High glutamate foods refer to food sources that contain high significant amounts. Glutamate is a non-essential amino acid, which means your body can produce on its own without getting from external sources. Rich food sources comprise of plant and animal.
Glutamate and Glutamic Acid: What’s the Difference?
These two are often confused. Glutamate is almost the same as glutamic acid except the glutamic acid is glutamate that loses its hydrogen or attached to a metal ion. For example, sodium plus glutamate becomes sodium glutamate. Monosodium glutamate is composed of sodium and glutamate and when it’s dissolved it turns into sodium and glutamate.
Foods High in Glutamate
|Baked potato||Boiled lobster|
|Swiss cheese||Tomato Paste|
Glutamate can be found in these foods:
|Grapes||Gravy||Citric acid processed from corn|
|Sodas and flavored teas||Worcestershire sauce||Diet or low-fat foods|
|Peanuts and Walnuts||Fermented foods||Fortified proteins|
|Chocolate||Some brands of hot dogs and cold cuts||Enriched vitamins|
|Cornstarch||Shrimp and prawns||L-cysteine|
|Creamers (non-dairy)||Dry milk or skimmed milk||Soup Mixes|
|Pectin||Whey powder or dried milk||Stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce|
|Xantham Gum||BBQ sauce||Bouillion or all types of broth|
|Baked goods||Mustard||Mushrooms such as enokitake and shiitake|
|Fried Chicken||Substitutes for eggs||Gelatin|
These vegetables are high in glutamate:
Note: Take note that some of these foods may contain high in sugar or bad fats. Eat those that are healthy and likely unprocessed.
Benefits of Glutamate
Glutamate is beneficial to your health in moderate amounts. Here are the benefits:
Aids in brain function
Glutamate helps the brain as a neurotransmitter. It aids in memory learning and other cognitive function. This amino acid must be produced inside the brain since it can’t cross the brain-blood barrier unless such barrier is leaky.
Plays an important role in muscle function
Glutamate provides energy and glutathione production for the muscles.
Provides an essential role in the immune system
Glutamate can be found in immune cells such as macrophages, dendritic cells, T cells, and B cells. It’s potent on cancer and T cells that are autoimmune pathological. Both drugs and that activate the glutamate receptors can be used to treat cancer and infections (1).
Increase appetite and satiety
Glutamate can signal your body that you are getting protein-rich foods that your body prefers. With MSG in foods, your appetite increases but satiety increases after you eat (2).
Improve the functions of Gut
Glutamate can provide an energy source for the gut or intestinal cells. It activates your body responds to food by activating the digestive system by:
- Increasing the level of serotonin in the gut
- Stimulates gut movement
- Activates the gut serotonin secretion
- Increases the production of energy and body heat
Provides an ingredient for GABA or Gamma-aminobutyric acid
GABA is a neurotransmitter that is important in muscle contraction and learning. It helps in sleeping and anxiety reduction. Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase or GAD, an enzyme, turns glutamate into GABA. It inhibits the firing of neurotransmitters while Glutamate enhances its firing. When you’re overwhelmed, anxious and overstimulated you’re low in GABA but when you relax you’re high in GABA. In analogy, it’s like GABA for “stop” and Glutamate for “go” in a stoplight.
Too much sodium in dishes can spoil or cause bad effects on your body. MSG can be used to add savory flavor while reducing the need to add more salt.
Provides flavor to dishes
Glutamate forms a part of monosodium glutamate – a type of seasoning that adds flavoring to foods. It’s commonly used in processed foods and Asian cuisines in a form of millimeter-sized granules. Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese biochemist, discovered the MSG while trying to duplicate and enhance the flavor of kombu – a seaweed used for Japanese soups. MSG is said to add flavors, hearty, rounded, broth-like, and meaty.
What are its side effects, Is it bad for your health?
Some restaurants and processed food carry the label “No MSG” in response to worries that MSG can cause headaches, allergies, and obesity. According to some experts, there’s a misunderstanding. A director for food innovation and professor, Ken Lee, from the University of Ohio State confirmed that MSG causes no food allergies and toxicity. This is also echoed by Katharine Woesnner, an immunologist from Scripps Clinic Medical Group. She studied the effects of MSG and told that there’s a misunderstanding about the bad effects of MSG.
A study in 1993 (5) disproved the link between MSG and syndrome. Another study (6) confirms that MSG has minor and short-term reaction causes to some subset of groups. The Federal Drug Administration of US classifies MSG as safe.
Studies show that any excessive amounts would be harmful to health, but vast quantities of MSG are not enough to cause bad effects.
The only concern is that overdosage of glutamate may lead to overexcitation of the neurotransmitter because glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter. Overexcitation can lead to damaged nerve cells and oversensitivity of nerve cells. High concentrations of glutamate may lead to cell damage and when it happens glutamate becomes an excitotoxin (7, 8).
The Bottom Line: Should I or Should I Not Use MSG?
Eating high glutamate goods is a good way to get the benefits of this amino acid such as increasing the effects of the neurotransmitter. Anything in excess of glutamate and MSG could be bad for your health. Get glutamate from nutritious sources.
- Ganor, Yonatan, and Mia Levite. “The Neurotransmitter Glutamate and Human T Cells: Glutamate Receptors and Glutamate-Induced Direct and Potent Effects on Normal Human T Cells, Cancerous Human Leukemia and Lymphoma T Cells, and Autoimmune Human T Cells.” SpringerLink, Springer Vienna, 2 Mar. 2014, link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00702-014-1167-5.
- Masic, Una, and Martin R Yeomans. “Umami Flavor Enhances Appetite but Also Increases Satiety.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24944058.
- Blachier, et al. “Metabolism and Functions of l -Glutamate in the Epithelial Cells of the Small and Large Intestines.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 July 2009, ajcn.nutrition.org/content/90/3/814S.full.
- Du, Jie, et al. “Involvement of Glutamate-Cystine/Glutamate Transporter System in Aspirin-Induced Acute Gastric Mucosa Injury.” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 18 July 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24866234.
- Monosodium L-Glutamate: A Double-Blind Study and Review.” Food and Chemical Toxicology, Pergamon, 8 Nov. 2002, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/027869159390012N.
- “Excitotoxicity – HOPES Huntington’s Disease Information.” HOPES Huntington’s Disease Information, hopes.stanford.edu/glossary/excitotoxicity/.
- “About Glutamate Toxicity – HOPES Huntington’s Disease Information.” HOPES Huntington’s Disease Information, 18 Nov. 2014, hopes.stanford.edu/about-glutamate-toxicity/.