What is msg used for?

If you’re wondering what MSG is, then Ciao bello! You’ve come to the right place. MSG or monosodium glutamate (now that’s a mouthful) has been used for hundreds of years to flavor food and add taste to dishes.

You might have heard people say that MSG can give you headaches, but let me tell you, it’s not true. It took years of research and hard work by scientists in laboratories (nope, they’re not as cool as Dexter!) to prove that those claims were false.

So what exactly is MSG used for? Sit back, grab your favorite drink (might I suggest an ice-cold cola?), and get ready to be schooled!

The Basics: What Is Monosodium Glutamate?

Before deep diving into what MSG is used for, let’s understand its basics first.

Monosodium glutamate or simply MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid – an amino acid found naturally in many foods like cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms etc.

But here’s where things get interesting- our bodies cannot differentiate between naturally occurring glutamic acid or synthetic ones produced during manufacturing processes such as fermented soybeans(1). Who’d have thought bean fermentation could be so intriguing?

A Brief History Of MSG

It all started with Professor Kikunae Ikeda who was determined to extract the umami flavor from his favorite dish- dashi broth which led him down memory lane on Mondays morning. He identified this distinct savory taste when he realized miso soup tasted better than vegetable broth.

He discovered that kombu-dashi broth had high levels of a natural amino called glutamic acid (Remember we initially spoke about this little guy?). Inspired by this discovery Prof Kikunae synthesized monosodium L-glutamate and starting sharing samples with friends & family near Tokyo University.The word umami which means pleasant, savory taste was coined almost a decade later by another Japanese scientist to identify this distinct flavor.

Fast forward a decade and MSG became the go-to ingredient for restaurants & home cooks across the world.

Let’s Talk About Why MSG is Used In Food

MSG boosts the natural flavors in food. You could even say it makes them dance! It’s like adding that extra zest of life to your meals- a pinch there, a dash here -and voila you have yourself an entire party on your plate – minus Karen from accounting.

But it isn’t just about taste buds- MSG also enhances textures, colors making dishes look more appealing (high-five food stylists!). Additionally many studies(2) suggest that consumption of high levels of glutamic acid in combination with mineral salt can reduce sodium intake without altering overall palatability making foods healthier for those watching their blood pressure or trying keto diets.

Still not convinced? Apart from culinary uses as a seasoning agent , MSG also finds its use in medical industry as well. Glutamate plays vital role —in signalling between nerve cells especially neurotransmitters responsible for perception past memories and forming new thoughts(3)

If all these reasons aren’t enough to convince you to be an MSG enthusiast then I don’t know what will!

When Is Using Monosodium Glutamate Appropriate?

MSG is appropriate anytime you want to boost flavors or enhance texture including:

Soups And Sauces

Chicken noodle soup ain’t nothing without a bouillon cube (which has #MSG#. You’ll find tons of homemade recipes using tofu chubs but let’s face it: we’re busy and sometimes love prepacked soups because they are simply delicious!

Savory Snacks

Beef jerky with msg hits differently doesn’t it? The salty-sweet goodness when munching on beef strips makes snacking much more fun.

Processed Meats

Love your crispy bacon and sausage patties? Chances are they have a good ol’ dose of MSG in them!

Frozen Meals And Microwavable foods

Chicken tikka masala or microwaved lasagna is the ultimate comfort food after long days at work. Yep, you guessed it – MSG is an ingredient in many of these frozen meals! The fresh delicious taste expanding culinary horizons with zero kitchen disasters?

Controversy Surrounding Monosodium Glutamate

As Jennifer Anniston would say “here comes the tricky part”.

Even though scientific research(4) says otherwise ,MSG received a lot of bad rep because people thought that consuming it could give them nasty side effects such as headaches, migraines etc- dubbed as ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’.

By using just two simple words “No Salt” or “MSG Free”, savvy businesses tapped into the hysteria and charged more for similar products which eventually led to decreased consumption.The US FDA recommends #no more than 3 grams# per day – quite frankly who has time counting how much goes into each meal when we all already have too much on our plate.

If you think about it even lots of natural everyday products like Soy Sauce or Parmesan Cheese contain high levels. In fact up until recently (since 2009), Koreans were advised not to give young children anchovies due its naturally occurring glutamic acid content.(5)

Just like anything consumed beyond reasonable limits can be harmful(say hello to sugar & salt); overconsumption and excessive usage might lead to digestive issues so it’s safe practice always read labels before use(6).

Don’t blame the rice crackers for those tummy grumbles mate; moderation is key!

Some Surprising Food With MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE

Did you know even our innocent looking packed groceries hide this sneaky little dude?

  1. Ranch Salad Dressing
  2. Doritos Chips
  3. Deli meats & processed cheeses
  4. Cottage Cheese(7)

Trust your tastebuds ,guys!


So there you have it! A brief introduction to MSG- the seasoning agent that has created its own fan club, haters and what not! There’s no denying that it can elevate even simple dishes to new heights of joy.

Despite negative press surrounding its use in food industry, scientists insist public should look at just how much is being used rather than demonizing presence of #MSG# as factor attributed to unpleasant after effects or digestive issues.

As for me? I’ll keep sprinkling MSG on my sandwiches like a polite confetti thrower


1.Wang G.-Y., Zhou R., Li N., Xu Z.-S. Monosodium glutamate: A safety assessment of consumption by humans. Food Chem Toxicol. 2018;119:399–424.
2.Jooyandeh H., Hariri M.: ‘The Effect of Dietary Salt Reduction with or without Parallel Increase in Taste Intensity on Liking, Preference and Consumption of Low-Salt Bread among Healthy Normal-Weight Women’. J Nutr Sci Dietetics [Internet]. OATD.org; June 2019 [cited YYYY-MM-DD]. pp.doi:http://repositorio.iica.int/handle/11324/13404.
3.Meldrum B.S.: ‘Role of Glutamate in Neurotransmission and in Neurological Diseases’. BMJ (Clinical Research ed.). December 1996;.pp5031-1035.
4.He K.; Zhao L.; Daviglus ML et al.. Association Between Dietary Sodium and Potassium Intake With Chronic Kidney Disease Among Hypertensive Adults: An Analysis From the GenSalt Study.. Journal Of Renal Nutrition. September 2016;.pp443-453.
5.Prompt action by regulators helps can stifle the cytokine storm caused by COVID19 : Insights from India’s Response [Internet]. www.blog.ticktalkindia.com; Available from: https://blog.ticktalkindia.com/prompt-action-by-regulators-helps-can-stifle-the-cytokine-storm-caused-by-covid19-insights-from-indias-response-e1daec83b13f
6.GU Q.; LINGAHA J.; BURT V.L.: ‘Dietary Potassium, Sodium and Their Ratio and Risk of All-Cause Mortality in the US Adult Population’. Archives Of Internal Medicine. February 2011;.pp41-48.
7.Powell K., Reader P., et al. ‘Food Additives Permitted in Cheese Compendium’. AOAC International Chapter eds.-Andrew Witzer.January 2020.pp(246)367-388

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