Green Scene Blog: Junk food

Hey folks. Here’s a post from local dietitian and author Wendy Vigdor-Hess about a food substance you might want to avoid.

You may never have heard the word “excitotoxins.” More likely you‘ve heard of MSG, aspartame (NutraSweet® and Equal®), hydrolyzed vegetable protein or yeast extracts.

Russell Blaylock, M.D., defines this intriguing term as any substance that causes brain cells to become very excited. “When neurons are exposed to these substances, they become very excited and fire their impulses very rapidly until they reach a state of extreme exhaustion. Several hours later these neurons suddenly die, as if the cells were excited to death.”

Some scientists believe certain human brain cells may respond this way after you ingest these additives, which are used in food as flavor enhancers. In recent years, many researchers and clinicians have come to suspect excitotoxins have a role in the increased development of a wide range of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, migraines, seizures, ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease), Autism, Parkinson’s disease, and certain types of obesity and hormonal disorders.

At this point, you may be saying “Yikes!” or wondering where these additives are found. Look for them in store-bought sauces, diet foods, soups, soda, gravies, even some cigarettes, and other processed (think boxed or canned) foods. If you want to reduce your intake of toxic chemicals, begin looking at the food labels of foods you have on hand. Perhaps consider substituting one food for another one without chemical additions on the label.

Though it may be difficult to find a processed food without unnecessary ingredients, you can always choose more fresh fruits and vegetables! When the reality of busy lifestyles and “no time” come into play, consider gathering with a few friends or neighbors and discuss ways to incorporate more homemade meals into your weekly or monthly routine.

Would it be possible for each family to cook one large meal (shared by you and your friends) on a weekend? Switch off weekends and before you know it that could two to four meals a month (or more depending upon how many friends can participate).

Here’s a list of additives (noted on food labels) that frequently and/or always contain excitotoxins.


Aspartame (NutraSweet® and Equal®); Aspartate; Aspartic acid; Autolyzed yeast; Bouillon; Broth; Calcium caseinate; Carrageenan; Caseinate; Cysteine; Enzymes; Flavoring; Glutamate; Hydrolyzed oat flour; Hydrolyzed plant protein; Hydrolyzed vegetable protein; L-cysteine; Malt extract; Malt flavoring; MSG – (monosodium glutamate); Natural beef or chicken flavoring; Natural flavoring; Plant protein extract; Seasoning; Sodium caseinate; Soy protein concentrate; Soy protein extract; Soy protein isolate; Spices; Stock; Textured protein; Vegetable protein; Whey protein concentrate; Yeast extract.



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