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Umami Taste - the 5th TasteOur sense of taste has developed to detect key components in food which are important for healthy development, and those which we need to avoid.

There are five basic tastes.

Basic Taste Indicates: Taste Stimulus
Sweet Energy source Sucrose
Sour Not yet ripe or spoilage Vinegar (Acetic acid)
Salt Essential minerals for fluid balance Salt (Sodium chloride)
Bitter Harmful / toxins Quinine
UMAMI Protein, amino acids Glutamate / MSG

The fact that we have evolved to taste glutamate is not surprising once we realize that it is an amino acid found abundantly in food. It indicates the presence of protein, a source of amino acids we need for healthy growth and development throughout life.

Glutamate Prompts the Umami Taste

Specific taste receptors on the tongue recognize each of the five basic tastes. For example, when glutamate comes in to contact with the umami fifth taste receptors, this information is relayed to the brain where the umami taste is then recognized.

The way in which we hunger for the tastes we need is demonstrated by nutrition studies among infants. Newborn babies have been shown to enjoy the sweet taste and umami taste and to dislike sour and bitter tastes. Umami taste may be recognised even before birth as human amniotic fluid contains significant levels of glutamate.

Human breast milk is very rich in free glutamate. A newborn breast-fed baby consumes free glutamate at levels far higher than we do from our diet later in life.

glutamate in human milk

Monosodium glutamate, MSG, is glutamate seasoning – the simplest, purest way to add umami to food.

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