What most people don’t realize is that the importance of taste doesn’t stop at simply enjoying the flavor of the foods we eat.
Although treating yourself to a meal at a superb restaurant or enjoying a scrumptious dinner at home seems reward enough, taste is actually an integral and important part of nutrition.
To a large degree, it is our taste buds that actually trigger important digestive and metabolic functions allowing us to better use the essential nutrients we get from our diet. When food passes over our taste buds, those wonderful tastes not only trigger pleasure and satisfaction, they also send an important message to our body that nutrition is on its way. Those tiny taste buds are, in essence, telling our bodies to get to work and metabolize the foods we are eating.
Not only does MSG make good food taste better for consumers, new studies show that MSG may play a role in the overall health and nutrition of people who need it most.
Aging, as well as a number of diseases and illnesses, decrease our ability to taste and smell. This decrease in our senses is a major contributor to poor nutritional status in populations like the elderly, making it increasingly difficult for doctors and nutritionists to ensure that their patients get much-needed nutrients. Studies have found that adding MSG to certain foods, such as soup and mashed potatoes, has been successful in increasing the food intake in institutionalized elderly populations.
MSG may also help to regulate appetite. Currently there is significant interest in what makes us feel hungry or feel full, and how understanding satiety could help in understanding appetite. Studies show that we are programmed to find foods with umami taste appetizing when we are hungry but not nearly so pleasant when we are full. This may be important for deciding how much we eat at a meal.
We don’t just eat to live; we get pleasure from what we eat. The savory foods and recipes that we enjoy are characterized by words like rich, meaty, rounded and all have a balanced, mouth-filling flavor. Often the satisfying rounded flavor is due to the fat content of the food. With the increased understanding of umami taste characteristics and of the ingredients which deliver the unique savory taste, chefs and recipe developers are finding that umami-rich recipes can deliver rich, satisfying cuisine with lower levels of fat.