Glutamate in Whole Foods

There is a wide misconception that some whole foods are major problems when it comes to FGA sensitivity. Some sources list  mushrooms, wheat, dairy, peas, and tomatoes as major concerns. It’s my belief that these are not the true problem unless a person is extremely sensitive, and that worrying about these foods before other more concentrated sources are eliminated is counter-productive.

First, it’s important to understand the difference between free and bound glutamate. It’s ONLY free glutamate that is an issue, NOT whole foods or the glutamate content of food in my opinion, from reading, personal experience, and talking with others that have glutamate sensitivity.  For most people, simple processing of whole foods does not release (or possibly change the form of, see enough of the glutamate to be a problem.  Boiling peas for dinner, baking bread, and tossing a few mushrooms on your burger is not going to free up enough glutamate to be a problem even for most sensitive individuals. I wrote about this some when I wrote about Glutamate versus Gluten:

So let’s look in more detail at the differences between the FREE glutamate content of whole foods versus foods that are heavily processed, freeing glutamic acid either deliberately or as a side effect.

Monosodium Glutamate is close to 99% FGA, or roughly 100,000mg per 100g.  Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find exact concentrations of FGA in other food additives but many sources claim that they are 15-20% FGA.  According to Food Flavorings by Philip Ashhurst, from a regulatory standpoint, hydrolyzed protein can have up to 20% free glutamic acid content by weight (in another location he says they often have 35%); Autolyzed Yeast or Yeast Extract can have up to 12%. So, I’ll use a conservative estimate of 10% by weight, or 10,000 mg per 100g serving.

Here is a list of the free glutamate content of  some foods from Wikipedia. ( It’s the first column that we are interested in:

Food Free glutamate (mg/100 g) Protein glutamate (mg/100 g)
Makombu (kelp) 3190
Rausu kombu (kelp) 2286
Rishiri kombu (kelp) 1985
Hidaka kombu (kelp) 1344
Nori (seaweed) 1378
Marmite 1960
Vegemite 1431
Japanese fish sauce 1383
Roquefort cheese 1280
Parmesan cheese 1200 9847
Korean soy sauce 1264
Chinese soy sauce 926
Japanese soy sauce 782
Oyster sauce 900
Green Tea 668
Cured Ham 337
Sardine 280
Grape juice 258
Clam 208
Scallop 159
Squid 146
Oyster 137
Mussel 105
Peas 200 5583
Tomatoes 140 238
Corn 130 1765
Potatoes 102
Cow milk 2 819
Human milk 22 229
Eggs 23 1583
Chicken 44 3309
Duck 69 3636
Beef 33 2846
Pork 23 2325
Salmon 20 2216


Given that, I would estimate that yeast extract is  50-100 times more concentrated than whole foods such as peas or tomatoes.  Even soy sauce, parmesan cheese, and seaweed are an order of magnitude different, though they certainly have enough to cause reactions in sensitive individuals.

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