Yeah… Bouillon cubes… What are they? Bouillon cubes are those salted flavor cubes used as a short cut for making broth or as a flavor enhancer for meats, beans, and other foods. My African readers may be more familiar with the brand, Maggi. During my 3+ years in West Africa, I remember it was used in just about everything you ate at anyone’s home or from the street vendors. I remember the men who grilled fresh goat and beef served on a torn piece of a brown paper bag topped with sliced onions, tomatoes, and a good heaping teaspoon of a spice mix — the base being Maggi cubes. I can’t lie; that meat was good. I’m sitting here remembering the smell of that meat wafting in the air as the evening markets were just getting set up. I even remember a few nights when the makers of Maggi sponsored a few nights at a local night club. They gave away little baggies of Maggi Cube in assorted flavors — chicken, beef, and shrimp! #SCORE #memories
You can find Maggi Cubes in the States in virtually any ethnic grocery and usually mainstream grocery stores. There are many other brands as well. But have you ever checked out the ingredients? Many of them have salt as the first ingredient. Generally speaking, when it comes to packaged foods, ingredients are listed in the degree of concentration. If salt is the first ingredient, then it is made of mostly salt — and not good sea salt either. It is generally the crappy table salt that has been stripped of its natural minerals.
MSG: The addictive food additive
One of the next few ingredients is often monosodium glutamate — or MSG. MSG acts as an addictive flavor enhancer in a lot of processed foods like canned soups, Chinese food, and packaged snacks. The more you eat these foods, the more you will buy them. The US Food and Drug Administration has labeled MSG as “safe,” however smart consumers know better. Eating foods containing MSG can often lead to side effects like headaches, sweating, and chest pains. This is because MSG is a neurotoxin. Why would you want a neurotoxin in your body in the first place?
There are some brands that offer organic bouillon cubes, but frankly, the nutritional value in these cubes is severely lacking.
Alternatives to Bouillon Cubes
Let’s talk about an alternative to these evil cubes. If you are trying to make a good broth for soup or beans, try using kombu. Kombu is a seaweed or sea vegetable that is chock full of iodine — essential to thyroid function. If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and/or PCOS, kombu is a food you want to add to your diet. How do you use it? I love to put it in a pot of boiling beans that have been soaked overnight. It gives the broth a wonderful texture and generally has no flavor. To flavor the beans add sea salt and your favorite herbs and spices.
Do you use Maggi or bouillon cubes often? Have you found an alternative to using cubes? Tell me in the comments below!
Halona Black, M.Ed., is a Culinary Nutritionist and author of Loving Your Fibroids Away: A 10-Day Detox Plan. She teaches cooking classes, writes and edits e-books, and is a health coach to women with fibroids and other hormonal imbalance issues. She can be reached at chef at GarlicAndLemonsLLC [dot] com.