ask the nutritionist: MSG

I received a question regarding MSG and I thought it would be a great topic for ask the nutritionist series. We always hear that MSG is the worst thing for us and we should avoid it at all costs. But what about my beloved pho? And the other dishes that are most commonly thought to use MSG as a flavor enhancer? Should we stop eating them?

What is MSG? MSG, or Monosodium Glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamate. Glutamate is an amino acid that is produced in the body and essential for many bodily functions. Glutamate is found in fish, meat, poultry, milk and some vegetables.

Is it harmful? The glutamate in MSG is metabolized just as natural glutamate is in our bodies. There have been no definitive studies between MSG and adverse side affects, although, like any foods, some may experience reactions to MSG. MSG actually contains a third of the sodium of salt, so for those looking to add flavor without as much sodium, it can actually be a good savory flavor enhancer.

The Verdict? Like everything, moderation is key. Since MSG was shunned upon, many restaurants and food products do not use it anymore but don’t panic if it is in some of the packaged foods you buy (like soup) or used at a restaurant. Just keep it in moderation and make sure to enjoy that bowl of Pho, I know I will!


Duyff, Roberta Larson (2006). American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide (3rd ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

edamame hummus

Our meal at Sanctuary Restaurant started with an edamame hummus that was undoubtedly amazing. We both loved it and I knew we needed to recreate it at home. I was crossing my fingers that it would taste as good as the Sanctuary version!

It wasn’t nearly as good as what we had at Sanctuary (I wasn’t too surprised) but I was happy to come somewhat close. I needed some of that edamame hummus in my life. You know the feeling, right?

Edamame Hummus - makes about 1 cup

  • 1 cup cooked edamame, shelled
  • juice from one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp wasabi
  • salt

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Serve with fresh bread, veggies or rice crackers.

Neither one of us tasted any wasabi in the hummus and wouldn’t have even known it was in there if the server hadn’t told us! I think it is an important flavoring component, even if you can barely taste it in there.

spanish coffee

I will never forget my first visit to Espresso Royale Cafe (Dinkytown location). It was the middle of February, I’m sure I couldn’t feel my fingers and North Face jacket or not, it was one of those chilling-to-the-bone days. For those of you who live in warm climates, I don’t mean 20° F, I mean -40°. But for that particular few hours, the temperature didn’t bother me, in fact, I doubt I even thought about it. I was 17 and had just finished what would be my final college tour. I knew right then and there this was where I needed to be. I would worry about getting accepted later, I was going to be a Gopher.

The decision was made right then and there, over a hot drink with my parents. I don’t remember what I drank that February afternoon, but that would be the first of many drinks at Espresso Royale Cafe. It was my favorite place to study and I will always think of it as my spot.

I first had this drink at Espresso Royale and it has been a favorite ever since. I think every coffee shop has a slightly different name/origin for it, but Espresso Royale calls it Spanish so that is what I use. (Thai would be my #2 choice based on the sole fact that I love Thai food) It consists of coffee and sweetened condensed milk – exactly why it is treat. Sweetened condensed milk isn’t exactly good for you, but at 120 calories, it beats a 500 calorie Frappuccino anyday!

Dunn Bros has introduced iced coffee growlers and it sounded like too much fun to pass up. So on a recent 95° day, a mere 135° difference, I knew just what I needed to have.

Only this time it was most certainly iced.

Spanish Coffee – 2 servings

  • 2 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 oz strong iced coffee

Mix the milk and coffee together until well combined. Add a few ice cubes if desired.

in my cupboard: trader joe’s punjab eggplant

As much as I adore cooking, sometimes I just can’t take the time to prepare an entire meal. Since cooking is such a stress reliever for me, I never want it to actually cause stress.  Enter in these pouches of Indian food.  A little odd, yes, to make dinner out of a pouch, but this variety from Trader Joe’s is amazing. I generally sauté a diced eggplant and add the sauce when it is about finished cooking to let it heat through.

It comes together in minutes and provides a flavorful dish with plenty of veggies. Oh, and it is $1.19.

Cheap, healthy and good? Now that’s a stress reliever I can handle.

Do you ever eat foods from a pouch or does it kind of freak you out?