Miso paste is a staple in Japanese cuisine, known for its rich umami flavor and versatility in cooking. However, there has been controversy surrounding the use of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in commercial miso paste.
Some people avoid MSG due to adverse reactions or concerns about its safety. But does miso paste actually contain MSG?
In this article, we’ll explore the origins of miso paste, its nutritional benefits, and whether or not it contains MSG. So grab a bowl of miso soup and let’s dive in!
Does Miso Paste Have MSG?
Miso paste is made by fermenting soybeans with salt, koji, and other ingredients until they have a concentrated flavor. While miso paste does contain high amounts of glutamic acid and salt, it does not contain MSG extract.
MSG is a naturally occurring amino acid called “glutamic acid” that is commonly used as a flavor enhancer in many foods. It is often added to processed foods to enhance their taste and is also found in some natural foods like tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and seaweed.
While some commercial miso pastes may contain MSG, it is not a necessary ingredient in the production of miso paste. In fact, many organic and homemade miso pastes do not contain MSG at all.
What Is Miso Paste?
Miso paste is a traditional Japanese seasoning that is made by fermenting soybeans with salt, koji, and sometimes other ingredients like rice, barley, seaweed, or other grains. The fermentation process can take anywhere from two weeks to three years, depending on the desired flavor and texture.
During the fermentation process, the koji fungus breaks down the complex carbohydrates in the soybeans into simple sugars, which are then further broken down by lactic acid bacteria. This process creates a thick paste with a concentrated umami flavor that is both salty and slightly sweet.
Miso paste is commonly used in Japanese cuisine as a seasoning for sauces and spreads, pickling vegetables, fish, or meats, and mixing with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup. It is also a rich source of protein and vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, vitamin K, and zinc.
While miso paste can be made in a variety of ways and with different ingredients, it is typically salty in flavor with subtle variations depending on the type of miso paste used. White (shiro) miso paste, for example, has a milder flavor than red (aka) miso paste, which has a stronger and more pungent taste.
The Nutritional Benefits Of Miso Paste
Miso paste is a rich source of probiotic bacteria, which may support immune function and help fight infections. Regularly consuming fermented foods like miso may minimize the need for antibiotic therapy when fighting infection. Additionally, miso paste is a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins B and K.
Miso paste also contains high amounts of glutamic acid, an amino acid that is important for brain function and may help improve memory and cognitive function. Glutamic acid is also involved in muscle growth and repair, making miso paste a good option for athletes or anyone looking to build or maintain muscle mass.
Furthermore, miso paste is low in calories and fat, making it a great addition to a healthy diet. It can be used as a flavoring agent in soups, sauces, and marinades or as a spread on sandwiches or crackers.
What Is MSG?
MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a concentrated form of glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is an amino acid that is found naturally in many foods, including soybeans, seaweed, and parmesan cheese. When glutamic acid is broken down, it produces a savory taste known as umami.
MSG is commonly used as a flavor enhancer in many processed foods because it can intensify the natural flavors of the ingredients. It is often added to soups, sauces, snacks, and frozen foods to make them taste more appealing.
While some people may have adverse reactions to MSG, such as headaches or nausea, it is generally recognized as safe by the FDA when consumed in moderation. However, it is important to note that MSG should be avoided by individuals who are sensitive to it.
The Controversy Surrounding MSG
There is a lot of controversy surrounding MSG and whether it is good for you, bad for you, or neutral. Some people avoid MSG due to concerns about potential negative health effects, while others use it regularly and see no problems with it.
The controversy surrounding MSG dates back to the 1970s and 1980s when people would binge eat Asian food at all-you-can-eat buffets and feel sluggish and bloated afterwards. Someone labeled it “Chinese restaurant syndrome” and figured the MSG in it must be to blame. Even though it had zero scientific backing, people found it convenient to point the finger at an “exotic” ingredient instead of their own body and habits, so the term caught on, and MSG became associated with health risks.
Despite this association, the FDA recognizes MSG as safe for consumption. However, some studies have linked MSG consumption with negative health outcomes, including headaches, nausea, and allergic reactions. More research is needed to fully understand the potential effects that consuming MSG may have on both short- and long-term health.
It’s important to note that not everyone is sensitive to MSG, and many people use it regularly without experiencing any adverse effects. If you feel that you’re sensitive to MSG, it’s best to avoid products that contain it. Be sure to always read food labels to ensure your items are free of MSG.
How To Choose MSG-Free Miso Paste
If you are looking to avoid MSG in your miso paste, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a brand. First, look for miso paste that specifically states “MSG-free” or “no added MSG” on the label. This will ensure that the manufacturer has not added any MSG to the product.
Secondly, opt for organic miso paste whenever possible. Organic miso paste is less likely to contain additives and preservatives, including MSG. Additionally, organic miso paste is often made using traditional fermentation methods, which can result in a higher quality product.
Lastly, consider making your own miso paste at home. This way, you have complete control over the ingredients and can ensure that no MSG is added to the final product. Making miso paste at home may seem daunting at first, but there are many resources available online that can guide you through the process.