How much glutamate is in foods and dishes?

07 December 2014

Tomatoes, peas, mushrooms and many protein-rich and matured foods naturally contain glutamate – and therefore taste. It is frequently even a manifestation of particularly good quality, if foods contain a lot of glutamate. They are considered to be particularly well matured and high-quality.

Prof. Ursula Bordewick-Dell, Doctor of Natural Sciences, from the ecotrophology department of the Münster University of Applied Sciences worked with a working group to consider the question of how much glutamate is contained in various dishes and foods. The measurement results show that dishes such as goulash, pasta with tomato sauce and lasagne, as well as foods such as Parmesan cheese, peas and tomatoes, which are popular precisely because of their savoury taste, also exhibit a high proportion of glutamic acid. Glutamate, the salt of glutamic acid, gives foods and dishes a spicy and savoury taste. Thus, in a portion of beef goulash with peas and potatoes, there is around 0.43 grams of glutamate and in a portion of spaghetti with Bolognese sauce and Parmesan, there is as much as around 1.5 to 2 grams. “The investigations show that foods without flavour-enhancing additives may certainly exhibit a high glutamate content, for example due to the use of especially ripe tomatoes, especially mature Parmesan or a high meat content”, explains Bordewick-Dell.

A comparison of the glutamic acid content in condiments such as tomato purée, beef broth, yeast extract (in the form of a spread) and Parmesan cheese makes it clear: the proportion of glutamic acid is not as high in any other condiment as it is in Parmesan cheese (1.7 g per 100 g).

Like a spice, yeast extract adds a savoury, spicy taste to dishes and foods, but does not necessarily increase the glutamate content of the dish. A comparison of various beef broths indicates that the flavour-enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG) adds significantly more glutamate to broths than broths seasoned with yeast extract. In the test, the beef broth with MSG contained by far the most glutamate, and the beef broth with yeast extract contained the least glutamate – with the same taste. The team led by Bordewick-Dell came to a similar result in their test with lasagne: An organic lasagne which was seasoned with yeast extract thus contained significantly less glutamate (around 2.5 grams per portion) than a comparable product that was flavoured without yeast extract (around 4.2 grams per portion).