Umami for All!

Posted by in Health Matters

umami tomatoesIt’s not bad for you. You won’t grow a third eye, nor will your toes fall off. As researchers from Tohoku University Graduate School of Dentistry, Japan explain, you needn’t fear monosodium glutamate (MSG). In fact, bring on the umami!

The Flavor Boost of Umami

Umami is that savory sensation you experience when eating certain foods. MSG is trigger of this taste. Sure, you’ll find MSG at your grocery store in the spice section. I always have a container in my cabinet. You’ll also find MSG in common foods like Parmesan cheese and tomatoes.

A serving of tomatoes, for example, contains about mg of MSG. And last I heard, tomatoes are good for you with plenty of delicious nutrients. While we may find it a taste enhancer, umami has other applications as researchers found.

Improving the Taste of Foods

The researchers at Tohoku University concluded that an inability to taste umami could contribute to appetite loss. On the positive side, manufacturers could leverage the taste-boosting properties of umami and another taste enhancer, kokumi, to make healthier foods more enjoyable, explains Kumiko Ninomiya of the Umami Information Center, Japan.

Applications could include making low-fat foods taste more savory. Consumers could enjoy the foods they like with the same sensations but fewer calories. Taste is a formidable obstacle when it comes to eating a healthy diet. Just ask any 10-year old about his take on asparagus.

MSG Is Safe

The popular notion that MSG is not safe has no scientific basis, other than rare allergic reactions. According to the FDA,

“FDA considers the addition of MSG to foods to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).”

Now if you’re thinking MSG is some awful chemical, the FDA begs to differ. “The glutamate in MSG is chemically indistinguishable from glutamate present in food proteins.” You can lay your fears to rest.

Food is so wonderful. I find it very sad indeed that urban legends like those surrounding MSG prevent people from enjoying good food made better. Go ahead. Break out the soy sauce! Chris DR

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