In Search of Umami

Often called the fifth taste, umami (from the Japanese word for yummy) describes the “want-it-need-it-got-to-have-it” sensation we experience when eating foods rich in the amino acid L-glutamate. The sensors on our tongue that detect this amino acid are wired directly to the pleasure center of our brain, generating a reward-loop for our continued consumption.  Why might this be? Well, we humans need to eat an adequate amount of protein to maintain good health, and L-glutamate is an essential component of protein.

First pondered in the early 1900’s, umami was officially added to the list of taste sensations-formerly sweet, sour, bitter and salty- in 1985, making it the relative new-kid on the block. This late-recognition, however, doesn’t imply that the taste sensation itself is new- it has always been there, just out of reach of description on the tip of our tongue.

Naturally occurring glutamates (not to be confused with MSG, or Mono-sodium glutamate) can be found in a wide variety of foods. You may recognize some of these as being favorites you can’t get enough of: seafood (especially crab), red meat, chicken, legumes, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, beets, corn, soybeans and cheese (especially parmesan).

For a meal designed to keep ‘em coming back to the table, try cooking foods rich in umami with a healthy fat like olive oil and a small dose of sugar-perhaps a drop of raw honey-all of these taste sensations trigger the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain.

For more on umami and the science of taste:

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter … and Umami

Why Do We Like the Taste Of Protein?


Our Wild Oats bloggers are partners who love to share their passion and knowledge about better living! While we compensate them for being a part of this vibrant community, their views and opinions are their own and do not signify Wild Oats' opinions, endorsement or recommendations. Wild Oats reserves the right to moderate and remove comments that are off-topic or inappropriate, so please help us keep this community clean, fun and valuable!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Email Signup

Follow Us Online

Latest Posts

Our Bloggers