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MSG Sensitivities and Quick Slaw Recipes

Recently, the Rocky Mountain MS Center included a few of my quick and easy summer slaw recipes in their e-newsletter (scroll down to check out these delicious recipes!). Shortly after the newsletter went out, I received this feedback from a reader:

I noticed your Ramen coleslaw recipe uses the Ramen noodle spice package as an ingredient.  This package as a high MSG content.  MSG is the main ingredient I avoid to minimize my MS symptoms and progression and from other sources I have heard that many people with MS are sensitive to MSG.  I have used Newman’s own original salad dressing in a similar recipe in place of the seasoning package.  I hope you will use my concern about recommending recipes with intense sources of glutamic acid as a motivator to do some research in this area.  Thank you.
– Sally, Colorado

You make a good point, Sally, and it’s true that many people — both those diagnosed with and those not diagnosed with MS — can be sensitive to MSG, a common ingredient in many Asian foods. I’m glad to hear that you’ve discovered your sensitivity to MSG and are aware about restricting it accordingly. I was remiss not have noted in my brief newsletter article that you can find MSG-free packages of ramen noodles to prepare the Broccoli Slaw recipe, or you can skip the included spice package use an MSG-free prepared salad dressing instead, as you helpfully suggested.

Through the state-of-the-art, cutting-edge food sensitivity testing that I conduct in the Fight MS with Food project and in my clinical practice, I can see that sensitivity to glutimates like MSG is not universal in either the general population or the population with MS. While I strongly believe that food and chemical sensitivities play a crucial role in multiple sclerosis and other auto-immune disorders, I also know that making sweeping, universal statements is irresponsible and inaccurate. My clinical research shows that the pattern of sensitivities is unique to each person; that is, what causes one person to react may be completely harmless in another. Hence, I am always wary of speaking in generalizations in this arena and careful of not advising people to eliminate foods unnecessarily.

Still, I should have done a better job tailoring that article to the audience of MS sufferers and those who care for them. Thank you for taking me to task for it. I will try to be more aware in the future.

For those who didn’t get the newsletter from the Rocky Mountain MS Center but would still love to see my favorite summer slaw recipes, here is the article:

One of my favorite parts of summer is the return of slaw.

There is something about summer barbeques, potlucks, picnics, and patio dining that calls for a good, flavorful slaw. Not to say that the ubiquitous mayonnaise-carrot-and-cabbage coleslaw can’t be enjoyed in the dead of winter, but the hot weather brings out the variety in slaws and makes eating raw vegetables fun in addictive medleys of flavor and crunch.

Nutritionally, the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in raw vegetables are more intact and more accessible to your body then they are when the vegetables are cooked. A healthy diet should include at least some raw vegetables along with cooked ones. Slaw is a great way to accomplish this.

Here are a couple of my favorite slaw recipes that are perfect for everything from impromptu get-togethers to planned celebrations of friends and family. The broccoli slaw recipe came from my mother-in-law, though I know she didn’t create it originally. It is a guaranteed crowd-pleasing salad that is a snap to make. One of the things I like best about it is that everyone from my epicurean friends to my toddlers scarf it down, which makes it a great way to get kids to eat raw veggies. It is my quick stand-by contribution to almost every gathering, and I often double the recipe to ensure leftovers for my family to snack on afterward.

cabbage slaw recipes
Another quick and easy slaw: sliced purple cabbage, red peppers, and sunflower seeds tossed in Asian salad dressing.

Crowd-Pleasing Broccoli Slaw

1 pkg. (16 oz) broccoli slaw
shredded carrots
2-4 chopped scallions
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
2 pkgs. Raman Oriental noodles, uncooked, broken up.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.

For the dressing:
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 pkgs. oriental seasoning from Raman noodle pkg.

Mix dressing well. Toss with salad within 1/2 hour of eating, but it tastes fine the next day too.

Ramen Coleslaw

1 pkg chicken flavored Ramen dry noodle soup
1 pkg. (16 oz) coleslaw mix
3/4 cup slivered almonds
1 or 2 bunches scallions

Toast sesame seeds & almonds on a baking sheet at 300 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes until light brown. While they are cooling, chop scallions & break up noodles.

For the dressing:
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs. sugar
1 pkg. chicken seasoning from raman noodle pkg.

Mix oil, vinegar, sugar, & flavoring from soup mix. Mix and set aside.
Toss 15 minutes before serving.

Spicy Asian Slaw

1 head of cabbage, shredded or cut into thin strips
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4-1/2 tsp. Sambal chili paste, Tabasco, or any other hot sauce

Mix the mayonnaise and the chili paste together first and then add to the cabbage and distribute evenly. It is easy to add more chili paste at this point, so be sure to start lightly and taste test as you go along.

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