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MSG reconsidered. Should you be using msg in your Asian food?

Updated on July 10, 2007

Why Asian food tastes better in Asia…MSG reconsidered

OK, so this little guy has a pretty bad reputation, but is it a deserved one? Many more "reputable" Asian restaurants in North America boast of cooking free of this additive, while any serious restaurant in Asia would never think of leaving this out. This seems to be a case of bowing to the pressure of the masses, and compromising the true ideal of the food.

MSG is ubiquitous in Asia, and is used by EVERYBODY, in just about every dish; just as you would add salt to just about everything. MSG used to be considered a flavor enhancer, but more recent scientific research has actually determined that that our tongues actually have specific receptors for this molecule, and the taste has been named unami,. Not only MSG has this unami, it is also found in foods as diverse as soy sauce, parmesan cheese, truffles, fish sauce, shitake mushrooms, etc. and the addition of unami as a flavor is an understood culinary concept in China, and much of the rest of Asia.

Msg, or unami, adds a lingering depth of flavor, and a judicious dash of MSG can transport the merely good to the sublime.

MSG has had a bad reputation ever since a 1960's study in the New England Journal of Medicine published a report FROM ONE DOCTOR, DESCRIBING ONLY HIS OWN SYMPTOMS after eating Chinese food; not exactly a rigorous scientific study! This Chinese food syndrome has since been proven to be a myth and msg has been clinically studied, and found to be easily tolerated by the overwhelming majority of people. Chinese restaurant syndrome, it seems, is largely a psychosomatic one.

Msg is widely available for purchase in most of the world, and you'd be surprised at the difference it can make to your Asian cooking. Try adding in a scant pinch to your next stir fry, and see the difference it will make. Adding msg is not cheating, and is in fact a more culturally correct and authentic way to replicate the flavors and dishes of Asia.

Now too much msg is a bad thing, Just as too much salt can make a dish unpalatable. You can learn to taste msg, and if you can actually discern it in the flavors of a dish, you've added too much. Some processed and packaged foods will also use too much msg, just as they use too much salt…another reason to cook for yourself!

Msg is an authentic ingredient, is benign, and does not induce any sort of physical reaction in the overwhelming majority of people. Try a little msg

Say no to no msg!


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    • profile image

      Jbfree 5 years ago

      I find msg suspicious. It is not essential to our health so why is it in everything average people eat? Why do I have to goto expensive grocery stores to find natural food? Since there is so much concern why wont the manufacturers jusy leave it out? Why do they keep hiding it in food. Its obvious we live in a greedy world so why be nieve and think ur health means anything to those greedy bastards. They wont dare eat the foods the masses eat...hello!

    • Iontach profile image

      Iontach 7 years ago

      HAHA I like this Hub! I would also like to say 'Say No To No MSG', food just tastes fabulous with it so whatever. Everything in moderation they say. Being a sushi lover and asian food lover, and even writing hubs on these types of foods, I'd definitely consider adding a pinch of

      Voting up!

    • profile image

      Ray 7 years ago

      Having the option of non-MSG is nice. It keeps some people from making a huge deal about a potential problem that has no definite scientific basis.

      If they want to miss out on authentic tastiness, go ahead :)

      If the media used their fear tactic on something like how fatty food can lead to obesity, our country would be so much healthier.

      Oh wait... they already do that.

      Funny how MSG seems to take such a bad rep while fried chicken doesn't.

    • vphomma1 profile image

      vphomma1 7 years ago

      People with food allergies have weak immune response to begin with and should stay away from MSG. My families lived and breathed MSG...none of us has ever been allergic or obese from its consumption. Eating in moderation is the key. Scientific studies is still inconclusive and lacks crucial evidence on MSG being the cause of all of the negativity in the media. If it is in human breast-milk and many other organic vegetables then it is authentic enough for me. All the myths,rumors and scientific studies proved nothing. I have high trusts in the FDA which concluded that it is safe and totally agreed with them mainly because I eat MSG my whole entire life!

    • profile image

      thy 8 years ago

      try adding loads of salt to your soup and see what happens then. As mentioned before... moderation is the key.

      I love cooking especially vietnamese/asian which will never taste authentic without glutamate. But I also cook non asian food ergo I use no glutamate. Never had any problems. Well as the author wrote whole of Asia consumes heaps of it everyday and my great grandmother still got 100 years old and had the sharpest mind almost till the end.

    • profile image

      Joys 8 years ago

      My jaw went numb after consuming too much MSG. My head was spinning too. Try adding loads of it to your soup and you can easily see the results.

    • profile image

      Rational Science 8 years ago

      Please show me one independent _scientific_ study that concluded with negative results for MSG.

    • profile image

      lisa jenkind 8 years ago

      Too much MSG and I get a headache that lasts for 3 days. That is all I need to know.

    • profile image

      patrick 8 years ago

      yea msg are not good if ur body is allergic to one can be allergic to shellfish or any food and the people who show bad symptons after consuming msg food are the one who have food allergied 19% of mothers milk is glutamate and 3% of cows milk!!

      that is why it is said that babies having mothers milk make ther body resistant to food allergies later on in life which is a prooven fact.

      so its not really weather msg is good or bad but its if u r allergic to it or not!

    • Elynjo profile image

      Elynjo 8 years ago from Sin City

      Presently, MSG is a no-no in my family. Some might think it is just a myth about it being bad for your health, but in my family it is a reality and to be taken seriously.

    • profile image

      Joey 9 years ago

      MSG Authentic? It's been around for barely 100 years. It's a newer chemical. Kombu, and other seaweeds, is authentic. MSG, not so much.

    • profile image

      Nutrient Savy Dude 9 years ago

      I'm actually a nutritionist, and I know from extensive research on the topic that it is inconclusive. Strangely enough, most Asians don't boast the kind of health issues we do here in the States, and they certainly use their share of the stuff. I use it occasionally when cooking, and just like everything else in your diet, use moderation!

    • profile image

      Jak 9 years ago

      If any of the scare myths that Jessica posted were true, this product would be off the shelves faster than you can "monosodium glutamate." Our FDA has a long history of erring on the side of caution, not convenience. To say otherwise bespeaks a gross ignorance of both history, and fact. This is a typical example of myth, rumour, and legend becoming "fact" by being repeated by media, such as tv, etc.

      To believe that the titans of the food industry are more concerned with the immediate dollar, rather than the long-term safety of their products (thus their expensive hard-earned reputations) is the sort of conspiracy theory that gives rise to the rather explicitly accurate term "conspiracy nut." Even more telling is the simple fact that our bodies are "tuned" to glutamates not as some horrible weakness, but because highly nutritional foods like shellfish and cheese contain them. To say that something is okay in a shrimp, but not in a packet is just pig-headed stupidity. It pains me that we live in a world where the average dolt will believe anything they are told twice, the facts be damned!

    • profile image

      Jessica Rawlin 10 years ago

      MSG is a health hazard and here are the facts; In 1957 neuroscientists discovered rentinal damage in mice from MSG. Since 1969 lesions in the hypothalamus (brain) has been observed in 12 scientific trials. Ninety million pounds are imported annually to the U.S. food supply. It is now largely in American restaurant soups and sauces and processed foods in the grocery. In a recent government hearing a neurologist stated glutamate is an excitotoxin and kills nerve cells. An FDA committee admitted that there is an MSG induced asthma, MSG induced obesity in mice, and the potential for neurodegenerative diseases. MSG used to be in baby food and the chairman of the committee that found it safe in infants Dr. Lloyd Filer from Univ of Iowa admitted he used his own industry funded research to say it was safe. He was charged with conflict of interest in congressional investigation of the hearings.60 Minutes did an excellent program on MSG risks. The producer later stated he got more pressure not to air that show than any other. The FDA managed the potential damage with a news release the following day. The industry is very politically savvy and has invested in many research and nutrition organizations for decades. They have always had one of their own on the Food and Nutrition Board. Any posting of the dangers is immediately neutralized with a glutamate insider comment. Watch what happens.