The fifth basic taste or “umami”

The concept of flavor enhancement originates from Asia , where chefs added seaweed to soups to give certain foods a richer taste. The flavor enhancing component of seaweed was identified as the amino acid l-glutamate, and monosodium glutamate became the first flavor enhancer to be used commercially. The rich taste associated with l-glutamate was called umami .

In addition to the traditional four basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty and bitter), we currently have a fifth basic taste and that is umami, which means “delicious” in Japanese. It is the naturally occurring “free” glutamate in Parmesan cheese, ripe tomatoes and mushrooms that gives these foods their distinct flavor. This unique spicy flavor is an integral part of cuisines around the world. It is found in European broths, oyster sauces in China, soy and fish sauces in Southeast Asia, pizza and lasagna in Italy, and soups and stews in America.

The “umami” taste plays a significant role in food selection, palatability and acceptance . For example, as people age, their sense of taste and smell deteriorates, which can result in a decreased interest in food. As a result of reduced food intake, these people may suffer from malnutrition. Studies have shown that by increasing the intensity of the taste of food, the inclusion of glutamate increases the intake of foods containing nutrients desirable from a nutritional point of view. The result is better nutrition.

You can enjoy the taste of umami in some of our fried rice recipes !

In which foods can we find taste enhancers?

  • seasoning mix
  • broths
  • cheap soy sauces
  • instant soups and sauces
  • canned and frozen vegetables
  • ready-made packaged meals
  • meat products
  • sausages
  • cheeses
  • fish products
  • alcoholic beverages

Is it safe for us to use flavor enhancers in food?

These substances can be allergens for some people and can cause side effects such as headache or nausea . Glutamates have the worst reputation, which is mainly discussed in connection with negative effects on the nervous system . Another negative is that, thanks to these added substances, manufacturers can use lower quality raw materials or raw materials with a lower nutritional value.

However, the addition of all these substances to raw materials and food is, of course, regulated by regulations and strictly controlled. When consuming a normal amount of food that contains such substances, no negative effects should occur, but it is still better to limit or completely exclude their consumption.