MSG, or Monosodium Glutamate is a salt of the amino acid – Glutamic Acid (glutamate). A salt is the chemical name for a molecule held together by opposite charges. Basically one (mono) sodium atom is “stuck” to the amino acid glutamate.
MSG tricks your tongue into making you think a certain food is high in protein and thus nutritious. The food industry is trying to focus on stimulating the “fifth” taste sense they call “umami”. Free glutamic acid is detected by the taste buds as a simple way to signal the presence of protein in a food, just as there are fat receptors to detect fats and receptors that sense carbohydrate or sweet flavors.
Chicken and sausage products, ranch dressing, parmesan items, gravy, and dipping sauces, and fries with any kind of seasoning on them except plain salt. Flavored packaged salty snack chips, especially Doritos® and Cheetos® and items with cheese powder added. At regular restaurants, soups, ceasar salad, fish sauce or extract, soy sauce, Boar’s Head® deli meats and anything that comes out of a can.
The US Food and Drug Administration requires food containing MSG to list it as an ingredient. MSG is a common ingredient in Asian foods, not simply limited to Chinese food. A lot of chinese restaurants will now offer MSG free foods, or can prepare MSG free food upon request. However; the part of MSG that people have adverse effects from is the glutamate. There are many other glutamate-based additives that do not have to be labeled as containing MSG. So something may say it’s free of MSG, but actually contain glutamate. The link provides some of the pseudonyms of glutamate
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