Spoiler alert: It's basically salt
Credit: photo and video by alex tepper

So WTF is MSG? Let's start with what we all probably already know. MSG is short for monosodium glutamate. Second, it's a flavor enhancer commonly associated with Asian cooking. Third, MSG is bad for you and gives you headaches in addition to other harmful health effects. Now what if I told you most of this was dead wrong? GASP.

While yes, MSG is often used in Asian cuisine, it is a naturally occurring molecule that exists in Parmesan cheese, ripe tomatoes, and even breast milk. It's found in our muscles and our brains. MSG is simply the pure form of umami, or the savory flavor, and essentially equates to table salt. My mind at this point? KABOOM.

According to food expert Sarah Lohman, author of the book Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, the reason why we've come to think MSG is harmful is complicated, but largely has to do with xenophobia in the 20th century. Are you properly rattled? Watch to see how deep the rabbit hole goes as we meet up with Sarah at Mission Chinese in New York City to figure out WTF is MSG.