You know you’re never going to feel satisfied after eating a flavorless meal. But it turns out that one flavor in particular – umami – can actually make your lunch or dinner seem more filling.
Never heard of it? Umami, a subtle taste thats more savory than anything else, is often considered the "fifth taste" after salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. And now a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that the flavor can help diners feel more full – and eat less later.
For the study, researchers from the University of Sussex in the U.K. asked 27 participants to either eat a high-protein soup with added MSG (which food manufacturers often use to lend umami to everything from canned soup to Chinese food) or another soup without the flavor booster. Later, everyone sat down to the exact same meal, and the subjects who had eaten the MSG-laced soup consumed less food – and said they still felt full.
While previous research shows that a combination of protein and MSG can boost satiety levels, MSG is a food additive – and one that has been linked with health issues. While, according to Mayo Clinic, MSG allergies (marked by hives, facial swelling, and migraines) are mostly anecdotal, research published in Obesity shows that people who consume the most MSG are three times more likely to be overweight than those who eat the least.
Luckily, you don’t have to down MSG to get your umami on. The flavor’s compounds – glutamate, a type of amino acid, and ribonucleotides, including inosinate and guanylate – occur naturally in many foods. Check out the levels of glutamate (mb/100g) in these 10 high-umami foods, courtesy of the Umami Information Center (seriously, it exists!):
Parmesan cheese: 1,200
Green tea: 668
Cured ham: 337