MSG… Why Is It So Good?
Except for some plants such as peas, mushrooms, tomatoes and potatoes, glutamates occur naturally in most plants and animals. Glutamate itself is in many living things. It is found naturally in our bodies and in protein-containing foods such as cheese, milk, meat, peas and mushrooms. For centuries MSG was derived from seaweed, but today it is made from corn, wheat, beets and molasses. MSG is made by a fermenting process using starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses. Unlike salt and sugar which bring their own flavors to food, MSG increases food’s basic taste.
We can break down flavors into salt, sour, sweet and bitter and MSG flavor enhancer. MSG does not have a distinct taste of its own, and how it adds flavor to other foods is not fully understood. Many scientists believe that MSG stimulates glutamate receptors in the tongue to augment flavors. MSG works best in foods with low concentrations of glutamate such as cooked vegetables. It is often added to dishes which have little meat and is a common ingredient in Asian food. In Asian cooking bouillon with MSG added to it is often used.
MSG can produce a cumulative effect which produces headaches, nausea, and flushes. Used in small amounts, for people on a low sodium diet, MSG – which does contain sodium – may make food tastier and healthier than salt.
MSG can be purchased in the spice and herb sections of supermarkets, in a bouillon form in an Asian supermarket or in specialty shops. Monosodium glutamate is usually sold in a white crystal form. You can use MSG in most recipes, but you should use only a little to determine if you like the flavor enhancement and if you can tolerate the additive. If you decide to add MSG to your recipes, we suggest that you use no more than 1/4 teaspoon. Increase this amount until you find the right flavor.