I received a question regarding MSG and I thought it would be a great topic for ask the nutritionist series. We always hear that MSG is the worst thing for us and we should avoid it at all costs. But what about my beloved pho? And the other dishes that are most commonly thought to use MSG as a flavor enhancer? Should we stop eating them?

What is MSG? MSG, or Monosodium Glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamate. Glutamate is an amino acid that is produced in the body and essential for many bodily functions. Glutamate is found in fish, meat, poultry, milk and some vegetables.

Is it harmful? The glutamate in MSG is metabolized just as natural glutamate is in our bodies. There have been no definitive studies between MSG and adverse side affects, although, like any foods, some may experience reactions to MSG. MSG actually contains a third of the sodium of salt, so for those looking to add flavor without as much sodium, it can actually be a good savory flavor enhancer.

The Verdict? Like everything, moderation is key. Since MSG was shunned upon, many restaurants and food products do not use it anymore but don’t panic if it is in some of the packaged foods you buy (like soup) or used at a restaurant. Just keep it in moderation and make sure to enjoy that bowl of Pho, I know I will!

Reference:

Duyff, Roberta Larson (2006). American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide (3rd ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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