What is glutamate and why do we love it?
The term “glutamates” refers to the many forms of glutamic acid. It is an amino acid found naturally in many foods and in our bodies.
Glutamates, like sugar and salt, trigger a response in our brain that make us enjoy our food. This response is not necessarily bad, as a wide variety of foods and traditional dishes contain glutamates.
Some examples of naturally glutamate rich foods include:
Glutamates don’t just taste good, they ARE good. It is a neurotransmitter in the brain and is essential for life itself. Glutamates are responsible for the taste sensation called “umami”.
If glutamates are natural, where does MSG come from?
Although glutamic acid is a natural amino acid present in almost all living things, MSG is manufactured as a food additive.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG):
a highly concentrated sodium salt of glutamic acid
Today, most MSG is made by fermenting sugar cane or corn.
How is yeast extract different?
The direct answer to the question of whether yeast extract is actually just a hidden form of MSG, is no.
And here’s why...
These two ingredients are completely different, made in completely different ways. Most importantly, they deliver very different forms and concentrations of glutamates.
Yeast extract naturally contains glutamate - typically around 5%. It also contains other compounds that contribute to its unique ability to enhance flavor, including peptides amino acids, and nucleotides.
MSG, inversely, is a highly concentrated and processed form of glutamic acid. It is 100% sodium glutamate.
What’s it all mean?
Yeast extract is a natural ingredient derived from yeast, which can bring out the flavors in food and add umami. While MSG also has umami properties, it is a concentrated glutamate salt and added as a flavor enhancer.
Over the years, the FDA has received reports of symptoms such as headache and nausea after eating foods containing MSG. However, they are not able to confirm that the MSG caused the reported effects. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s report even concluded that MSG is safe. Despite this, consumer perception has been tainted due to a lack of knowledge surrounding the ingredient. Uninformed food bloggers and advertising in the media have labeled MSG as a dangerous ingredient. Luckily, yeast extract provides great umami flavors and doesn’t risk labeling for food manufacturers.
Watch the video to learn more: