Living with high cholesterol and having heart disease in my family has kept me on my toes when it comes to nutrition and choosing which foods I need to stay away from or consume with caution. This has made it particularly hard for me, as I enjoy trying new foods and different types of cuisines.
In constantly monitoring my weight and blood pressure (yes, I actually own a blood pressure monitor at home) one thing that I discovered is the need to stay away from foods containing monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG. MSG is a sodium salt used as a food additive and commonly marketed as a flavor enhancer, and is mostly found in things like frozen foods, processed meats, soy sauce, and Asian dishes.
My own experience with MSG was certainly a memorable one. About a year before being diagnosed with high cholesterol, my wife and I dined at a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, which will remain nameless in order to protect the innocents. The dining experience was extraordinary, but about 45 minutes after finishing my dinner I started to feel very strange. I experienced a rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure (my blood pressure registered in the 140s over 90s - much higher than normal) and some mild chest pains. The next day, although feeling better, I went to see my GP who basically told me that I had reaction to MSG.
Such reactions are not uncommon and many people actually suffer from allergies to MSG (for more information check out this entry in HealthCentral from last November). While MSG may be completely safe for some, if not most, people the bottom line is that those of us dealing with high cholesterol levels and the risk of hypertension need to be more vigilant in our food choices, especially when it comes to sodium and MSG intake. My sudden experience with MSG taught me to be much more aware with my diet.
As one who particularly enjoys Asian cuisine I have been very pleasantly surprised to see a good number of restaurants recently advertise limiting the use of MSG in their dishes and offering low sodium alternatives in condiments.