Brands, batches and consistency

Bonne Maman... doing it right!

One of the most disheartening things about trying to greatly reduce MSG and related excitotoxins from your diet is when something agrees with you just fine one time and not the next.  It's one of the things that starts to make you wonder if feeling good or bad after a meal is psychosomatic.  Well, there are a few things that make this very challenging, which I'll go through in a moment.  I will also detail some brands that we've had pretty good luck with.

First, let's talk about consistency.  Virtually all food manufacturers rely on a large number of sources.  The same is true of your local market.  Have you noticed how the veggies one week come from California, and Mexico the next?   Even individual brands have multiple sources that can change depending on a number of factors including price, weather, and competing purchasers.  If Farm A runs out of something, the supermarket or food manufacturer needs to have Farm B-G already lined up.  And, to make things even more complicated, Farm A may actually be a collective of farms and not just one!

So, with multiple suppliers in place, consistency becomes nearly impossible.  But, what does consistency really mean?  You'd think a red pepper one place would be the same as another, especially if organic, right?  Well, this is not the case, especially where regional differences are in play.  You see every area, every farm has its own unique challenges in terms of climate, pests, rainfall, and so on.  There's also the experience and preference of the farmers themselves.  Some prefer to use no sprays at all, some use organic sprays, and some mix both techniques depending on the time of year.  All of these circumstances can have a pepper be fine one week and not the next.  While it is true that organic sprays are generally healthier than non-organic sprays, they often have a much higher MSG/excitoxic content.  Organic sprays can (and do) employ MSG and broken down protein as a binder agent.  Unfortunately, it's incredibly hard to wash binder agents and waxes off of produce.  Also, organic fertilizers (like fish emulsion as one example) leach into root vegetables, and some other vegetables as well.  The net effect is a reaction, regardless of it being organic.  So, now you can see why consistency is really an illusion unless you know the people who grow your food on a first name basis -- and this can only happen if you shop at a farmer's market for most/all of your produce.  It was at this point we thought - Gardening doesn't sound as daunting as it once did.

So, for those who don't have this option (most of us), we have to rely on brands that are as consistent as they can be.  This requires the company's commitment to buying from a select group of suppliers, and not changing ingredients regularly.  These are most often small companies that have individual relationships with their suppliers much like we all shhttp://www.bobsredmill.com/ould with those who grow and produce our food.

Now, there are two other important factors about selecting products that you should know.  First, companies are constantly shifting their ingredients to improve their sales and profit margins.  This has been seen in the greatest way in the shift from real sugar to corn syrup.  When a company changes their ingredients, they have 6 months to change the labels under the law.   It also appears that this law is not regularly or consistently enforced.  So, the end result (and probably the most maddening of all) is you do fine with something one week and not the next, but the ingredients on the label remain exactly the same.  You are only vindicated later when you pick up the same product and the label has changed.  Were it not for this happening several times, I might have thought I was crazy.

This leads to another important point -- TRUST YOUR INTUITION!  When you eat a product, the company has absolutely no concern or allegiance to you other than their obligation to list the ingredients and nutritional value.  Even small companies get regularly bought by giant corporations.  Like Burt's Bees is now CLOROX. Gross, oh, and they've added soy protein (essentially broken proteins with the same negative effects as MSG) to their ingredients since the purchase. They are in it to make money and in rare cases they use that money for good.   So, you can only rely on your own body to let you know if what you are eating is good for you.  The terrible thing is we are conditioned through advertising, the media, our friends and even the government to blindly trust that what we are eating is safe.  This leads to an inevitable clash between what your body is telling you, and what your mind is trying to rationalize.  Making the matter even worse is when you have spent a lot of time cooking and realize after it is done you've somehow used an ingredient that is bad.  This means you either throw away your hard work, or you eat it and suffer the consequences -- something I cannot bring myself to do anymore because of how awful I feel as a result.   It's always easier to check things out thoroughly at the beginning of the cooking process.

One side note I have found.  When cooking, if you get red in the face or feel "flushy" this can be a sign that what you are cooking has MSG in it.   I am no scientist, but when MSG-laden steam hits me, I can feel it.  In fact, going into a restaurant that uses it extensively gives me a major headache.  If you catch trouble during the cooking process, it's an easier burden to bear than once the entire dish/meal is done.

So, in my experience, there are a few brands that seem fairly consistent.  They are in no particular order:

Bob's Red Mill flours (make sure they are not enriched or contain malted barley or corn starch!), yeast and corn meal/corn flour.  The white unbleached is enriched, the ORGANIC white unbleached is not.
King Arthur flours (same deal regarding enriched/malted barley usually "bread flour" is the culprit along with white all-purpose so check labels!)
Hodgson Mills flour (do I have to say it again?)
Lundberg Farms rice (yep, watch out for enrichment in rice too...)
Kerry Gold butter and cheddar (the unsalted is cultured, all cultured butter is bad for you)
Laura Chenel's Chevre goat cheese
Simply Organic pure vanilla extract only
Eden Organic brown mustard, crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes (not the pasta sauce, or any other kind of sauce)
BioNature strained tomatoes
Coombs organic Maple syrup
Organic Adriatic fig spread it is Croatian and delicious.
Bonne Maman preserves (they have citric acid, but seem OK as the pectin is fruit not corn {yet?})
Humane Harvest eggs (during the winter can be more problematic due to the chickens eating soy)
Eggs - are best obtained locally and by making sure the farm you get them from feeds the chickens no corn or soy.  Cheaper usually too than the store bought.
Stahlbush Island Farms
Whole Foods Market 365 Brand organic whole wheat pasta
John McCann's steel cut oats
Fleishmann's yeast (this and Bob's are the only ones we don't react to)
Dagoba Choco-drops (Dark chocolate always, as milk chocolate has broken milk protein/caseine)
Sunspire Organic Chocolate Chips (semi-sweet)
French Meadow Bakery - European sourdough rye as some seeded breads can cause issues.
Sunshine Dairy (they don't use flash pasteurization, which while sounding like the future actually makes the protein more unstable, and this is what a majority of organic milk producers do, nor does Sunshine use rBGH)

Stahlbush Island Farms is a 2200 acre farm near Corvallis, Oregon doing it right

We will update these, as well as adding our favorite farms from Local Harvest.  remember that these foods are like "fast foods" when you can't call on things you have preserved, grown yourself or from farms you have a relationship with.


  1. Great post, found your blog via a MSG search. Your blog is beautiful by the way.

  2. Of course since this post - a few of the "Doing it right" folks have decided to change a few things. But that is the corporate world I suppose. I can do up another entry for available brand foods which are edible for the MSGfree out there.

    I am really glad you like it and hopefully it shall come in handy here and there.