‘Umami’ makes healthy food tastes better
Posted October 7, 2009on:
By Anna Valmero
First Posted 15:15:00 10/07/2009
Filed Under: Lifestyle & Leisure, Food
MANILA, Philippines – “Umami”, dubbed the fifth basic taste (aside from sweet, sour, salty, bitter), not only makes food palatable but also enhances the intake nutrients in the body, according to a nutritionist.
Umami, which roughly translated to “malinamnam” or delicious in Filipino, indicates that food is rich in protein, a primary nutrient needed by the body, said Nutrition Research Institute chief research specialist and nutritionist Celeste Tanchoco.
By eating umami-tasting food, one can be sure to intake the essential nutrient “glutamate”, Tanchoco said.
“Healthy and nutritious food have no value if it is not eaten so when healthy meal is ma-umami, we are sure to take nutrients needed by the body. “Umami” is different from the four basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty and bitter and can be described as “malinamnam” in Filipino or meaty, brothy,”she explained.
“In fact, umami is the first taste experience of most humans who were breastfed because human milk has over 50 percent glutamate,” she added.
Glutamate is a common amino acid that gives the umami taste in protein-rich foods such as meats, fish, seafood, poultry, milk, cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms and most vegetables that aids the intestines’ process during digestion.
Aside from natural sources, another safe source of natural glutamate is monosodium glutamate (MSG) – as enlisted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration- derived through fermentation.
In 1908, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University discovered that glutamate gave the umami taste in Japanese soup stock made from the seaweed “kombu”, said Ajinomoto Philippines communication senior manager Helen Lim.
However, awareness of umami as the fifth basic taste only begun recently and efforts to educate the public about its health impact is ongoing to also drive away the misconception that it is unsafe for health.
To highlight the importance of glutamate to nutrient absorption, the Glutamate Association of the Phililippines, NRI and Ajinomoto teamed up to promote umami through the recent Umami Culinary Challenge.
Over 800 culinary students from 19 schools in Manila, Bulacan and Batangas joined the contest, which encouraged students to incorporate umami in preparing nutritious dishes.