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Foods that are Rich in Umami Taste Have “Natural” MSG

umami taste

How does MSG make foods flavorful? Foods that are high in glutamate (an amino acid that is part of many proteins) impart the umami taste.

Research has proven that MSG and glutamate-rich foods trigger special receptors in the mouth, “unlocking the savory taste known as umami.”

Glutamate is a big part of protein-rich foods such as meat, eggs and cheese, but is also found in fruits and vegetables. And, glutamate is responsible for giving foods the umami (savory) flavor that makes them taste delicious.

An article in Business Insider, noting that monosodium glutamate (MSG) occurs naturally in many flavorful foods, poses the question, “How do you get free glutamates in your food naturally?”

The article explains: “Monosodium glutamate is a powerful flavor enhancer that, despite what you may have heard, is widely accepted in the scientific community as a safe additive. In fact, MSG or other ‘free glutamates’ occur naturally in many of the most flavorful foods, some of which have been used to enhance flavor in cooking for millennia.”

Foods that are typically thought of as high in free glutamate include meat, fish, seafood, fermented sauces, aged cheeses, and some fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

According to the Umami Information Center, here are some foods that are high in glutamate (in mg/100g) and therefore rich in the umami taste:

Marmite: 1960 mg

Soy sauce: 400–1700 mg

Parmesan cheese: 1200–1680 mg

Vegemite: 1430 mg

Roquefort cheese: 1280 mg

Dried shiitake mushrooms: 1060 mg

Oyster sauce: 900 mg

Miso: 200-700 mg

Green tea: 220–670 mg

Anchovies: 630 mg

Dry-cured ham: 340 mg

Tomatoes: 140–250 mg

Clams: 210 mg

Peas: 200 mg

Cheddar cheese: 180 mg

Oysters: 40–150 mg

Scallops: 140-160 mg

Shrimp: 40-120 mg

Corn: 70–110 mg

Potatoes: 30–100 mg

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The MSGdish Team's goal is to provide timely and important information about glutamate, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and the many culinary creations inspired by “umami" while connecting these topics to facts about food, taste, and health. The MSGdish Team is comprised of TGA staff professionals who are recognized as experts in science-based nutrition communications. Read more on the About page.

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