To my Myth Buster Followers,

What is on the agenda today, let’s talk about MSG-Monosodium Glutamate is it dangerous?   

Myth:- The MSG found in some Chinese dishes can trigger headaches?

Here’s what you need to know

Please, look at Government and Professional Accredited nutrition, dietetic and medical websites and information resources. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is the sodium salt found in glutamic acid, which is a natural amino acid (building block of protein) in our body, and is also present in many foods and food additives. We generally consume foods that are flavor enhanced with MSG, when they are canned or in many Chinese dishes. Your body digests both naturally present MSG in foods and chemically made MSG in the same way, and does not distinguish between these forms. People who react with MSG often report symptoms of  headaches, nausea, numbness, tingling, flushing, facial tension, burning feelings, weakness and may suffer chest pain.  Fortunately, these reactions are temporary, lasting up to 2 hours and aren’t long term, with symptoms presenting ~ 20 minutes after consuming MSG.  If you are sensitive to MSG it’s advisable to avoid consumption of MSG, by asking when you are dining or getting takeaway at Chinese restaurants, reading labels to avoid any MSG and by keeping informed about MSG. Foods that have added MSG are required to be listed on the food label.

Be aware that tomatoes, grapes, fruit juices, cheeses, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, protein isolate, soy extracts and yeasts (extract, hydrolysed & autolysed), all contain MSG either naturally or added, and are not required to mention this on labels. Make sure you check all labels thoroughly for MSG added or if the above products are mentioned on the label, to avoid consuming MSG if you are MSG sensitive.  It has been concluded that the use of MSG doesn’t constitute a health hazard to humans from in-depth evaluations by The Joint Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) (1987), and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (1995).

For individualised advice to meet your nutritional needs, look for an Accredited Practising Dietitian


The US Food and Drug Administration reports adding MSG to foods is found to be generally safe, however numerous persons have reactions to MSG and identify as MSG sensitive. Trigger reactions or the mechanisms resulting in negative effects from MSG have not scientifically been proven or solved.

Tip: When cooking with MSG adding Vitamin C provides significant protection against the toxic effects of MSG.

Hot Tip:-

Claims such as “contains no MSG“, “no MSG added” and “no added MSG” can be misleading due to other added sources of free glutamate being present e.g. hydrolyzed vegetable protein, protein isolate, soy extracts, yeasts – extract, hydrolysed and autolysed, and these all contain MSG, however only the product name is mentioned on the label.  Also labels can show Flavour enhancer (MSG)’, or Flavour enhancer (621) and food additive code numbers 622 – 625 which all contain MSG.

MSG shown below in the photos has Flavor enhancer and no mention of MSG on the Labels

WARNING:- When a food does not require to be labelled e.g. restaurants and takeaway foods, MSG is not required to be declared, you will need to ask staff members or the manager.  

Food supply and availability:- MSG (glutamic acid) is found naturally in majority of foods and is produced commercially as a flavor enhancer.

Links for further reading:-

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – Questions and Answers

MSG in food

Questions and Answers on Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Deciphering the MSG controversy

Effect of systemic monosodium glutamate (MSG) on headache and pericranial muscle sensitivity.

Msg Free Recipes

Recipe:- The Chinese stir fry taste without the added MSG

Beef stir fry (Serves 4)

  • 120ml beef broth ( if purchasing, stock based from bones not powder)
  • ½  tablespoon cornflour mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • ½  tablespoon reduced-sodium or lite soy sauce
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped finely or crushed
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped
  • 200g lean -filet, rib or rump sliced into strips
  • 1 medium red capsicum sliced
  • 1 cup assorted mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup broccoli, split into bite-sized florets
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 1 small red onion sliced
  • 1 carrot julienne cut (match sticks)
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoon Sesame seed oil or canola oil for cooking
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
  • Steam jasmine rice in rice cooker or cook in pan,  1 cup of rice  to 1.5 cups of water. Boil to tender. (simmer 20mins)

Heat up stock add one clove crushed garlic, soy sauce and simmer, thicken with cornflour mix, simmer for 3-5 minutes on low and set aside.

In a wok heat 1 table spoon of oil (fairly high heat but oil not smoking), add crushed garlic and beef strips. Quickly wok fry for 2 minutes. Take out and set aside.

In the same wok heat 1 tablespoon oil (fairly high heat but oil not smoking), add ginger, chilli, onion, capsicum and carrots, wok toss on medium heat for 2 minutes, add mushrooms and broccoli and cook for a further 2 minutes, add shallots and snow peas and cook for a further 2 minutes, add sauce and bring to simmer(may need to increase heat), combine well, add meat toss through vegetables and sauce mixture for 1 minute. Serve rice into bowl with beef stir fry on top, sprinkle with sesame seeds and eat straight away.  Vegetables firm and crunchy and beef tender, melt in your mouth.

beef stirfry

Enjoy……Eat well, eat fresh

By Lyn Dunkley your Myth Buster,

NRG Dietitians Australia


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