Foods High in MSG

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on November 14, 2022
3 min read

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is added to many foods to enhance flavor. MSG is commonly found in canned foods, soups, fast foods, and processed foods.

While MSG is generally considered safe to consume by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there remains many uncertainties and disagreements about whether the ingredient is bad for your health. Therefore, the FDA requires that the ingredient is included on food labels.

MSG has been said to cause a number of minor health symptoms you should be aware of, however, additional research is needed to support direct links.

Some studies have shown that MSG may contribute to a variety of conditions, including obesity, central nervous system disorder, and reproductive malfunctions, though more research is needed in these areas.

Symptoms that some have claimed occur after consuming MSG include:

Additionally, people who have reported these symptoms after eating foods high in MSG usually claim these reactions to be mild or short-term.

MSG is used in many common foods available today in grocery stores and local restaurants. This ingredient, which is found in umami additives, aims to boost flavor to foods including snacks, soups, and noodles. Here are 5 foods that contain MSG to be aware of:

  1. Seasonings
    Because MSG is a flavor enhancer, it’s no surprise that it’s included in many seasonings that consumers put on meats and in stews. One common example is taco seasoning packets that are typically added to meat.
  2. Fast food
    MSG became well-known for its widespread use in Chinese dishes and other fast food meals, including fried chicken from fast food restaurants.
  3. Soups
    Another place you’ll find MSG is on the soup shelf at the grocery store. The additive is used to enhance their flavor and saltiness. For example, one of the most common soups – Chicken Noodle Soup from Campbell’s – contains MSG, in addition to 890 milligrams of sodium.
  4. Dressings and condiments
    Condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, mustard, and salad dressings have been known to contain MSG to boost flavor.
  5. Chips
    Many types of chips and related snacks include MSG to enhance the salty, savory flavors that they’re known for.

If you want to avoid the potential side effects of MSG, there are a few alternatives you can try instead. It’s worth noting that many of the foods containing MSG, like chips and fast food, aren’t necessarily part of a balanced diet when consumed regularly and can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health risks. Avoid eating these unhealthy foods to eliminate a lot of MSG from your diet.

One alternative to MSG is salt. However, salt has been proven to cause conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke when consumed in excess. 

Other healthier alternatives are natural taste enhancers, including garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, basil, oregano, thyme, dill, and more. These ingredients will help you boost flavor when cooking at home while allowing you to avoid the potential health effects of salt and MSG.