Recently a new campaign was initiated to clear up beliefs about MSG. Know MSG is designed to share the facts versus the beliefs that you should avoid MSG.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is used in cooking because it provides a boost to flavor. MSG is a combination of sodium and glutamate, an amino acid that is found naturally in many foods. Glutamate is found in foods like tomatoes, mushrooms, meat, poultry, and some dairy foods. In a previous blog post I talked a bit about glutamate and how it contributes to food flavor by appealing to our fifth sense of taste – umami. MSG is made through the process of fermentation using corn as the base.
For the last fifty years people have tried to avoid MSG for two main reasons; one, it contains sodium and two, it causes headaches. While MSG contains sodium, when using it in cooking it is possible to use less of it than you would of salt because of the glutamate, which triggers the umami taste buds on the tongue. Reducing sodium intake through the use of MSG in recipes and or cooking helps provide a health benefit to those who want, or need to, watch their sodium intake. If you are curious about current guidelines for sodium intake, check this post.
When it comes to headaches, in 1968 a letter to the editor of a medical journal indicated that the writer had experienced headaches after eating at a Chinese Restaurant. It was after this letter that MSG was often connected to “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”, but scientific evidence has never confirmed the connection. The Food and Drug Administration has a Q and A document on MSG that provides the scientific side of the question.
Know MSG as a Flavor Enhancer
The recent campaign on Know MSG is focused on sharing the scientific evidence related to the safety of MSG, providing information on health benefits of using MSG in place of salt, and offering tips, and recipes, for use of MSG. I do not work for the MSG team, nor have they paid me to write this blog, but they did send me some great information on MSG, along with some fun swag!
As a registered dietitian I like to review scientific evidence before recommending or commenting on any foods or products. As I have read the scientific evidence, checked a variety of journals to view different studies and finally, used MSG in my cooking, I am happy to say that –
- MSG is a good way to reduce sodium intake and boost flavor
- Scientific studies do not indicate any consistent evidence of development of headaches after use of MSG
- MSG is a safe way to enhance flavor in your cooking
To Your Health!
One of my goals as a registered dietitian is to help consumers translate food and nutrition science, and media messages, to what it really means for their family’s meals. When it comes to the conversation around MSG, I can safely say that it can help you prepare healthier, tastier meals that are safe for your family’s enjoyment. #KnowMSG
About Connie – Connie is a Registered Dietitian with extensive experience communicating in the food and nutrition space. Taking the science of food and nutrition and translating it to simple messages, new products, or exciting menus is her expertise. Making nutrition messages clear, accurate, and engaging aids all consumers.