Sunday, July 10, 2011

They Put WHAT in My Sauce? MSG and RTNCs

Back in October when I began this journey into health, it started with a massage therapist telling me to avoid sugar in all its forms.

Okay, I can handle that, I thought. Yes, it blew me away as I started reading ingredients labels and realized they put sugar in my peanut butter and a million other places where I hadn't expected it. So I switched to natural peanut butter (one ingredient: roasted peanuts — go figure!), etc, and thought I was good.

As I progressed more and more, I became interested in copycat recipes for some of our restaurant favorites using healthy substitutions. I mentioned in my last post that pizza gave me trouble for a while, and I finally decided the best plan was to mimic a Little Caesars recipe, since that's our family's favorite take-out pizza but I knew they put sugar in both the crust and the sauce.

So I created a sourdough pizza crust using only honey, whole wheat, filtered water, olive oil and sea salt, dumped on it some marinara sauce that did not have sugar on the label, added mozzarella and muenster cheese, and thought we were good. So delicious, and completely healthy! Until . . .

In searching for Little Caesars recipes, I discovered something unsettling. One of the sauce recipes called for an ingredient called "Accent." I don't know about you, but I don't keep any such thing in my pantry.

And someone on the message board explained it: "Yeah, that's MSG. You can make the sauce without it, but it just won't be the same."

WHAT?? Here I've been thinking the sugar was the worst thing in our takeout pizza. I swore off Little Caesars then and there and felt so grateful that I'd invented a copycat so we could avoid the MSG.

Then I looked again at the sauce I'd used. See if you can spot it yourself:

See that vague word there called "spice"? Yep. That's it all right.

This site called explains it all, including the dozens of euphemisms MSG hides behind and the fact that MSG isn't the only one of its kind — it falls into a whole grouping of poisonous substances called Reaction-Triggering Neurotoxic Chemicals.

The deal is that these chemicals do two big favors for the companies who use them: (1) they increase the flavor, making consumers like the food more, and (2) they make consumers crave that flavor, almost to the point of addiction. Here's the explanation from

RTNCs contain "Processed Free Glutamic Acids" (PFGAs), which are derived from proteins through a chemical process. Once they enter your mouth, the glutamic acids in RTNCs stimulate and overexcite the nerve cells in your brain’s taste centers. That's why they're also known as Excitotoxins.

RTNCs act as neurotransmitters, and they affect your nervous system just like caffeine and other drugs. As you eat, these chemicals stimulate your senses, which makes your brain perceive that that the food you are tasting is more flavorful and "irresistible." RTNCs are formulated to overload your nerve synapses with a false sensation of great taste. This violent chemical attack destroys brain cells with every bite.

Manufacturers include these low-cost synthetic RTNC additives in their products so they don’t have to spend money on expensive "real" ingredients. It's much cheaper for a company to substitute an RTNC for an organic, nutritious, real ingredient. And, food companies add RTNCs because they make you want more of whatever you're eating. Remember the old slogan, "Bet you can't eat just one?" RTNCs cause your nerve cells to crave repeated stimulation, the true definition of "junk food junkie."

The site also describes how 1 in 4 people is allergic to these, resulting in migraines, depression, asthma attacks, etc. But only 1 in 250 people knows they exist.

We haven't had any soda in our house for a long time, because of the sugar, but RTNCs are an even more important reason to avoid it. However, the worst thing for me is finding RTNCs on products that claim to be "All Natural," like my marinara sauce. I'm pretty sure my favorite hummus brand uses "natural flavor" or another similar pseudonym on the label, too.

We're trying so hard to combat all our health problems — through amazing oils like doTERRA's and other natural remedies — that I felt like this post was a vital message to get out there. Watch out! Those deceptively benign things like "spice" are poisoning us.

I'll be tossing out my other jars of Classico sauce and reading ingredients even more carefully. And probably learning to make my own pizza sauce very soon.


  1. Holy moly! We have been wondering about those "spice" ingredients! I am so glad you posted this. Another thing learned on our journey to health. :)

    1. I am also in this process of trying to weed out the MSG, since I think it causes my migraines. I am nothing short of disgusted by the cheap food industry that is producing garbage. The Little Ceasar's owner in my county is wealthy beyond belief. Everyone loves a good Neurotoxin pizza. Not any more! Good bye Little Ceasars!

  2. I've always hated those ingredient labels that said "natural flavorings" and so on. Now I know why! It's not because they are hiding a secret recipe, but because they are using chemicals to trap us into their foods.
    If the food is good it will taste good by itself and there will be no reason to hide the ingredients.

  3. Good! I'm glad to know it was as enlightening for you guys as it was for me. Before, I'd just shrugged my shoulders and figured that if it said "All Natural" then "spice" must be no big deal. Now it's sort of freaking me out and I'll have to purge my house of more foods again!

  4. After reading the post and typing the response I still made hamburgers with Bush's beans on the side. Last ingredient - natural flavorings. This morning I woke up congested, with a bit of a hard time breathing and general crap feeling. This has explained a ton about my life. We'll have to join you on the cleaning out the fridge thing.

  5. just a comment. we are an msg-free family. when it uses these words, like 'natural flavoring' and 'spice', it DOES NOT mean it is msg, it means it COULD be msg. you will find those same words in organic foods, which do not have msg. they could choose to use 'spice' to protect their recipe. bottom line is if you want to know what is in your food: cook from scratch. if you don't cook from scratch, be aware that some of these things MAY be a neurotoxin.

  6. Thanks for the comment! I really hope that's true. I have heard the opposite, which is that being organic or all-natural doesn't necessarily exclude RTNCs. For me, the fact that "spice" could and often does mean RTNC, whether msg or a different kind, is enough to make me avoid it altogether. And cooking from scratch does feel more crucial the more I learn about processed food! :)

  7. Good point lizardofoz! I hate the uncertainty probably most of all. I found my Organic Applesauce had "Natural Apple Flavoring" in it. Why do you need to add apple flavor to make apples taste like apples? Hmm?

    My concern isn't neurotoxins alone, though, it is all unnatural foods. My body doesn't handle chemically altered products well at all. If it has been exposed to pesticides, genetically modified or changed from its natural state in any way other than cooking, my body will react (and not pleasantly either).

    It is absolutely true about cooking our own foods. They are more nutritionally sound and taste better. The "foods" we used to enjoy from the prepackaged sections of the super market have lost their savor to us since we discovered real home cooking (they even taste synthetic). Gotta love the real stuff!

    1. Maybe they boiled "pasteurized" the apples. In which case they have no flavor much less any vitamins. Hence the need for a flavor packet

  8. I've checked with the USDA organic site and also read it confirmed in The Omnivore's Dilemma: "organic" with that USDA seal only has to mean 95% organic, and they are allowed synthetic ingredients in that other 5%. This means RTNCs are not excluded from organic foods and you should definitely check ingredients still. The only time it definitely would not is if the label says "100% Organic," which I've never seen.

  9. Thank you for this post! MSG and Aspartame gives me dystonia and seizures. I had Little Caesars today and had some really bad dystonia after not having any trouble for a while. I figured it was from the Pizza. I will have to avoid Little Caesars and probably all pizza places now :/

  10. Thank you for this post. I kept wondering why every time I ate Little Caesars pizza my stomach turns. Now I know what to avoid elsewhere.

  11. Yeah, if it's mainstream it's probably poison. You have to change the way you think about mainstream food and stop being so trusting, in order to cut out the GMO and MSG. It's a tough battle, especially in the US. Even if you do everything and put 100% they are really sneaky and it's difficult to find a good enough variety of food.