11 Foods With Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Medically Reviewed on 7/1/2022
11 foods with MSG
MSG is utilized in the food business as a flavor enhancer with an umami flavor.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is made of water, sodium, and glutamate. Glutamate is an amino acid that is utilized in the production of proteins.

MSG does not have a distinct flavor. It is used to enhance the natural flavors of meals, such as:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Casseroles
  • Gravies
  • Shellfish
  • Snacks
  • Vegetable dishes

Glutamate is naturally present in foods, such as maize, green peas, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

What is MSG?

MSG is utilized in the food business as a flavor enhancer with an umami flavor that increases the meaty, savory flavor of food, much like naturally occurring glutamate does in stews and meat soups.

MSG, when used as a flavor enhancer, balances, mixes, and rounds out the impression of other flavors.

11 foods with MSG

  1. Fast food and restaurant meals
    • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is commonly found in foods cooked at chain restaurants and fast-food restaurants.
    • It is generally used to make the food more flavorful than it is.
    • Various restaurants have different regulations, but it is typical for cooks to liberally use MSG in anything from noodle meals to stir-fries and soups. This frequently results in excellent meals that do not need much careful preparation.
  2. Heavily processed foods
    • Canned soups, prepackaged deli meat, certain bacon products, and pepperoni and cured ham slices contain MSG.
    • Foods that rely heavily on chemical preservatives to keep them fresh sometimes include monosodium glutamate.
    • MSG preserves the taste of these products no matter how long they have been in the store.
    • MSG is found in processed meat, such as hot dogs, lunch meat, beef jerky, sausages, smoked meat, pepperoni, and meat snack sticks.
    • Aside from increasing flavor, MSG is added to meat products, such as sausage to lower salt levels while maintaining flavor.
  3. Frozen products
    • Convenience products, such as frozen foods, have MSG.
    • Most foods lose a lot of nutrients throughout the freezing and warming process, which might affect how they taste. Adding flavor enhancers is a simple approach for producers to ensure that people like the flavor of the meal as well as its convenience.
    • Any meal designed to provide rapid, affordable gratification possibly has MSG.
    • Breakfast meals, frozen dinners, macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and frozen pizzas are examples of frozen foods containing MSG.
  4. Fermented or aged foods
    • MSG is regularly added to Asian-style culinary ingredients, such as soy sauce and fermented bean paste. It could be present in trace levels in some old cheeses.
    • Natural fermentation frequently results in a bitter, somewhat pungent aftertaste that is not necessarily pleasant.
    • MSG frequently balances the flavor, giving a savory ingredient that makes the finished dish sour without being overbearing.
  5. Chips and other snacks
    • Many manufactured snack items have sources of MSG. Potato and corn chips and flavored popcorn, some crackers, and packaged cookies are common examples.
    • Snack mixes, such as trail mix, may have traces of MSG.
  6. Condiments
    • MSG is widely found in condiments, such as soy and barbeque sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressing.
  7. Seasoning blends
    • Seasoning mixes add a savory and salty flavor to marinated meat, vegetables, soups, stews, and tacos.
    • It is an easy method to add umami taste without adding too much salt. MSG is used in many spice rubs to improve flavor.
  8. Soups and instant noodle products
    • MSG may be present in quick soup mixes, canned soups, and instant noodle products.
  9. Some dairy products
    • Many fat-free and low-fat types of milk are prepared using powdered milk that includes MSG.
    • Pasteurization impacts MSG levels, particularly in ultra-pasteurized milk.
    • Higher temperatures cause more milk protein to be broken down, resulting in more MSG.
    • MSG residues could be found in ultra-pasteurized products, such as powdered milk, cottage cheese, fat-free milk, yogurt, low-fat milk, and ice cream.
  10. Fresh fruits and vegetables
    • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows certain MSG sprays or products to apply to fresh produce.
  11. Baby formulas and baby foods
    • Most powdered baby formulae contain processed milk and soy proteins, enzymatically hydrolyzed reduced minerals, whey protein concentrate, corn syrup solids, casein hydrolysate, modified corn starch, and carrageenan, which are broken down into MSG during the production process.


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Is MSG harmful?

Contrary to widespread assumption, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is not harmful to most individuals. Though some studies have shown that MSG may have detrimental consequences, such as obesity or nerve damage, these MSG concerns are unfounded.

According to most research, manmade MSG is digested identically to its naturally occurring counterpart and causes no health concern. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration added MSG to the “generally recognized as safe” list.

Throughout the literature, there is no strong proof that MSG is harmful in any manner.

However, as with any food, a small percentage of people may have a short-term negative reaction to MSG (MSG sensitivity). Symptoms of MSG sensitivity are often brief and mild.

6 possible signs and symptoms of MSG sensitivity

If you have the symptoms below and suspect MSG, you should start avoiding foods that contain the ingredient. Consult your doctor if you believe your symptoms are more severe. 

While some people may react negatively, MSG is considered safe for most people to consume. Overall, MSG is an effective flavor enhancer with a few health risks.

  1. Headaches
  2. Nausea
  3. Flushing or sweating
  4. Facial pressure, numbness
  5. Rapid heartbeats
  6. Chest pain

3 possible benefits of MSG

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer found in savory foods, particularly Asian foods. It contains sodium, but only one-third of the amount is found in the same amount of salt.

  1. Umami-rich broth
    • According to a few studies, consuming umami-rich broth may promote healthy eating behaviors and food choices, particularly in women at risk of obesity.
    • The researchers looked at how women's brains changed after consuming chicken broth with or without MSG.
    • Broths with added MSG lit up areas of the brain associated with satisfaction and better eating control.
    • Furthermore, women who consumed the broth made better choices during their meals, favoring foods with lower saturated fat.
  2. Reduces fat intake
    • For those who struggle with calorie intake, seasoning with umami rather than fat may aid in healthy weight management.
  3. Reduces salt intake
    • MSG can be an effective tool to lower salt intake.
    • Umami allows for less salt, particularly for MSG. That is, sodium levels can be reduced while maintaining or improving a product's taste.

How much MSG can I add to my foods?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that daily consumption of up to 0.55 grams of monosodium glutamate (MSG) is safe. MSG will not raise blood pressure.

If your body is naturally used to greater salt and glutamic acid consumption, you will not suffer any negative consequences. Despite the controversies surrounding its use, MSG turns out to be just like any other meal accessible today.

If you consume too much of it, your health will suffer, but moderate intake is healthy and delightful.

Medically Reviewed on 7/1/2022
Image Source: iStock image

US Food and Drug Administration. Questions and Answers on Monosodium glutamate (MSG). https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/questions-and-answers-monosodium-glutamate-msg

Datta A, Hossain A, Roy S. An Overview on Monosodium Glutamate: Its direct and indirect effects. Research J Pharm and Tech. 2019; 12(12): 6187-6192. https://rjptonline.org/HTMLPaper.aspx?Journal=Research%20Journal%20of%20Pharmacy%20and%20Technology;PID=2019-12-12-97

International Glutamate Information Service. Scientific Evaluations of MSG. https://glutamate.org/safety/scientific-evaluations/