The current U.S. dietary recommendations emphasize the need for Americans to significantly reduce sodium in their diets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90 percent of all Americans eat too much sodium in their daily diets.
But for those of us who love salty foods and are used to grabbing the salt shaker the minute dinner is served, how do we lower our sodium intake without sacrificing taste? A recent research study on monosodium glutamate (MSG) and its effect on palatability is enlightening. The results are pretty tasty if we say so ourselves. While we’ve addressed MSG and taste in several of our blogs here at MSGdish, this research offers further proof of how important MSG can be to enhance the flavor of food (in this case, spicy soups).
Umami, the proven fifth taste, has enjoyed a fascinating and stellar history since its discovery in 1908. One of the high points in umami’s 110-year timeline is the World Umami Forum, which took place just last week in New York City, September 20-21.
This inaugural conference attracted food science experts, renowned researchers, food historians, journalists, registered dietitians, and culinary professionals from around the world. Participants left the meeting with a deeper understanding and appreciation of umami and its essential role in cuisine, and learned about the extensive science that refutes urban myths about monosodium glutamate (aka MSG or “umami seasoning”).
Sometimes the words used when talking about umami are a little unfamiliar. Here’s a look at the meaning of the ones you’re most likely to encounter so you can be in the know.
Glutamate – Glutamate is the common name for glutamic acid, an amino acid found in nearly all protein-containing food. It is also naturally produced by the human body.
There’s a widely held skepticism about MSG that started with a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in 1968. In an opinion piece, a physician noted radiating pain in his arms, weakness and heart palpitations after eating at Chinese restaurants, and speculated that cooking wine, MSG or excessive salt might be to blame. Readers replied that they too experienced this “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” and MSG became suspect in the public eye. Its presence at the top of people’s minds has ebbed and flowed over the past 50 years, but it is in the public consciousness enough that quite a few food labels today often still tout a food’s MSG-free status. But is MSG bad for you?
Let’s take a look at what the science has to say.
World-class chefs use MSG (monosodium glutamate) in their cooking, and perhaps you’re toying with the idea of giving it a try at home. Why should you go for it? Quite simply, because seasoning many foods with MSG makes them taste better!