Food With Monosodium Glutamate

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A safe and delicious ingredient is something everyone looks for. But what is Food With Monosodium Glutamate and what can it do for you? Monosodium glutamate is an uncommonly used food additive that has been around for decades. Its popularity has risen drastically since the year 2000, when it was deemed safe by the FDA and labeled as “GRAS” (Generally Recognized As Safe). It’s also very versatile in a variety of foods, including meats, seafood and vegetables, soups, stews and dressings.

Food With Monosodium Glutamate

Hundreds of ingredients are added to foods during processing to enhance the flavor of the final product.

Monosodium glutamate, commonly known as MSG, is one of the most controversial food additives approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

While it’s “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) to be used in the food supply by regulatory agencies, some research shows that it may negatively affect health, which is why many people choose to avoid it .

This article explains what MSG is, what foods it’s typically added to, and what the research says about possible health implications.

Chinese take out food

What is MSG?

MSG is a popular flavor enhancer derived from L-glutamic acid, a naturally occurring amino acid that’s necessary for the creation of proteins .

Aside from being used as a food additive, MSG occurs naturally in certain foods, including tomatoes and cheeses .

It was first identified as a flavor enhancer by Japanese researchers in 1908 and has since become one of the most widely used additives in food production.

Today, it can be found in a number of processed products, from fast food to canned soups.

MSG boosts the flavor of foods by stimulating taste receptors and has been shown in research studies to increase the acceptance of particular flavors. Adding MSG to foods results in an umami taste, which is characterized as savory and meaty .

This popular additive has been deemed GRAS by the FDA, though some experts argue that it can have potentially dangerous side effects, particularly when consumed on a long-term basis.

The FDA mandates that MSG must be labeled by its usual name of monosodium glutamate when used as an ingredient in food. Foods that naturally contain MSG, such as tomato products, protein isolates, and cheeses, aren’t required to list MSG as an ingredient.

In other countries, MSG is classified as a food additive and may be listed by the E-number E621 .

Here are 8 foods that commonly contain MSG.

1. Fast food

One of the best-known sources of MSG is fast food, particularly Chinese food.

In fact, MSG symptom complex is a condition characterized by symptoms including headache, hives, swelling of the throat, itching, and belly pain experienced by some people shortly after consuming MSG-laden Chinese food.

Although many Chinese restaurants have stopped using MSG as an ingredient, others continue to add it to a number of popular dishes, including fried rice.

MSG is also used by franchises like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Chick-fil-A to enhance the flavor of foods.

For example, Chick-fil-A’s Chicken Sandwich and Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Extra Crispy Chicken Breast are just some of the menu items that contain MSG.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet wellness tips to help you meet your next milestone

2. Chips and snack foods

Many manufacturers use MSG to boost the savory flavor of chips.

Consumer favorites like Doritos and Pringles are just some of the chip products that contain MSG.

Aside from being added to potato chips, corn chips, and snack mixes, MSG can be found in a number of other snack foods, so it’s best to read the label if you want to avoid consuming this additive.

3. Seasoning blends 

Seasoning blends are used to give a salty, savory taste to dishes like stews, tacos, and stir-fries.

MSG is used in many seasoning blends to intensify taste and boost the umami flavor cheaply without adding extra salt.

In fact, MSG is used in the production of low sodium items to increase flavor without the addition of salt. MSG can be found in many low sodium flavoring products, including seasoning blends and bouillon cubes.

Additionally, MSG is added to some meat, poultry, and fish rubs and seasonings to enhance the palatability of foods.

4. Frozen meals 

Although frozen meals can be a convenient and cheap way to put food on the table, they often contain a host of unhealthy and potentially problematic ingredients, including MSG.

Many companies that make frozen dinners add MSG to their products to improve the savory flavor of the meal.

Other frozen products that often contain MSG include frozen pizzas, mac and cheese, and frozen breakfast meals.

5. Soups

Canned soups and soup mixes often have MSG added to them to intensify the savory flavor that consumers crave.

Perhaps the most popular soup product that contains this controversial additive is Campbell’s chicken noodle soup.

Many other soup products, including canned soups, dried soup mixes, and bouillon seasonings, can contain MSG, making it important to check individual product labels.

6. Processed meats  

Processed meats like hot dogs, lunch meats, beef jerky, sausages, smoked meats, pepperoni, and meat snack sticks can contain MSG.

Aside from being used to enhance taste, MSG is added to meat products like sausage to reduce the sodium content without changing the flavor.

One study found that replacing sodium with MSG in pork patties enhanced the salty flavor and acceptability of the product without negatively affecting taste.

7. Condiments 

Condiments like salad dressing, mayonnaise, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and soy sauce often contain added MSG.

In addition to MSG, many condiments are packed with unhealthy additives like added sugars, artificial colorings, and preservatives, so it’s best to purchase products that are made with limited, whole food ingredients whenever possible.

If you’re concerned about using MSG-containing condiments, consider making your own so that you have complete control over what you’re consuming. For starters, you can try out these delicious and healthy salad dressing recipes.

8. Instant noodle products

A staple for college students around the world, instant noodles provide a quick, filling meal for those on a budget.

However, many manufacturers use MSG to boost the savory flavor of instant noodle products. Plus, instant noodles are typically made from unhealthy ingredients and are loaded with added salt, refined carbs, and preservatives that can harm your health.

Instant noodle consumption has been associated with increased heart disease risk factors, including elevated blood sugar, cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood pressure levels.

Is MSG harmful?

While research is far from conclusive, some studies have suggested that consuming MSG may lead to negative health outcomes.

For example, MSG consumption has been linked to obesity, liver damage, blood sugar fluctuations, elevated heart disease risk factors, behavioral problems, nerve damage, and increased inflammation in animal studies.

Some human research has demonstrated that consuming MSG may promote weight gain and increase hunger, food intake, and your risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of symptoms that raises your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

For example, a study in 349 adults found that those who consumed the most MSG were much more likely to have metabolic syndrome than those who consumed the least, and that every 1 gram increase of MSG per day significantly increased the chances of being overweight.

However, larger, well-designed studies are needed to confirm this potential link.

There’s also some evidence that MSG increases hunger and may lead you to eat more at meals. However, current research suggests a more complex relationship between MSG and appetite, with some studies finding that MSG may even decrease intake at meals .

Although research is mixed on how MSG may affect overall health, it’s clear that consuming high doses of 3 grams or higher of MSG per day is likely to lead to adverse side effects, including headache and increased blood pressure.

For reference, it’s estimated that the average consumption of MSG in the United States and the United Kingdom is around 0.55 grams per day, while intake of MSG in Asian countries is around 1.2–1.7 grams per day.

Although it’s possible, consuming 3 grams of MSG or more per day is unlikely when eating normal portion sizes.

However, certain individuals who have a sensitivity to MSG may experience side effects like hives, swelling of the throat, headache, and fatigue after consuming smaller amounts, depending on individual tolerance.

Still, a review of 40 studies found that, overall, studies that have linked MSG with adverse health effects are of poor quality and have methodological flaws, and that strong clinical evidence of MSG hypersensitivity is lacking, highlighting a need for future research.

While evidence of MSG sensitivity is lacking, many people report that consuming this additive leads to adverse side effects.

If you think you may have a sensitivity to MSG, it’s best to avoid the products listed on this page and always check labels for added MSG.

Furthermore, even though the safety of MSG is debated, it’s clear that foods that commonly contain MSG, like chips, frozen meals, fast food, instant noodles, and processed meats, aren’t good for overall health.

Therefore, cutting out MSG-laden products will likely benefit you in the long run — even if you aren’t sensitive to MSG.


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11 foods with MSG

MSG is utilized in the food business as a flavor enhancer with an umami flavor.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is made of water, sodium, and glutamate. Glutamate is an amino acid that is utilized in the production of proteins.

MSG does not have a distinct flavor. It is used to enhance the natural flavors of meals, such as:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Casseroles
  • Gravies
  • Shellfish
  • Snacks
  • Vegetable dishes

Glutamate is naturally present in foods, such as maize, green peas, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

What is MSG?

MSG is utilized in the food business as a flavor enhancer with an umami flavor that increases the meaty, savory flavor of food, much like naturally occurring glutamate does in stews and meat soups.

MSG, when used as a flavor enhancer, balances, mixes, and rounds out the impression of other flavors.

11 foods with MSG

  1. Fast food and restaurant meals
    • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is commonly found in foods cooked at chain restaurants and fast-food restaurants.
    • It is generally used to make the food more flavorful than it is.
    • Various restaurants have different regulations, but it is typical for cooks to liberally use MSG in anything from noodle meals to stir-fries and soups. This frequently results in excellent meals that do not need much careful preparation.
  2. Heavily processed foods
    • Canned soups, prepackaged deli meat, certain bacon products, and pepperoni and cured ham slices contain MSG.
    • Foods that rely heavily on chemical preservatives to keep them fresh sometimes include monosodium glutamate.
    • MSG preserves the taste of these products no matter how long they have been in the store.
    • MSG is found in processed meat, such as hot dogs, lunch meat, beef jerky, sausages, smoked meat, pepperoni, and meat snack sticks.
    • Aside from increasing flavor, MSG is added to meat products, such as sausage to lower salt levels while maintaining flavor.
  3. Frozen products
    • Convenience products, such as frozen foods, have MSG.
    • Most foods lose a lot of nutrients throughout the freezing and warming process, which might affect how they taste. Adding flavor enhancers is a simple approach for producers to ensure that people like the flavor of the meal as well as its convenience.
    • Any meal designed to provide rapid, affordable gratification possibly has MSG.
    • Breakfast meals, frozen dinners, macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and frozen pizzas are examples of frozen foods containing MSG.
  4. Fermented or aged foods
    • MSG is regularly added to Asian-style culinary ingredients, such as soy sauce and fermented bean paste. It could be present in trace levels in some old cheeses.
    • Natural fermentation frequently results in a bitter, somewhat pungent aftertaste that is not necessarily pleasant.
    • MSG frequently balances the flavor, giving a savory ingredient that makes the finished dish sour without being overbearing.
  5. Chips and other snacks
    • Many manufactured snack items have sources of MSG. Potato and corn chips and flavored popcorn, some crackers, and packaged cookies are common examples.
    • Snack mixes, such as trail mix, may have traces of MSG.
  6. Condiments
    • MSG is widely found in condiments, such as soy and barbeque sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressing.
  7. Seasoning blends
    • Seasoning mixes add a savory and salty flavor to marinated meat, vegetables, soups, stews, and tacos.
    • It is an easy method to add umami taste without adding too much salt. MSG is used in many spice rubs to improve flavor.
  8. Soups and instant noodle products
    • MSG may be present in quick soup mixes, canned soups, and instant noodle products.
  9. Some dairy products
    • Many fat-free and low-fat types of milk are prepared using powdered milk that includes MSG.
    • Pasteurization impacts MSG levels, particularly in ultra-pasteurized milk.
    • Higher temperatures cause more milk protein to be broken down, resulting in more MSG.
    • MSG residues could be found in ultra-pasteurized products, such as powdered milk, cottage cheese, fat-free milk, yogurt, low-fat milk, and ice cream.
  10. Fresh fruits and vegetables
    • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows certain MSG sprays or products to apply to fresh produce.
  11. Baby formulas and baby foods
    • Most powdered baby formulae contain processed milk and soy proteins, enzymatically hydrolyzed reduced minerals, whey protein concentrate, corn syrup solids, casein hydrolysate, modified corn starch, and carrageenan, which are broken down into MSG during the production process.

Is MSG harmful?

Contrary to widespread assumption, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is not harmful to most individuals. Though some studies have shown that MSG may have detrimental consequences, such as obesity or nerve damage, these MSG concerns are unfounded.

According to most research, manmade MSG is digested identically to its naturally occurring counterpart and causes no health concern. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration added MSG to the “generally recognized as safe” list.

Throughout the literature, there is no strong proof that MSG is harmful in any manner.

However, as with any food, a small percentage of people may have a short-term negative reaction to MSG (MSG sensitivity). Symptoms of MSG sensitivity are often brief and mild.

6 possible signs and symptoms of MSG sensitivity

If you have the symptoms below and suspect MSG, you should start avoiding foods that contain the ingredient. Consult your doctor if you believe your symptoms are more severe. 

While some people may react negatively, MSG is considered safe for most people to consume. Overall, MSG is an effective flavor enhancer with a few health risks.

  1. Headaches
  2. Nausea
  3. Flushing or sweating
  4. Facial pressure, numbness
  5. Rapid heartbeats
  6. Chest pain

3 possible benefits of MSG

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer found in savory foods, particularly Asian foods. It contains sodium, but only one-third of the amount is found in the same amount of salt.

  1. Umami-rich broth
    • According to a few studies, consuming umami-rich broth may promote healthy eating behaviors and food choices, particularly in women at risk of obesity.
    • The researchers looked at how women’s brains changed after consuming chicken broth with or without MSG.
    • Broths with added MSG lit up areas of the brain associated with satisfaction and better eating control.
    • Furthermore, women who consumed the broth made better choices during their meals, favoring foods with lower saturated fat.
  2. Reduces fat intake
    • For those who struggle with calorie intake, seasoning with umami rather than fat may aid in healthy weight management.
  3. Reduces salt intake
    • MSG can be an effective tool to lower salt intake.
    • Umami allows for less salt, particularly for MSG. That is, sodium levels can be reduced while maintaining or improving a product’s taste.

How much MSG can I add to my foods?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that daily consumption of up to 0.55 grams of monosodium glutamate (MSG) is safe. MSG will not raise blood pressure.

If your body is naturally used to greater salt and glutamic acid consumption, you will not suffer any negative consequences. Despite the controversies surrounding its use, MSG turns out to be just like any other meal accessible today.

If you consume too much of it, your health will suffer, but moderate intake is healthy and delightful.

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