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I have always heard that you should stay away MSG. For example when buying bouillon crystals we should always make sure that it doesn't contain MSG. Yet I came across this recipe for spinach soup that calls for 1/2 teaspoon of MSG. This got me wondering are there any pros to MSG. Should we stay away from it or should we incorporate it into our diet and if so should we limit how much we ingest? If it is 'bad' then is there something I can replace it with when a recipe calls for it?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

You should refer to the discussion here: http://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/5460/are-msg-and-accent-the-same-thing

Some relevant points: MSG is found naturally in seaweed and other things. It is used to enhance the flavors it is combined with.

It is completely harmless unless you are limiting your sodium intake. Check out the wikipedia article on the subject as a starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monosodium_glutamate#Health_concerns

In short there has been no linkage to any adverse effects found in many controlled studies.

As far as replacing it- You can leave it out altogether or add a little salt.

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Seaweeds contain glutamic acid, which stimulates the same mouth-parts as MSG (the glutamate R-group is what the mouth is sensitive to). Also: Some people don't like it. Just a matter of taste. –  Adam Shiemke Aug 27 '10 at 14:12
    
@Adam - Thanks for the clarification. –  Sobachatina Aug 27 '10 at 14:30
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Great answer. MSG is monosodium glutamate. It is the salt of a sodium ion and glutamic acid. Both of these are know to be safe individually, and as such, it's difficult to understand why MSG would be bad. It is possible that the manufacturing process adds some sort of harmful contaminate, but it is more likely that the perception of MSG as dangerous has caused people to have a negative psychological reaction to it. –  iman1003 Aug 27 '10 at 20:00
    
my friend's seizures are not a psychological reaction. For him all the glutamates are excitotoxins to his vulnerable brain. I am fine with them as are most healthy adults thus the inconclusive results. –  Pat Sommer Nov 13 '12 at 16:46
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MSG has been the subject of debate because of its possible effects on health -- most commonly headaches. While there is a stigma attached to MSG, there hasn't been any conclusive research to show that MSG is in fact linked to adverse reactions.

MSG (aka glutamates) serves as a flavor enhancer. Using it creates a richer, meatier, mushroomy taste and brings out the flavor in a lot of dishes.

I've seen fish sauce and Mrs. Dash seasoning suggested as suitable replacements for MSG.

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I considered a -1 for the (admittedly common) misconception that there is a link between MSG and headaches. However the other two paragraphs are very helpful so I left as is. Will gladly +1 if you consider editing your first paragraph, see justkt's answer and the comments in this thread: cooking.stackexchange.com/q/5460 –  stephennmcdonald Aug 27 '10 at 7:03
    
this board and my research managed to convince me quite thoroughly that MSG cannot be conclusively linked to poor effects on health. –  justkt Aug 27 '10 at 12:20
    
Dashi contains lots glutamates. I add some hon dashi to my rice to give it more flavor. –  Adam Shiemke Aug 27 '10 at 14:14
    
@Adam - Mrs. Dash is very different from Dashi. @justkt and @stephenmcdonald - I wasn't my intent to imply there was a proven link between MSG and headaches. I'm actually in agreement with you and am not convinced that there is a link between MSG and headaches and other adverse health effects. I didn't realize how the first paragraph was worded until just now when I went back for a closer look. Will revise! Thanks for the heads up. –  raji Aug 27 '10 at 17:38
    
No problem, I'm in total agreement with how it's worded now, +1 from me :) –  stephennmcdonald Aug 27 '10 at 18:11
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You would find it difficult to stay away from MSG since it occurs naturally in most foods.

Concerning the dangers of using it as a taste enhancer, I imagine the health issues are similar to those of other sodium salts.

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it's actually considered positive to use MSG in some cases because then you can get away with less salt. –  justkt Aug 27 '10 at 12:20
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