What’s in your STOCK CUBE?

They’re a store­cup­board sta­ple used fre­quently in home cook­ing. But are there al­ways hid­den nasties, and should you be mak­ing your own? Res­i­dent di­eti­tian Orla Walsh takes a closer look

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - FOOD MATTERS -

STOCK is of­ten used to add flavour, colour and taste to meals dur­ing the cook­ing process. This flavoured liq­uid prepa­ra­tion forms the ba­sis of many dishes, par­tic­u­larly soups and sauces. Stock cubes are read­ily used within home cook­ing. Are they a healthy op­tion? It’s im­por­tant to note that each brand dif­fers quite a lot. One of the main in­gre­di­ents to stock cubes is salt. It of­ten con­tains herbs and spices as well as some dried veg­eta­bles. How­ever, there may be other in­gre­di­ents added to the stock cube that you may be try­ing to re­duce in your diet — in­clud­ing su­gar, monosodium glu­ta­mate (MSG) and palm oil.

SALT

One cup of soup has the same amount of salt as two cups of sea­wa­ter. Why? Due to the stock. They may be handy, but their main in­gre­di­ent is of­ten salt. Each 100ml of stock con­tains about 1 gram of salt. Con­sid­er­ing the aim is to keep salt to about 6 grams per day, this can re­ally add up.

Salt is needed in very small amounts in the body. It’s needed for healthy wa­ter bal­ance, blood pres­sure, mus­cles and nerves. How­ever, too much salt can re­sult in fluid re­ten­tion and high blood pres­sure.

Hav­ing high blood pres­sure is a ma­jor risk fac­tor for heart at­tack, stroke and other heart is­sues. For in­stance, if ev­ery­one in Ire­land re­duced their salt in­take by half a tea­spoon, ap­prox­i­mately 900 deaths each year from stroke and heart at­tack would be pre­vented. MSG Monosodium glu­ta­mate (MSG) is com­posed of sodium and glu­ta­mate. There are five ba­sic tastes: bit­ter, sweet, salty, sour, and savoury. The savoury taste is also called umami. MSG is thought to en­hance this flavour.

Some peo­ple as­so­ciate MSG with eat­ing too much and weight gain. Most stud­ies on MSG’s ef­fects on food in­take have been short-term tri­als, last­ing less than 24 hours and typ­i­cally less than 12. The vast ma­jor­ity of short­term tri­als showed no dif­fer­ence in the num­ber of calo­ries eaten be­tween high MSG meals and meals with­out MSG.

A few long-term stud­ies and ob­ser­va­tional stud­ies have been con­ducted, with mixed re­sults. Some stud­ies linked MSG to weight gain, while oth­ers did not. Although it is un­likely to have a clin­i­cally mean­ing­ful ef­fect on body weight, it would be more re­as­sur­ing for peo­ple if MSG was never as­so­ci­ated in any of the stud­ies with in­creased in­take of food.

Other con­cerns over MSG are to do with headaches. This is a dif­fi­cult thing to test in re­search as MSG has a bad rep­u­ta­tion, so peo­ple can bring their pre­vi­ously held opin­ions into the re­search set­ting and it’s dif­fi­cult to hide the fact that they’re eat­ing MSG, as it has a unique taste.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, MSG doesn’t ap­pear to in­crease the in­ci­dence of headaches. How­ever, some peo­ple strongly feel that they are sen­si­tive to MSG. In peo­ple who are sen­si­tive to MSG,

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