What do you know about umami?


The health benefits of umami is strongly dependent on the ingredients we choose.

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Health benefits of Umami

Various studies have shown that a high-salt intake is linked to hypertension, which is a key risk factor in cardiovascular and kidney diseases. Therefore, dietary guidelines recommend the reduction of salt intake, outlining that the major salt source comes from processed foods, condiments, and canned foods (Durack et al., 2008; He et al., 2014). According to research, using umami flavour in a low-salt diet promotes food palatability and can give bland food in depth flavour (Yamaguchi & Ninomiya, 2000).

In addition, our sense of taste and smell can be compromise due to the ageing process, environmental factors or due to other causes, using umami's flavour-enhancing characteristics to create intense flavours can therefore be good for meals served in hospitals and nursing homes for the elderly (Ninomiya, 2015; Pacheco Arnaiz & Khakim, n.d.; Yamamoto et al., 2009).

More recent research has shown that consuming umami-rich meals can help ease the severe condition of dry mouth in the elderly, since umami initiates salivation (Hodson & Linden, 2006; Satoh-Kuriwada et al., 2009).

Each taste is thought to fulfil an evolutionary purpose to either keep us away from poisonous or spoiled food or drawn us to energy-dense and nutritious food. Humans experience umami for the first time through the free amino acids in mother’s milk (breast milk) where glutamic acid exhibits the highest concentration in total amino acid as well as free amino acid contents. The free (unbound) glutamic acid in form of its salt glutamate is the main compound unleashing the umami taste (Ballard & Morrow, 2013; Csapó & Salamon, 2009). Thus, research so far has led to the conclusion that umami taste is important evolutionary to detect nutritious and protein-rich food which contains essential building blocks for our development and growth.

While glutamic acid is abundant in both plant and animal, the nucleotides 5’-inosinate is more abundant in meats and 5’-guanylate can be mainly found in plants and mushrooms, such as Shiitake mushrooms (Kurihara, 2015). Studies have shown that these molecules together with glutamate enables the so-called umami synergy, that intensify the umami taste up to eight times the intensity of these molecules in isolation (Kurihara, 2015; Schmidt et al., 2020). These findings suggest that we are evolutionary drawn to a high dietary diversity.

Generally speaking, the health benefits of umami is strongly dependent on the food we choose.


Miso known as a traditional Japanese condiment, is a thick paste produced from fermented soybeans containing salt, koji (fungus species Aspergillus oryzae) and different types of cereal grains. During the fermentation process, enzymes from the fungus, lactic acid bacteria, and yeast break down the organic compounds in soybeans and the cereal grains resulting in a thick soybean paste. Miso is used in both traditional and modern Japanese cuisine and is gaining popularity across the world, not at last due to its exquisite flavour and high protein, vitamin, and mineral contents. Generally, a well-fermented miso paste contains up to 14% protein and is high in free amino acid contents, particularly glutamate which generates the umami taste (Mouritsen & Styrbæk, 2014). Miso holds numerous vitamins in addition to minerals like sodium, calcium, potassium, manganese, copper, zinc and other minerals in smaller amounts. A number of these nutrients carry the necessary structures used for maintenance of the bones as well as the nervous system. Further, miso can potentially increase the digestion by enhancing the probiotic activity and assists the body in maintaining a healthy microbiota (Mouritsen & Styrbæk, 2014).

Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are rich in key vitamins and minerals while low in calories, fat and protein. Originated from Asia, they now count to one of the most popular mushrooms across the culinary world. The long list of compounds in Shiitake have a track record of potential health benefits such as the potential to prevent cardiovascular diseases (Guillamón et al., 2010), to lower cholesterol levels as well to serve as anticancer treatment (Finimundy et al., 2014).

Irish Seaweed

The basis for today’s research on umami started with its discovery in Kombu, an edible seaweed capturing the mouth-watering umami flavour. Kelp is more than just a nutrient-dense, low-fat, low-calorie food. Studies have suggested that kelp may have a substantial effect on weight reduction and obesity due to the presence of alginate, a natural fibre, which can prevent the absorption of fat molecules in the gut (Jensen et al., 2012). Furthermore, Kombu contains a high number of key vitamins and minerals and are an ideal source for natural iodine, a key component needed in the production of thyroid hormones(Choudhry & Nasrullah, 2018). The intake of iodine supplements can therefore be avoided by eating seaweed aa an overdose of iodine by supplements can have a significant effect on our thyroid function and hormone balance (NHS, 2020). Furthermore, a number of studies have suggested potential anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects in Kombu ((Choudhry & Nasrullah, 2018; Jensen et al., 2012).

Cherrry tomatoes

Tomatoes are an excellent source of Umami flavour. The glutamic acid content gives them a sweet-yet-savory flavour. Regular tomatoes have 150-250mg of glutamic acid per 100 g, whereas cherry tomatoes have 170-280 mg per 100 g. Furthermore, tomato glutamic acid levels continue to rise as they ripen. Drying tomatoes can improve their umami flavour by removing moisture and concentrating glutamate. Each 100 g of dried tomatoes contains 650-1140 mg of glutamic aid. Aside from glutamic acid, tomatoes are also a good source of several vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium, folate and plant-based antioxidants.


Garlic is an Allium (onion) plant grown for its distinctive flavour and health benefits. It contains sulphur compounds, which are thought to account for some of the health benefits.

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”

Those are the famous words of Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician known as the father of Western medicine. He prescribed garlic to treat a number of medical conditions, and modern science has confirmed many of its health benefits. Scientists now believe that sulphur compounds formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed, or chewed are responsible for the majority of garlic's health benefits. Garlic's sulphur compounds enter your body through the digestive tract. They then travel all over the body, exerting strong biological effects. Garlic is known to boost the function of the immune system; the active compounds in garlic can reduce blood pressure Garlic is also rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese.


Though all vegetables are beneficial to health, certain varieties provide additional advantages. Onions are members of the Allium genus, which also includes garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives. Onions are high in nutrients and have been linked to a variety of health benefits such as improved heart health, better blood sugar control, and increased bone density. These vegetables contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and powerful plant compounds that have been shown to benefit health in a variety of ways. In fact, onions' medicinal properties have been known since ancient times, when they were used to treat ailments such as headaches, heart disease, and mouth sores. This vegetable is high in vitamin C, a nutrient that aids in immune health, collagen production, tissue repair, and iron absorption.

Furthermore, onions are high in fibre and serves as good prebiotic, both of which are essential for good gut health. Prebiotics are types of nondigestible fibre that are broken down by beneficial gut bacteria. Gut bacteria consume prebiotics and produce short-chain fatty acids such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate. According to studies, these short-chain fatty acids improve gut health, boost immunity, reduce inflammation, and improve digestion.


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