Identify Hidden Glutamates in Your Diet to Improve Brain Function

As research into the complexities of the human brain continues, one finding stands clear: dietary glutamates, particularly in the form of MSG, can pose potential risks to our neurological well-being. Often hidden under various pseudonyms in food labels, these compounds may contribute to mood and behavioral disorders, including OCD. This comprehensive guide offers insights into foods to be cautious of, equipping readers with the knowledge to make healthier, brain-friendly dietary choices. To dive deeper into the mechanism, refer to our linked article on the subject.

Foods with High Levels of Naturally Occurring Glutamates

  • Tomatoes and Tomato Products: Ripe tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato juice all have naturally occurring glutamates. The process of concentration, as in the case of tomato paste, increases the glutamate content.
  • Parmesan and Roquefort Cheese: These cheeses are naturally high in glutamates due to the aging process.
  • Soy Sauce and Soy Products: While many are familiar with the processed aspect of soy sauce, even natural fermentation of soy can produce significant glutamate content.
  • Mushrooms: Particularly the mature varieties like shiitake.
  • Broths and Stocks: When made from meat, poultry, or fish, especially when cooked for extended periods.
  • Fish Sauce: A product of fermented fish, it contains high levels of glutamates.
  • Grapes: Especially as they ripen and become more flavorful.
  • Walnuts: Naturally contain higher levels of glutamate.
  • Peas: Especially ripe ones.
  • Dried Seaweed: Especially certain varieties like kelp and kombu.
  • Anchovies: These small fish are naturally high in glutamates.
  • Cured Hams: Such as prosciutto, due to the aging and curing process.
  • Aged Meats: The process of aging meat can increase its natural glutamate content.
  • Bone Broths: Extended simmering of bones can release a significant amount of glutamates.

Foods that Produce Higher Levels of Glutamates with Aging

When foods age, either in the refrigerator or when left out, there can be changes in their composition due to enzymatic reactions, microbial activity, or simple oxidation. These changes can lead to the formation of glutamates or an increase in their concentration. Here are some foods where this might occur:

  • Leftover Meats: As meats break down over time, especially when they're cooked, they can develop higher glutamate concentrations.
  • Cheeses: Cheese, especially when left uncovered or in an environment where it can continue to ferment or age, might increase in glutamate content.
  • Fish: As fish ages, especially if it starts to spoil, it can produce biogenic amines along with increased levels of glutamates.
  • Homemade Broths and Stocks: If they are stored for prolonged periods, especially without refrigeration, can see a rise in glutamate levels.
  • Vegetables: Especially those that are high in glutamates naturally, like tomatoes and mushrooms, can see an increase as they age or begin to spoil.
  • Beans and Legumes: If they are left soaking for extended periods or allowed to sprout, might have changes in their glutamate content.
  • Grains: Especially when they start to ferment, either intentionally (as in sourdough) or due to being left in a moist environment.
  • Fermented Foods: Foods like kimchi or sauerkraut can increase in glutamate content as they continue to ferment.

Terms and Types of Ingredients Containing Glutamates

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): A synthetic flavor enhancer derived from glutamic acid.

Hydrolyzed Proteins:

  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP): Found in soups, broths, and vegetarian products.
  • Hydrolyzed Soy Protein: Common in meat alternatives and sauces.
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein: Used in skincare and haircare products as well as some processed foods.
  • Hydrolyzed Corn Protein: Often found in seasonings and processed foods.

Yeast Extracts:

  • Autolyzed Yeast Extract: Derived from yeast, a natural source of umami flavor.
  • Torula Yeast: Used to impart a savory taste in snacks and other foods.
  • Brewer's Yeast: A byproduct of beer making, sometimes used in food products.
  • Baker's Yeast Extract: A more concentrated form used in bakery products.

Gelatin and Derivatives:

  • Gelatin: Obtained from animal collagen; used in jellies, candies, and pharmaceuticals.
  • Agar-Agar: A vegetarian alternative to gelatin, sourced from seaweed.

Textured Proteins:

  • Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP): A meat substitute made from soy.
  • Soy Protein Isolate: A concentrated form of soy protein.
  • Soy Protein Concentrate: Contains fewer proteins than isolate but has more dietary fiber.
  • Wheat Gluten: Used in bread-making and as a protein source in vegetarian foods.

Meat Flavorings:

  • Artificial Chicken/Beef/Pork Flavors: Derived from various sources, including hydrolyzed proteins.
  • Natural Meat Flavor: Extracted from actual meats but can still contain glutamate.

Dough Conditioners:

  • L-cysteine: An amino acid used to soften dough.
  • Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate: Emulsifier and conditioner.
  • Potassium Bromate: A controversial additive, used to strengthen dough.
  • DATEM (Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides): Improves volume and uniformity in baked goods.

Milk Derivatives:

  • Calcium Caseinate: Found in non-dairy creamers and some protein powders.
  • Sodium Caseinate: A stabilizer in many dairy and non-dairy products.

Rice Syrups and Derivatives:

  • Rice Syrup: Used as a sweetener in health foods.
  • High Fructose Rice Syrup: A variant with higher fructose content.

Protein Derivatives:

  • Whey Protein Isolate/Concentrate: Derived from milk during cheese-making.
  • Collagen Peptides: Found in skincare products and health supplements.

Glutamate-rich Additives:

  • Disodium Inosinate & Disodium Guanylate: Flavor enhancers that work synergistically with MSG.
  • Magnesium Glutamate & Calcium Glutamate: Alternative forms of glutamate.
  • Potassium Glutamate: Another salt form of glutamic acid.
  • Monoammonium Glutamate: Less commonly used but serves a similar purpose to MSG.

Most Commonly Consumed Foods Containing Hidden Glutamates

Snacks & Convenience Foods:

  • Potato chips & flavored tortilla chips: Particularly those with cheese or umami seasonings.
  • Instant noodle packs: Especially the flavor packets.
  • Flavored popcorn: Like cheese or caramel popcorn.
  • Processed cheese spreads: Especially those mixed with other flavorings.
  • Jerky: Some flavored variants can contain glutamates.
  • Pre-packaged sandwiches: Some condiments or flavored fillings might have glutamates.
  • Flavored rice cakes: Especially those with cheese or savory toppings.
  • Pita chips: Particularly flavored varieties.
  • Flavored pretzels: Especially those seasoned with cheese or spices.
  • Seasoned crackers: Such as cheese or vegetable-flavored.

Condiments, Sauces, & Broths:

  • Bouillon cubes: Used for quick broth preparation.
  • Certain soy sauces: Some brands may contain added glutamates.
  • Seasoning mixes: Such as taco or fajita seasoning.
  • Barbecue sauces: Especially the ones that boast a "savory" or "smoky" flavor.
  • Teriyaki sauce: Often has glutamate or similar compounds.
  • Flavored mayo: Like chipotle or garlic infused.
  • Salad dressings: Some creamy or savory dressings.
  • Hot sauces: Some brands might add flavor enhancers.
  • Dipping sauces: Especially those meant for appetizers.
  • Gravy mixes: Some instant preparations may contain glutamates.

Canned & Packaged Goods:

  • Canned soups: Especially those labeled as "flavorful".
  • Canned tuna in flavored broths: Some seasonings might contain glutamates.
  • Packaged meal kits: Like those for tacos or stir-fries.
  • Frozen pizza: Especially those with multiple toppings and flavored crusts.
  • Canned spaghetti or pasta: Especially those with cheese or meat sauces.
  • Instant mashed potatoes: Flavor packets may contain glutamates.
  • Packaged risottos: Some pre-flavored packs.
  • Boxed mac and cheese: Especially "extra cheesy" types.
  • Flavored beans: Like BBQ or chili beans.
  • Flavored rice mixes: Such as pilaf or Spanish rice.

Dairy & Alternatives:

  • Processed cheese: Such as American cheese or cheese whiz.
  • Flavored yogurts: Especially non-traditional or savory flavors.
  • Creamers: Some flavored non-dairy creamers.
  • Flavored milks: Like chocolate or strawberry.
  • Flavored cottage cheese: Some varieties with added seasonings or fruits.
  • Flavored ice cream: Particularly savory or unconventional flavors.
  • Cheese dips or fondues: Store-bought or pre-packaged.
  • Milkshakes: Some specialty flavors might contain enhancers.
  • Whipped toppings: Flavored varieties.
  • Flavored cream cheeses: Especially those with mix-ins.

Meat & Alternatives:

  • Marinated meats: Pre-packaged ones in grocery stores.
  • Sausages: Some types can have flavorings rich in glutamates.
  • Processed deli meats: Like flavored turkey or ham.
  • Meat substitutes: Some vegan or vegetarian alternatives use glutamates for "meaty" flavors.
  • Flavored tofu: Marinated or pre-seasoned.
  • Flavored seafood: Especially those with marinades or glazes.
  • Pre-marinated poultry: Like lemon pepper or teriyaki.
  • Bacon or flavored bacon bits: Some can contain flavor enhancers.
  • Seasoned burger patties: Both meat and plant-based.
  • Flavored meatballs: Either frozen or fresh.


  • Pre-flavored coffee blends: Some might use glutamates in their flavor mix.
  • Flavored protein or meal-replacement shakes: To enhance taste and palatability.
  • Certain energy drinks: Especially those that are savory or have amino acid blends.
  • Seasoned vegetable or chip dips: Some store-bought variants.
  • Flavored teas: Some specialty blends might contain enhancers.
  • Chewing gum: Particularly savory or unconventional flavors.
  • Instant breakfast mixes: Some may contain flavor enhancers.
  • Flavored oatmeal packets: Especially savory or unique flavors.
  • Flavored waters: Especially those boasting "natural flavors".
  • Jellies or jams: Some specialty or savory versions.