Our immune systems are generally pretty good at differentiating between dangerous invaders (bacteria, viruses, etc.) and harmless substances (pollen, peanuts, etc.), and reacting accordingly. The process sometimes fails, unfortunately, resulting in a food allergy. This happens in an estimated 4% of adults and 5% of children, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe, and include vomiting, stomach cramps, hives, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, swelling of the tongue, and anaphylaxis, among others. About 90% of food-related allergic reactions are caused by 8 types of food: eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. There is no cure for food allergies or medication to prevent a reaction; avoiding the offending food trigger is the only option.
There’s an important distinction between a food “allergy” and food “sensitivity.” (Read on…)
The first time I saw my grandmother salt her grapefruit I thought she was crazy. Then she had me try it. I was amazed that it didn’t taste salty! Instead, the salt brought out the sweetness in this fruit that, as a kid, I found otherwise too bitter.
That’s the interesting thing about our bodies. They’re way more complex than the map of the tongue with five taste zones on it that you may have seen in middle school. That map is incorrect, by the way, as there are not specific zones on your tongue that correspond to various tastes. Rather, all of the tastes can be detected all over the tongue.
If you hope for a life without heart attacks, you may want to start cutting your salt intake. One way to do this is by reading food labels and choosing foods that are low in sodium (less than 140 mg of sodium per serving). Another way is to reduce sodium by cutting back on the amount of salt you use when cooking and at the dinner table. The downside to this, though, is the taste. Salt not only adds flavor itself but also enhances the other flavors in the food.
This is where MSG comes in. Replacing the salt with MSG can lower the amount of sodium in a food without affecting the flavor. In fact, swapping salt for MSG can lower the sodium content of the food by up to 40% with no impact on how good it tastes. But how can something that contains sodium, monosodium glutamate (MSG), actually be beneficial in a low sodium diet?
Humans are innately drawn to the rich savory flavor of umami. People are generally not, however, drawn to the bitter taste of vegetables. So, making vegetable dishes more savory and thus more appealing seems like a no-brainer. Parents have been inadvertently doing this for years every time they added cheese to their kids’ broccoli. Here are several other more sophisticated, tried and true methods to boost the umami in your vegetables and finally get compliments on your Brussel sprouts.
Over a hundred years ago, Professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University wondered what made kelp broth taste so good. He recognized that “There is a taste which is common to asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat but which is not one of the four well-known tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty,” and set out to figure out what it was. He discovered that glutamate, an amino acid made by many plants and animals, was the source of this distinctive taste, and named the flavor “umami.” He was able to isolate the glutamate from the seaweed, and began to sell the crystallized form as a seasoning called Ajinomoto (which means “the essence of taste” in Japanese).