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A Taste For Nutrition

  By: Lori Gigantelli, RD, LMNT

Whether making nutritional choices for weight loss or personal wellness it is important to include foods that provide a feeling of satisfaction beyond just stomach fullness. Feeling satisfied by the food we eat may partially be attributed to choosing foods with enjoyable flavors.  Our brain delivers messages of flavor after gathering information from the receptor cells (taste buds) on our tongues and information obtained from our olfactory receptors that make up our sense of smell.  The taste receptor cells send messages to our brain recognizing five basic tastes:  salty, bitter, sweet, sour and umami.  A study published in the Oxford Journals in July 2015 indicated that there may be a taste for fat which could add a sixth taste in how we perceive flavor from our food.

Umami may be the least understood taste.  The word Umami derived from the Japanese language means ‘pleasant savory taste’.   Umami is present in anything that contains glutamates, a type of amino acid that can be found naturally in many foods.  Foods that provide Umami include:  fermented foods, soy sauce, yeast extract, strong cheeses such as cheddar and parmesan, mushrooms, cured meats, beef, pork, chicken, tuna, anchovies, shellfish, bones used to make soup, green tea, tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots.  Incorporating umami may allow us to be satisfied with less foods.  In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014, researchers were able to demonstrate that a combination of umami tastes resulted in study participants consuming less food in a day due to a post meal decrease in appetite.  Participants reported enjoying their food more and were able to remain satisfied longer after eating.

As you strive to bring more nutritious foods to your plate, take the opportunity to tune into the flavors that bring taste satisfaction to your meals.  Establish an eating environment that limits distraction and the temptation to multitask.  It is understood that eating while distracted or multitasking  such as driving or watching TV disengages us from the eating experience.  This may cause us to miss important sensory perception of taste and smell.  In addition to distractions, eating too fast may prevent the opportunity to truly enjoy the flavor the food is providing us.  Taking the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the flavors of your food may lead to less episodes of overconsumption.  Eating slow allows the body the necessary time to signal it is time to slow down or stop eating when satiety is felt. 
Eating nutritious foods should offer an opportunity to experience an assortment of flavor.  We tend to select foods that  stimulate our sense of taste in a way that is pleasing to us.  Foods that offer pleasing flavors give us a sense of satisfaction. Historically, taste has driven our food choices for survival and have protected us from consuming harmful foods during the hunting and gathering era. 

Find time to relax while eating your meals and snacks so you can focus on the flavor your food offers through your sense of taste and smell.  Look for recipes that offer an assortment of pleasing flavors and textures.  Explore new foods to broaden your acceptance of a variety of flavors and nutrients.  And enjoy....good nutrition should be packed with a variety of flavor reflecting the multitude of nutrients it delivers.