Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a seasoning used to enhance the flavor of food. MSG is simply sodium + glutamate. Glutamate is the most abundant amino acid in nature – it’s naturally present in foods like tomatoes, aged cheeses and mushrooms, and is one of the 20 amino acids that make up proteins in the human body. Glutamate is also present in breast milk; in fact, breast milk contains 10x more glutamate than cow’s milk.
MSG is digested and metabolized the same way that glutamate found in foods are – your body can’t tell the difference. Because chemically they are the same – a tomato (glutamate) sprinkled with salt (sodium) is chemically equivalent to MSG. It’s also made through a simple, natural fermentation process. You start with a carbohydrate source like cassava, sugar cane or corn, ferment it, and glutamic acid is created. A sodium ion is then added to make it crystallized and stable (so that we can sprinkle it and put it to good use!).
MSG can actually help reduce sodium in dishes without compromising flavor because of umami. In fact, MSG contains 1/3 the amount of sodium as table salt. And studies have shown that using MSG in recipes can help reduce sodium by 30% while maintaining palatability.
MSG and umami also add mouthwatering flavor to dishes, so MSG could be used as a tool to help people eat more nourishing foods like vegetables.