Flavor Enhancers In Food: How Do Glutamate And Other Substances Work?

Flavor enhancers are found in many processed foods to enhance flavor. They can come from natural sources or be man-made. Here’s what you should know about it.

What are flavor enhancers?

First of all, there is nothing wrong with preparing the food as tasty as possible. Herbs and spices are all-natural flavor enhancers that intensify flavors or neutralize unwanted notes. But there are also artificial variants such as the controversial glutamate. They are used by industry as additives in foods to improve their properties. According to the Food Labeling Ordinance, these additives must be declared on the packaging. Flavor enhancers carry the numbers E 620 to E 650 in the list of additives permitted in the EU. The flavor enhancer E 621 stands for monosodium glutamate, E 631 is disodium inosinate. While these terms clearly sound like chemistry, there are also natural flavor enhancers like yeast extract.

Are flavor enhancers unhealthy? The example of glutamate

Flavor enhancers do not have the best reputation and are often associated with intolerance. In particular, glutamate is said to cause headaches, nausea, and other reactions. The question “Is glutamate unhealthy?” but cannot be confirmed from a scientific point of view, as the EDEKA expert explains. Because there is no objective evidence that such symptoms are triggered by the flavor enhancer. Since rumors like these persist and flavor enhancers are considered unhealthy, the industry now prefers to use yeast extract to emphasize the umami taste. This glutamic acid-rich additive is considered a natural ingredient and does not require approval. It can also be used if a product states that it is made without flavor enhancers.

Pros and cons of flavor enhancers

Only you can decide whether you want to eat food with flavor enhancers or not. The consumer center recommends restraint, even if the additives are classified as harmless to health by the European Food Safety Authority. One reason is that too much changes your sense of taste and you may not like the taste of home-cooked food at all. On the other hand, the interaction of all substances is difficult to research due to the complexity, the effect is unclear. And finally, flavor enhancers are mainly found in ready-to-eat meals – and they are increasingly underperforming in terms of nutritional content compared to fresh food. Whether you want to eat foods with flavor enhancers or not is something only you can decide for yourself. The consumer center recommends restraint, even if the additives are classified as harmless to health by the European Food Safety Authority. One reason is that too much changes your sense of taste and you may not like the taste of home-cooked food at all. On the other hand, the interaction of all substances is difficult to research due to the complexity, the effect is unclear. And finally, flavor enhancers are mainly found in ready meals – and they are performing worse and worse than fresh food in terms of nutrient content.

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