MonoSodium Glutamate (MSG) is one of the most hotly debated food additives in the history of the food industry. Originally developed in Japan and derived from seaweed, this compound gained notoriety in the states due to people getting sick after copious amounts of MSG were poured into foods at various restaurants, especially Chinese restaurants.
This led to a negative backlash for usage of the compound, with many places now claiming they are "MSG-free." However, a food scientist from my alma mater (and degree program), UC Davis, recently told Business Insider that he created a "super-salt" that utilizes MSG to get his kids to eat items like whole wheat pizza.
That got me thinking - with my own academic background concentrated in food science, how did I feel about MSG?
After analyzing and researching the compound, I've come to the decision that you really don't need to add MSG to create delicious food.
MSG is formed from the reaction between Sodium, one of the basic elements that forms table salt (sodium chloride), and Glutamic Acid, a common amino acid found freely in everything from tomatoes, fish, meats, soy sauce, and seaweed.
Basically, you're creating MSG naturally in your food every time you season it and cook it. Steaks, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and several other foods will already have this natural MSG inside of them.
MSG is actually the key compound responsible for one of the five basic tastes - umami. In fact, umami was a term created by the founders of Japanese flavor company Ajinomoto to describe the flavor of the MSG they invented. Any time that you experience that umami - or savory - taste sensation, that's monosodium glutamate providing the flavor.
MSG is perfectly safe in the natural levels found in foods. Studies have shown that eating seriously high levels of MSG (over 3 grams) on an empty stomach tends to cause discomforting symptoms like stomachaches. When restaurants dump the pure MSG crystals into food, customers complain about those symptoms and the whole backlash against MSG begins anew.
Other than those extremely concentrated circumstances, MSG is totally safe to consume.
However, it's not really necessary to add into food, because it's so easy to consume naturally once you cook food. You boost the salty and savory flavor profiles of foods just by adding salt because MSG is formed.
Because of that, I don't think you need to have a "super-salt" that adds MSG into your food at home. Just use salt and foods with natural glutamic acid in it instead. You'll get the same effect.