What makes a memorable meal? Is it the taste, the presentation, or the reputation of the meal? No matter how we see it, it will always be the taste of a certain meal that will serve as a remembrance whenever we get the chance to eat them. So in order to make the most memorable dish, people use different spices and seasonings to give the taste of their dishes a different kind of impact. One of the most used spices these days are known to be monosodium glutamate or MSG; especially when it comes to Asian cuisine, MSG can be considered as a staple seasoning that people use to boost the flavor of the said kinds of dishes.
Monosodium glutamate is common to most households, for others it may also seem as important as salt in terms of providing additional flavor to people’s home-cooked dishes. But did you know that there actually specific kinds of food that contain naturally occurring MSG within them? Let’s get to know a few things about monosodium glutamate and which foods have their own natural MSG content.
The Use Of Monosodium Glutamate As Food Flavoring
If you check your kitchen cabinet and see something that looks similar to salt but has a more transparent and crystal-like appearance, it may be monosodium glutamate. But it is also normal for MSG to be mistaken as salt most of the time, and there is no problem regarding cases like this because they are both considered as seasonings. The only issue between salt and MSG is that they may taste a little different because they actually have different purposes for cooking and they both contain completely different components.
MSG is used to enhance the flavor of the food, it is acting as an aid in boosting the flavor of a certain food, which is completely different from simply adding a salty flavor like how salt provides it to food. Also, MSG is unlike salt when it comes to what they are made of. Salt is known to be a byproduct of sodium and chlorine ions, which makes it a chemical compound. Monosodium glutamate, on the other hand, is derived from an amino acid that naturally occurs in the body – L-glutamate.
MSG got its name from what it is mostly comprised of sodium and L-glutamate or glutamic acid.
Glutamate is a nonessential amino acid and can be made in the body by itself. This amino acid is also considered to be one of the most abundant in the human body, and the same goes for the food which contains it; whereas it is said to be naturally available to almost every food that we eat.
In its chemical form, MSG is often mistaken as table sugar and salt; it was previously mentioned how it is common to have a mix-up between salt and MSG. The specific appearance of MSG is that it looks like a crystal that is somehow made into powder form.
If you’re curious about how MSG is made from glutamic acid, there is an actual process that they follow for the production. They use the process of fermentation wherein the starches of the amino acid are fermented to easily derive the MSG from them. In terms of the chemical composition of the MSG when compared to natural glutamate amino acids, there is actually no difference.
The best thing about MSG is that it is like the convenient version of the usual glutamate that we found in food because of how it gets easily absorbed in the body. According to a few studies, the powdered form of MSG makes it possible for the body to be able to absorb it faster than those that we get from our food which is still inside protein molecules and need to undergo a few processes in the body before they are finally absorbed.
So, how different is MSG from salt when it comes to giving taste to food? Salt, as we all know, provides an additional salty taste to food; while MSG is in charge of making a dish more flavorful by enhancing its umami flavor. Umami is equivalent to the salty flavor that salt provides, but the word umami is commonly applicable to MSG most of the time. The four basic tastes salty, sweet, sour, and bitter actually have the fifth one; and that is the umami.
Throughout the years of existence of MSG, it has been associated with a lot of hearsays regarding its supposed bad effects on the body when consumed; despite the amount of consumption. There was a time when the scare deeply affected the MSG market which resulted in lesser consumers buying the product off the market shelves. Thankfully, researchers took the time to study the potential side effects of MSG if they are true or not. The results? There was not a single one of them showing that monosodium glutamate is as dangerous as other people claim. Due to these findings, the scare on MSG consumption toned down and people slowly went back to using the flavoring just like before.
Additionally, monosodium glutamate is linked to lower calorie intake in the body. A few scientific evidence have mentioned that the umami flavor of MSG is actually helpful in keeping an individual full, thus it has the potential to aid in weight loss by making a person avoid eating extra snacks afterward. Some other studies suggest, however, that MSG may be partly responsible for the increase of calorie intake in most people. So the best thing to do is to not use MSG as a means of reducing calorie intake.
Foods That Naturally Contain MSG
Here is a shortlist of some foods that have available amounts of MSG in them. All the MSG in these foods are naturally occurring, which may be an indication of a possible process within them that resulted in the natural production of monosodium glutamate.
- Fish sauce
- Soy sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Parmesan cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- Squid (seasoned with salt)
- Dried shiitake mushrooms
- Green tea
- Grape juice