With the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ now underway, thousands of registered dietitian nutritionists have gathered to discuss the latest research on nutrition.
Despite the new science, a few things remain true – like the basics of a healthy diet for most people. A well-rounded diet rich in fruits and vegetables generally supports health.
What about MSG, an ingredient commonly associated with Chinese takeout, savory snacks, and soups? Science shows that MSG can be part of a healthy diet.
The Ways MSG Supports Health
MSG can reduce sodium intake
While “sodium” is part of MSG’s name (monosodium glutamate), MSG doesn’t actually contain very much sodium. Salt (sodium chloride) contains three times more sodium than MSG does (39% vs 12%). When MSG is substituted for part of the salt in a recipe, the recipe’s sodium content can by lowered by 20% to 40% and still taste good. In fact, adding MSG will often improve the taste of the food because it adds a savory flavor. One study found that most of the participants liked the low-salt recipes with MSG added as much as or better than the standard recipe.
Many foods that are good for us, like vegetables, don’t taste the greatest on their own. However, the addition of umami flavor through MSG or other umami-rich foods can balance out the bitter taste of vegetables to make them taste better. Adding cheese or bacon to cooking vegetables is one way people have been doing this for ages. MSG is another way to do it without the fat or salt that is in some umami-rich foods.
MSG may increase nutrient intake in older people
Our abilities to taste and smell diminish as we get older. This can lead to a poor appetite and/or suboptimal food intake by the time we’re in our seventies or older. Energy and nutrient deficiencies may develop as a result of that lower food intake. Malnutrition can lead to a slew of problems that diminish quality of life and shorten life span. For this reason, researchers have investigated easy ways to promote food intake in elderly people. MSG seems to be one of these ways. Studies have found that amplifying the umami taste in a food may lead to improvements in salivation, appetite, weight, and overall health in both sick and healthy elderly people.
MSG makes food more enjoyable
The umami flavor of MSG is an important component of the diet. It tastes good, favorably affects the mouth feel of food, and enhances the flavors in a food. It can be used to add meatiness flavor to meatless dishes, and it can make vegetables tastier.
Having delicious food may seem like a luxury. But it’s pretty important when you consider that people won’t eat what doesn’t taste good. There’s a lot to be gained from eating a healthier diet. There’s nothing to be gained from eating food devoid of joy.