In this age of organic, all-natural food, an argument in favor of MSG—a non-essential amino acid that’s often used as a flavor enhancer, especially in Chinese takeout—might not go over well. But food scientist Steve Witherly is not only speaking out against MSG’s bad reputation, but essentially positing it as the next must-have for your spice rack.
“You will get a pleasure blast like you can’t believe,” Witherly told Business Insider of MSG, which he calls a “supersalt.” He puts it on broccoli, popcorn, and anything else that needs a flavor boost.
“I like to encourage my kids to eat a little healthier, so I’ll sprinkle a little supersalt in there. That stuff is really powerful. For example, I had a whole-wheat pizza—and my kids hate whole wheat—so I put a little supersalt in the tomato sauce, and they sucked that whole thing down.”
Witherly, the author of Why Humans Like Junk Food, describes MSG as “pretty darn safe,” citing research he participated in at UC Davis “where we drank tumblers of it at about 25 grams, and nothing happened.” Yeah, but would he drink a soda filled with Pop Rocks?
MSG’s bad rap comes from a 1968 study on “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” that credited the chemical with the sick feeling you get after eating Chinese food, somehow ignoring the fact that Chinese takeout is awful for you (and served in huge portions). Witherly is perhaps the most vocal of a number of scientists who see no problem with MSG. The American Chemical Society, for example, states that “MSG can temporarily affect a select few when consumed in huge quantities on an empty stomach, but it’s perfectly safe for the vast majority of people.”
Witherly thinks MSG can promote healthy eating, as it lets you get away with using less traditional salt. He even shares how to make your own “supersalt” mixture, should you have some disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate laying around.