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5 Ways to Add More Umami to Your Diet (And Why You Should)
Umami—the "fifth taste" everyone forgets about—is distinct from its better-known siblings (salty, sweet, sour, and bitter) thanks to its smooth and savory qualities. And according to new research published in Flavour, it also increases salvation, making foods (even low-fat ones) taste better. (It may also improve digestion and gut health.) "Because umami has that salty, savory, meaty taste, you can skip out on fattier cuts of meat, heavy sauces, and fried foods—and feed your cravings at the same time," says nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH, author of The One One One Diet. Here, five ways to incorporate more umami into your diet—no MSG required.
Toss in Tomatoes
Replace processed tomato sauces with yummier homemade versions. "Tomatoes may be the most commonly eaten source of umami; to boost their umami profile, chefs recommend using super ripe tomatoes (one of the chemicals responsible for the umami taste, glutamic acid, increases as tomatoes ripen) and cooking them with onion and herbs to bring out more flavor," Batayneh says.
Replace Meat with Mushrooms
Mushrooms are great substitutes for ground beef and turkey. When making meatballs, meat sauces, or meatloafs, replace some of the ground meat with mushrooms—both shiitake and enokitake are high in umami, she says. Plus, they pack a healthy dose of vitamin D, which we could all use in the winter. You can also toss them in pastas, salads, and omelets, and on top of proteins for an umami boost.
Add Some Seafood to Your Plate
Tuna, cod, mackerel, shellfish, shrimp, and oysters are all great sources of umami flavor, Batayneh says. Make salads more satisfying by topping them with a few pieces of shrimp and serve tuna alongside your veggies. Or, if you're jonesing for some red meat, opt for surf and turf.
Blaine Moats/Annie Krumhardt-Peterson
Nosh on Nori
The dried seaweed found in sushi is absolutely brimming with umami goodness. Try switching out chemical-laden chips for salty-tasting, crunchy nori strips, she says. Or make popcorn more satisfying by sprinkling it with nori flakes instead of coating it with butter and salt.
Sub in Sweet Potatoes
Nothing sticks to the ribs like meat and potatoes. Use sweet potatoes and they'll fill you up even sooner. While white and sweet potatoes are both high in fiber, sweet potatoes have an edge in the umami department. They also add texture and flavor to salads and stews.