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Although virtually every food will contain some amount of glutamate, some foods that are rich in glutamate can easily be combined in your favorite recipes.

Increasing the level of glutamate in a dish during cooking is a simple and effective way to increase umami taste and balance. In recipe development, glutamate is added at levels similar to those in traditional recipes.

Speaking of recipes, check out “Easy Ways to Kick Up Umami Flavor in Your Favorite Dishes.”

The chart below lists some of the most common, glutamate-rich foods, most of which can be found in your local grocery store.

glutamate foods
Free* Glutamate Content of Foods (mg / 100g) Free* Glutamate Content of Foods (mg / 100g)
Cow’s milk 2 Corn 106
Human (mother’s) milk 22 Potatoes 102
Chicken 22 Broccoli 176
Beef 10 Green peas 106
Cured ham 337 Tomatoes 246
Pork 9 Mushrooms 180
Oysters 137 Chinese cabbage (Napa) 100
Fish (mackerel) 215 Walnuts 658
Shrimp 43 Roquefort cheese 1280
Scallops 159 Parmesan cheese 1680
Egg yolks 46 Cheddar cheese 182
Green tea 32 Fish sauce 1383
Fresh tomato juice 260 Oyster sauce 900
Grape juice 258 Soy sauce 1264
*There are actually two forms of glutamate found in foods: bound and free. Since only free glutamate is effective in enhancing the flavor of food, the numbers above reflect only the amount of free glutamate for each item listed.

It does not matter whether you select glutamate-rich foods and ingredients like tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, walnuts, MSG, or soy sauce, the glutamate in each is the same.

And the body treats glutamate in the same way no matter what its source.

Medical specialists have known for decades that your body does not distinguish between the glutamate found naturally in foods and that in MSG. In fact, even today’s state-of-the-art technology can’t separate them. For example, if you analyzed a plate of spaghetti, you could find out the total amount of glutamate in the dish. However, since glutamate is glutamate, there is no way to determine whether the glutamate came from tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, or MSG.

We consume between 10g and 20g of glutamate per day from our diet, of which glutamate from seasoning or condiments is less than 10%. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration notes that a typical serving of a food with added MSG contains less than 0.5 grams of MSG.

Learn more about glutamate here.