Substitutes for Monosodium Glutamate

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a food additive used to enhance flavor. It is common in Chinese food, processed meat, canned soups and canned vegetables. The FDA classes MSG as “generally recognized as safe,” but over the past decade, there have been numerous reports of side effects from eating this neurotoxin.


Monosodium Glutamate

Monosodium glutamate is a white crystalline sodium salt of glutamic acid. Glutamate is a naturally occurring, non-essential amino acid found in most food, particularly food rich in protein such as fish, meat and dairy products. When MSG is added to food products, it increases the flavor in a similar way that glutamate does. It is most often added to savory foods, wherein it adds a fifth taste known as “umami.”

Side Effects

A number of side effects have been reported by people who have consumed food containing MSG; these include headache, chest pain, sweating, flushing, numbness in the face and neck, weakness, nausea, heart palpitations and facial tightness. However, according to Dr. Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., researchers have been unable to find a direct link between these symptoms and MSG. If you have experienced any of these symptoms after eating MSG, it is considered best to avoid it.

Alternative Flavor Enhancers

In an attempt to reduce the amount of MSG added to food products, in 2005, food technology company Senomyx manufactured four flavor enhancers known as S807, S336, S263 and S976. They were all given a “generally recognized as safe” determination by the FDA. According to Senomyx, the additives enhance flavor by up to 40 percent.

Natural Flavor Enhancers

If you are looking for MSG substitutes to enhance your own cooking, you could add foods that are naturally high in glutamate, such as mushrooms, lemon and lime juice, seaweed, tomatoes, oyster sauce, soy beans, potatoes, Chinese cabbage, green tea, chicken eggs and soy sauce. All of these foods, as well as meat and seafood, are umami-rich.


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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or