The Name Game: Finding the hidden MSG, GMOs & Gluten in your food - Radiant Life

The Name Game: Finding the hidden MSG, GMOs & Gluten in your food

by Kayla Grossmann

Processed foods have a bad reputation. It is no secret that high-calorie junk foods have contributed to the steeply climbing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and related health complications across the country. Yet while we have been busy sneering and defaming chips, soda and frosted cookies, a new breed of industrialized "health foods" has hit the shelves. These sneaky, deceitful, pseudo-natural processed foods are possibly more dangerous than their blatantly unhealthy predecessors. As the food industry gets smarter with marketing the same toxin-infused, chemical-filled foods that have proven disastrous to our health, we must be more vigilant than ever with the food selections we make.

nutrient dense foods

The Era of Convenience Foods

There is no denying that over the past 150 years, American nutrition and gastronomy has changed dramatically. With the evolution of modern transport systems and rapid expansion of industrialized foods has come a tragic dwindling of local family farms and carefully prepared meals. Nutrient dense dinners once cooked in the home from local ingredients became first muddied with globs of mass-canned purees, and have since been completely replaced by machine concocted boxed and frozen goods. Today, entire family meals can be assembled in minutes without even a dirty dish left lingering by the edge of the sink. Quality has suffered, as convenience continues to prevail.

This suspicious shift in our food system did not happen innocently. Since their creation, profitable packaged foods doused with sugar, salt and designed to addict, have infiltrated shelves at an alarming rate.  Backed by big-money marketing efforts and government campaigns, manufactured foods have been tirelessly pushed as safer, cheaper and overall better- even when hard nutritional science and actual taste suggest otherwise. With complex food science on their side, it hasn't been difficult for processed food giants to weasel their chemical-ridden goods into crowded pantries all across the country. Current estimates reveal that processed foods make up approximately 70% of the American diet. S-E-V-E-N-T-Y percent!

Ingredients to Avoid

Consumers cannot be so naive as to believe that a few publications discussing the health concerns of processed foods will make manufacturers completely change their ways. There is simply too much invested in the entire food manufacturing scheme. Savvy companies have realized that it is far more time efficient and inexpensive to change the marketing of a food item than to devise an entirely new production plan. By quickly switching the packaging to an outdoorsy brown, stamping labels with words like natural, low-fat or sugar-free, and maybe neglecting to mention a few of the more questionable ingredients, a product can almost instantly be praised as "good for you." See how simple that is? Why, it is pure marketing magic! 

Don't be fooled by these unethical tricks. Navigating the cluttered grocery store shelves nowadays requires some serious attention to detail. Below you will find a list of the top unwanted food ingredients, and the names that manufacturers are now using to disguise them. Next time you are scooting a cart down the aisle, take a look at some food labels- you may be surprised at how many of these sneaky additives you find.

Refined Sweeteners

Although beloved for its sweet taste, sugar has been linked to a number of health issues from obesity to diabetes, heart disease to cancer. Used to enhance the flavor of sweet and savory goods alike, sugar creates severe metabolic and hormonal turmoil in consumers. Don't be fooled by the many names used to disguise this sneaky compound:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Concentrated Fruit Juice
  • Dextrose
  • Maltose
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Crystalline Fructose
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Invert Sugar
  • Raw Sugar
  • Malt Syrup
  • Cane Crystals
  • Agave Nectar


Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a food additive that enhances the taste and smell of foods. It is often used by food manufacturers as a cheap means to restore the flavor lost during the processing of packaged and frozen goods. However studies have shown that MSG is extremely addictive and can result in such negative symptoms as headaches, nausea, fatigue and weight gain. In the long term, consumption has been linked to obesity, heart disease, and chronic neurological issues. MSG is also called:

  • Glutamic acid 
  • Glutamate 
  • Monosodium glutamate 
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Calcium glutamate 
  • Monoammonium glutamate 
  • Magnesium glutamate 
  • Natrium glutamate
  • Yeast extract
  • Anything “hydrolyzed”
  • Any “hydrolyzed protein”
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Textured protein
  • Soy protein
  • Soy protein concentrate
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Whey protein isolate
  • Vetsin
  • Ajinomoto


Found in wheat and related grains such as barley and rye, this tricky protein can cause severe digestive distress in sensitive individuals. It is estimated that 18 million people in the USA have gluten intolerance or sensitivity, and many don't even realize it. Most all baked goods made with flour contain gluten, including breads, pasta, cakes, cookies, pastries and crackers. It can also be found in surprising places such as salad dressings and lip balms. Watch out for these not-so-obvious gluten containing ingredients:

  • Wheat flour/white flour/bread flour/bleached flour
  • Wheat protein/hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Wheat starch
  • Graham Flour
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Kamut
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Bulgur 
  • Oats (unless otherwise noted)
  • Barley Malt 
  • Wheat or barley grass (often cross contaminated)
  • Wheat germ oil or extract
  • Beer
  • Natural flavor/natural flavoring
  • Artificial flavor/artificial flavoring
  • Soy sauce

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

GMO's have been linked to changes in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, pancreas and liver problems, gut bacteria and altered expression of genes that regulate insulin. While recent polls have shown that if given a choice, 90% of people would actively avoid GMOs in their foods, it is rare that GMOs are recognized on any food labels in the United States. I wrote about this issue in more detail in a post on 4 Ways to Avoid GMOs, but here are the 7 crops that are currently "approved" for genetic modification in the USA:

Pro-Inflammatory Fats & Oils

Contrary to popular wisdom, vegetable oils are very problematic for health. Although cheap to manufacture, these dangerous oils are extremely contrived and unstable, often breaking apart into inflammation-causing compounds in the body. In fact, vegetable oils have been shown to alter thyroid function, lead to weight gain, and contribute to heart disease. Learn more about the vegetable oil villain, and take care to avoid these fats in the diet:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Liquid oils (such as olive oil) used for high heat cooking/baking
  • Trans fats
  • Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
  • Margarine, buttery spreads
  • Cooking sprays
  • Roasted nuts and seeds
  • Refined fish oils

Returning to Nutrient Dense Foods

This shift away from the hearty whole food fare that sustained our ancestors has resulted in a number of problems, from nutrient disparities to environmental ruin; food addiction to economic inconsistency. In many ways we have stopped being curious and critical about the foods we eat, and as a result have fallen victim to the traps of food marketing. Radiant Life is dedicated to supplying organic, non-gmo, sustainably sourced products that are free of these harmful additives. We hope to share this passion with you!


Photo Credit: Grocery Store Aisle by brianjmatis/Courtesy Flickr

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