Glutamic acid is an non-essential amino acid as the body produces it on its own and at the same time, it is plentiful in other sources such as protein, vegetables, legumes among others. Glutamate is one of its compounds found abundantly too in the body. Glutamate, like glutamic acid, remains vital for the body as it produces neurotransmitters that trigger messages to the brain.
However, while it remains beneficial and essential, too much can actually harm and damage the mental condition of some people, especially those who are sensitive to this amino acid and, suffer from certain mental ailments. Thus, it is important that we don’t consume it excessively.
Read on why it needs to be managed properly and why we need a low glutamate diet plan.
Role of Glutamate in the body
Glutamate or glutamic acid actually has an ample level in our body, particularly in the brain and it plays a key function in brain development. Memory and comprehension are two functions too that glutamate has a contribution. Glutamate however is referred to as an excitatory neurotransmitter, which means it acts as a trigger. However too much-triggering effect or stimulant could injure the brain, affecting its ability to process information. Those with sensitivity too to glutamate could also experience some bad consequences
The problem however for those who are glutamate sensitive or suffering from ailments such as ADHD or around that spectrum is that synthetic form too of glutamic acid or glutamate abounds in many processed foods. This synthetic form is called Monosodium glutamate or MSG. This particular enzyme gives certain foods a savory taste of umami.
Effects of Glutamate in the body
The body has a natural way of managing the levels of amino acids; this is also what medical practitioners call a blood-brain barrier that protects the brain from being penetrated or bombarded with certain enzymes that can hamper its function. However, this is not always the case as at times leaks happen.
Those who are sensitive to glutamate, they could experience pounding headaches even migraines, and stomach upsets. Within the 12 hour period after consuming, it can trigger asthma attacks, numbness and tingling sensation on the face and legs and, anxiety.
The most serious of course is for those who have behavioral issues, ADHD or within the same spectrum as glutamate, as mentioned above, is an excitatory enzyme that acts as a stimulant thus exacerbating the symptoms of those who suffer from said ailments.
Therefore it is imperative to reduce the exposure of some people to glutamate or manage a low glutamate diet to avoid any negative effects.
But first, what foods are packed with glutamate?
Foods with Glutamate
Glutamate is actually very plentiful in both meat-based and plant-based foods, dairy, and most especially in processed foods. Thus, it can be quite daunting, but doable, to reduce one’s exposure to this amino acid.
Again, glutamate is not bad per se as it is essential in brain development but too much consumption has detrimental effects.
Here are some foods that contain high glutamate
- Meats such as turkey, beef, and pork
- Vegetables that are referred to as nightshades like tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, potatoes, paprika, and chili
- Nuts such as pistachios and cashews
- Dairy like milk and cheese such as parmesan and Roquefort
- Grains like oats, barley, and wheat
- Seeds are basically high in glutamate, specifically sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- Beans, while high in fiber contain high amounts of glutamate such as lentils, lima, black beans, pinto, navy, and soy.
- Sauces to make the dishes savory have high glutamates such as soy sauce, fish sauce, and tomato-based sauces
- Alcoholic beverages contain high levels of glutamate not to mention that too much alcohol can harm the liver and increase blood pressure
Aside from the foods mentioned above, other foods, natural or otherwise that have high glutamate or MSG include highly processed foods like fast foods, potato chips, salty snacks, and other junk foods. Now you know why it’s called junk food.
Broccoli, mushrooms, fermented foods like kimchi, cured or treated meats and cheeses, peas, sweets that contain artificial sweeteners, gelatine, chocolate drinks and coffee, diet colas and drinks, grape juice, beef broths, and seasonings that have a strong taste.
Eating A Low Glutamate Diet
With the abundance of glutamate, both in natural or synthetic forms, following a low glutamate diet plan can be quite difficult. The problem also is, most of these foods taste good and can bring a sense of joy like chocolate drinks, for example, cured meats, sauces, and many others. However, a lot of foods are still available that won’t trigger any sensitivities to glutamate or, worsen the symptoms of those with behavioral difficulties and ADHD spectrum. Likewise, eliminating them all is not the key but managing or being aware of its glutamate content and balancing.
So what should be included in the low glutamate diet plan?
Here are some suggestions:
- While all meats have glutamate, stick with the ones that have low glutamates such as fish, chicken, and lamb.
- Eggs, fortunately, have very low glutamate and are a good source of protein so they can be included in a low glutamate diet plan. Just make sure not to season it with flavorings.
- Rice has glutamate especially the highly processed white variety – so just eat black, brown, or red rice but in moderate quantity.
- Fruits and fiber-rich vegetables will forever be good such as berries and leafy green vegetables. Even root vegetables are safe to eat, such as carrots, rutabaga, radish, parsnips, beets – except for potatoes.
- Macadamias and pecans have the lowest glutamate content of all nuts, so it’s alright to eat.
However, those with ADHD should really opt for foods that have extremely low glutamate or no content at all.
Others have suggested that once the body has adjusted to the low level of glutamate, reintroduce some that have an ample amount but do it slowly and minimally.
Advise To Those Who Want A Low Glutamate Diet
If you feel that you are sensitive to glutamate, immediately ask for a doctor’s confirmation and advice. The diet plan mentioned is just simple suggestions so it’s still best to ask a medical practitioner or dietician to customize a meal plan for you, particularly those who have certain behavioral challenges.