Monosodium glutamate: 10 reasons and ways to avoid it

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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Monosodium glutamate, is it bad for your health? Monosodium glutamate is a food additive used industrially to flavor packaged foods and for the preparation of vegetable or meat bouillon cubes. It is sufficient to check the lists of ingredients on the various packages to realize its omnipresence. Is monosodium glutamate bad for your health?

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Il monosodium glutamate it's a food additive used industrially to flavor packaged foods and for the preparation of bouillon cubes, vegetables or meat. It is enough to check the lists of ingredients on the various packages to realize its omnipresence. Monosodium glutamate It is bad for health?

The positions in this regard are very different. Its consumption has been related to the onset of obesity, intolerances, allergies, sensitization, momentary symptoms and very serious degenerative diseases. As in the case of many other food ingredients, it is possible to find studies, research and opinions on the subject entirely favorable or completely opposed to its consumption and use.

THEEuropean Food Information Council (Eufic), who considers it completely harmless, describes monosodium glutamate as the sodium salt of glutamic acid and as a natural amino acid present in almost all foods, with particular reference to high protein ones, such as meat, fish and dairy products, as well as some vegetables. Monosodium glutamate used by the food industry however, it is not at all natural. While it was initially extracted from certain foods, such as algae, it is now obtained completely thanks to chemical synthesis. Eufic further states that monosodium glutamate is a substance that can be used to enhance the taste of food without health risks. They are not indicated intake limits or recommended quantities. This would suggest a completely harmless ingredient. Are we really sure?

To learn more about the topic, we recommend viewing the service of Report which bears the title of Is glutamate bad for you?, included in the episode of April 4, 2001. The subject is still much debated after many years and the opinions contrasting.

If you are not sure, we prefer to avoid it. How? Here are some tips


Glutamate: how to avoid it?

Read the labels

How to avoid monosodium glutamate? You need to be very careful when shopping. All the ingredients on the label must be checked very well, not only in the case of the cube, but also as regards packaged products that may have been prepared with broth and sauces, or flavored with artificial additives. On food labels you will look for the wording "monosodium glutamate" or the initials E621.

Homemade nut

Nut is the culinary ingredient that most commonly contains monosodium glutamate. The nuts that we find for sale in the supermarket, whether in a block or in powder, vegetable or of meat, they can contain it. The simplest alternative to the commercial cube, if you want to have a truly natural seasoning, is its home preparation. Self-produce the nut it is not complicated and can be prepared in different versions, to be kept in the refrigerator, freezer or jar.

Read also: Vegetable cube: 5 recipes to prepare it at home


Monosodium glutamate is not only present in the nut. In fact, it can also be contained in numerous packaged foods, flavored in an artificial way, with particular reference to the packaging of ready-made sauces and condiments, to packaged and frozen bakery products and to ready-made dishes already seasoned and flavored, which only need to be heated in a pan or microwave. Monosodium glutamate is typical of industrial foods but may very well not be included in dishes based on natural ingredients prepared at home. Better to learn how to make sauces and dressings yourself.

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Alternative to sale

Some positions, more or less shared, remind us that monosodium glutamate contains less sodium than common table salt, and that therefore its use as a condiment could help to limit the supply of sodium to the body through food. This is supported, for example, by theEuropean Food Information Council, which defends monosodium glutamate with swordplay, stating that:

“Monosodium glutamate contains about one third of the sodium contained in table salt e it is used in smaller quantities. If combined with a small amount of table salt, this substance can help reduce the amount of sodium contained in a dish by 20 to 40%, while keeping its taste unchanged ".

The argument, however, does not fully convince us. Exist other ways to flavor dishes, beyond monosodium glutamate and common table salt: herbs, spices, pepper, chilli, curry, aromatic seeds (such as coriander and fennel seeds), flavored oil, gomasio (a condiment based on sesame and salt integral marine).

Why is it better to avoid it?

Artificial ingredient

Monosodium glutamate is a artificial additive. Its production now takes place in a completely industrial way. There is nothing natural about the monosodium glutamate used by the food industry. Regarding this ingredient, scientific studies are conflicting, as well as expert opinions. Those who follow a natural diet, not based primarily on packaged foods, it will avoid it without problems, almost without realizing it. This allows us to understand how its role is by no means fundamental in our diet.

Useless and deceptive

Useless and deceptive, here's how Altroconsumo, an association that fights in defense of consumers, has defined monosodium glutamate, after having classified it as suspicious additive. Let's think about it. This artificial additive is used by industry to flavor foods that have now lost their original flavor. Does a vegetable broth or tomato sauce really need a flavor enhancer? This would probably not be the case if they were made with fresh, seasonal vegetables. The use of monosodium glutamate is the consequence the impoverishment of the quality and organoleptic characteristics of the ingredients used by large industry to produce packaged foods. Unfortunately, many people are no longer used to natural flavors. Monosodium glutamate does nothing but hide them, tricking the taste buds. There is a risk of going in search of increasingly tasty foods and of enriching them with salt or excess cube even in home preparations. Let's forget monosodium glutamate and re-educate ourselves to taste.

Intolerances and allergies

Over the past few years we have seen an increase in cases of intolerances and allergies, in conjunction with the spread of an increasingly less natural diet and very unhealthy lifestyles. The dietician Marina Saviozzi he explained to Report how to understand if you are particularly sensitive to monosodium glutamate. After a meal rich in this additive, some may arise symptoms well recognizable, such as tachycardia, nausea, migraine, pain in the head, feeling of stiffness in the upper part of the body. According to the expert, it is also possible that a person who is not sensitive to glutamate could become one, given his omnipresence in packaged foods.

Chinese restaurant syndrome

This is how a particular syndrome was defined that would affect some particularly sensitive subjects after having lunch or dinner in a Chinese restaurant. The symptoms felt were correlated with the monosodium glutamate content of the dishes in these restaurants. Research conducted in this regard have later denied the role of monosodium glutamate in the onset of disorders, but doubts remained and the actual cause of the syndrome has not yet been identified. Symptoms include headaches and redness, up to real ones asthma attacks, which could otherwise be linked to allergy cases.

Degenerative diseases

The absence of reliable data regarding the link between monosodium glutamate and the appearance of degenerative diseases raises not a few suspicions. The correlation of its consumption with the onset of diseases such asAlzheimer and Parkinson would have been excluded. The link between monosodium glutamate consumption and disease it has been hypothesized also regarding the diabetes,autism, trough, behavioral and learning disorders. When in doubt, we prefer to avoid it as much as possible, since its use as a flavoring is by no means indispensable.


Il Doctor Francesco Perugini Billi he recalls in one of his articles the correlation between monosodium glutamate and obesity, which is probably not talked about enough. Monosodium glutamate would be used in animal experimentation, to make guinea pigs to be subjected to scientific studies obese quickly. According to the expert, humans, and especially children, are at least 4 times more sensitive to this substance than animals. He defines it as a real one toxin, to which the various subjects may be more or less sensitive. Glutamate should be considered among those responsible for the obesity epidemic. To learn more, we refer to the reading of the article: Glutamate makes you fat.

Marta Albè

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