Yeast extracts are used in foods to get a savory taste. Many soups, sauces, savory snacks and meat products therefore contain yeast extract. The substance responsible for the savory taste is the protein glutamate, which is present in large quantities in yeast extract. This is the same protein that is also in monosodium glutamate, also called msg or ve-tsin. Because monosodium glutamate is associated with disease symptoms, yeast extract is widely used as a substitute for monosodium glutamate.
What is yeast extract?
Yeast extract is the flavor obtained from yeast cells. Yeast extracts are often used as a flavor enhancer because it naturally contains monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG or ve-tsin. Glutamate enhances the savory taste in foods. This savory taste is also called umami, the fifth taste in addition to salt, sour, bitter and sweet. Monosodium glutamate also occurs naturally in tomatoes, soy sauce, mushrooms, aged cheese, fermented fish and seaweed.
How is yeast extract made?
Yeast extract comes from yeasts. Yeasts are single-cell micro-organisms that can multiply rapidly under ideal conditions. When the yeasts are sufficiently propagated, the cell walls of the yeasts are destroyed, releasing flavorings from the yeast cells. By separating these flavorings from the cellular material of the yeasts, yeast extract is retained. The yeast extract is then strongly evaporated to a thick liquid or powder. This liquid or powder is then processed in the industry. All kinds of yeasts can be used for this process, such as beer yeast or baker's yeast. The type of yeast used has an influence on the final taste of the yeast extract.
Products with yeast extract
Yeast extracts are widely used in savory products such as soups, sauces, chips, satay, savory snacks, meat products and ready-made meals. If a product contains yeast extract, this is stated on the label. Yeast extract has no E number as monosodium glutamate has the e number E621. It is therefore always referred to on the label as yeast extract.
Monosodium glutamate, either msg or ve-tsin, and disease symptoms
There are people who get complaints after eating monosodium glutamate, or related products that contain glutamate. The symptoms usually consist of heart palpitations, headache, dizziness and fatigue. In addition, research reports have been published in which a link is made between monosodium glutamate and overweight or depression. Some studies also establish a link between brain damage and monosodium glutamate. However, all of these results have never been scientifically proven and some claims have even been scientifically refuted. Both the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have considered monosodium glutamate as a safe additive.
Yeast extract as a substitute for monosodium glutamate
Due to the poor image of the synthetic monosodium glutamate, a natural replacement was sought. Yeast extract was one of the first substitutes for monosodium glutamate. Because yeast extract contains a lot of glutamate, a similar taste-enhancing effect is achieved. However, yeast extract contains several flavor components in addition to glutamate, so that exactly the same taste is never obtained when monosodium glutamate is replaced by yeast extract. Many extract yeast extract in the same negative light as monosodium glutamate. As a result, the food industry is looking for alternatives to yeast extract.
Replacement for yeast extract
There are also other sources from which glutamate can be extracted. These can be added to foods instead of yeast extract.
Glutamate occurs naturally in various foods. For example, tomatoes, mushrooms and old cheese are a good source for glutamate. Aromas can be made from these foods, which serve as a substitute for yeast extract or monosodium glutamate. They are often indicated on the label as aroma or natural aroma.
In addition, a suitable monosodium glutamate or yeast extract substitute can be made by hydrolysis of proteins. Hydrolysis is the splitting of proteins into amino acids. If glutamate is formed during this split, it can be used as a flavor enhancer. This can be indicated on the label, for example, as hydrolyzed soy proteins or hydrolyzed wheat proteins.
Foods with glutamate
Finally, foods that naturally contain a lot of glutamate can be used. For example, old cheese, soy sauce, tomato puree or anchovy paste is then added. These flavors must also match the end product. For example, adding old cheese to a ceasar dressing can offer a solution, while in soup or paprika chips it can give an unwanted aftertaste.
Video: What is Yeast Extract and how is it produced? (February 2020).
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