are most definitely not interchangeable terms
A lot of the time, mentioning you are gluten intolerant is met with ‘oh, so you are coeliac?’, and then a look of disinterest when you correct them and say you are just intolerant. Coeliac disease and an intolerance to gluten are two completely different – but related – things. What an oxymoron. The common link is an inability to handle gluten.
When you are coeliac, you have a severe ‘allergy’ to the gluten protein, so much so that you can’t have the slightest trace of gluten without having a terrible, adverse reaction. Coeliac disease is no joke – the inability to absorb or break down the gluten protein means that coming into contact with gluten, and thus falling very ill, can cause irreversible damage to the bowel and chronic system inflammation.
Gluten intolerances aren’t a joke either, there are just less severe reactions than with coeliac disease. Sensitivity can vary between person to person, and even from month to month for the sufferer. The most common symptoms are fatigue, gas, bloating and abdominal pain when products containing gluten are consumed. Not pleasant at all. Where traces of gluten are to be avoided at all costs by those with coeliac disease, those with a gluten sensitivity may be ok with it. For example, a little bit of bread crumb contamination will have quite different effects on a coeliac and someone with an intolerance.
Carbohydrates don’t make you fat
Carbohydrates are the body’s energy source and should make up around 50-60% of your daily calorie intake. Essentially, carbohydrates are sugars, but they in themselves are not ‘fattening’.
Carbohydrates get turned into glucose which your body then uses for energy immediately, or they will be converted to glycogen to be stored for later use. If you consume too many carbs for your body to use each day, only then will your body store the excess as fat. Basically, if you are balancing your carbohydrate consumption with enough daily exertion (i.e. making sure that you are not over eating, or consuming excess carbs without exercising), you will break down the carbohydrates into fuel, rather than being stored as fat.
Nothing is ever incredibly simple, so my above ‘nut shell’ explanation does get more complicated than that. If you are interested in how different carbohydrates are broken down and what that means for your body, you can take a deeper look behind the science here or here.