Does umami, which means “delicious” in Japanese, affect appetite? Can the umami flavor provide or heighten satiety?
It is well-recognized that as the fifth sense of taste, umami amplifies the flavor of savory foods, increasing the enjoyment and pleasure in eating. It also enhances appetite — the feeling of wanting to eat food. Interestingly enough, research has shown that the umami flavor can also heighten satiety — the satisfaction of being full.
Umami, the proven fifth taste, has enjoyed a fascinating and stellar history since its discovery in 1908. One of the high points in umami’s 110-year timeline is the World Umami Forum, which took place just last week in New York City, September 20-21.
This inaugural conference attracted food science experts, renowned researchers, food historians, journalists, registered dietitians, and culinary professionals from around the world. Participants left the meeting with a deeper understanding and appreciation of umami and its essential role in cuisine, and learned about the extensive science that refutes urban myths about monosodium glutamate (aka MSG or “umami seasoning”).
Sometimes the words used when talking about umami are a little unfamiliar. Here’s a look at the meaning of the ones you’re most likely to encounter so you can be in the know.
Glutamate – Glutamate is the common name for glutamic acid, an amino acid found in nearly all protein-containing food. It is also naturally produced by the human body.
There’s a widely held skepticism about MSG that started with a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in 1968. In an opinion piece, a physician noted radiating pain in his arms, weakness and heart palpitations after eating at Chinese restaurants, and speculated that cooking wine, MSG or excessive salt might be to blame. Readers replied that they too experienced this “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” and MSG became suspect in the public eye. Its presence at the top of people’s minds has ebbed and flowed over the past 50 years, but it is in the public consciousness enough that quite a few food labels today often still tout a food’s MSG-free status. But is MSG bad for you?
Let’s take a look at what the science has to say.
No single ingredient in a good som tum acts alone; the rich flavors of som tum come from its layers of umami—dried shrimp, fish sauce and tomatoes mixed with the bitterness of the unripened papaya which also gives crunch and color, along with the sweetness of palm or cane sugar. Is your mouth watering yet?