Many cultures have a category of taste. In Ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine native to India foods, are classified into six tastes (rasas). However, many foods have more than one taste. Ayurvedic healers recommend that you include all of these six tastes at each main meal you eat. Each taste has a balancing ability, and including some of each provides complete nutrition, minimises cravings and balances the appetite and digestion.

The Standard Australian Diet tends to have too much of the sweet, sour and salty tastes, and not enough of the bitter, pungent and astringent tastes.  Within the broad principle of including all six tastes, you can customise your food choices to the doshas you are trying to balance at a given time.[1]

In Japanese, the word umami loosely translates as deliciousness, although it typically describes a flavour that is more savoury than sweet. However, the more popular word in Japanese for something tasty is oishii. Umami was coined by chemist Kikunae Ikeda at Tokyo University in 1908 who observed that there was a common taste denominator in asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat. He also identified that this flavour was most noticeable in Japanese stock known as dashi that is made from bonito, a large tuna like fish that is dried with addition of dried shrimp and / or fermented soy.

For vegetarians, dashi is made with kombu and shitake mushrooms and it was this flavour that Professor Ikeda determined the compound glutamate, an amino acid. He worked out just how to synthesise it and mass produce it this kick starting the industrial use of MSG.[2]

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In food technology and product development, we strive to achieve the umami flavour which is usually a bit yeasty, salty or ‘funky’ and complements the food categories of taste – bitter, sweet, sour and salty. It is the flavour of glutamate, that savoury, moreish flavour associated monosodium glutamate, the famous and often troublesome taste of Chinese Restaurants. Too much MSG will keep you awake and dehydrated.

For vegetarians, vegans and those pursuing the new wave of plant-based tastes, understanding umami is imperative to keep your carnivorous customers coming back and your clinal patients satisfied with taste.

Black Betty Bam is a plant-based, gluten free, umami rich spread born in Byron Bay and made in Australia using certified organic ingredients where possible. 

Imbued with the essence of umami, this gluten-free spread is meticulously concocted by Chef & Nutritionist Samantha Gowing, ensuring a symphony of flavours in every jar.

Harnessing the power of certified organic ingredients, Black Betty Bam tantalizes the taste buds with its rich umami profile, elevating any dish it graces. Infused with a bounty of essential vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12, it not only delights the palate but also nourishes the body.

Indulge your senses by spreading Black Betty Bam on toast, pairing it with your favorite crackers, or incorporating it into antipasto for an unforgettable culinary experience. Elevate your breakfast by stirring it through eggs or add depth to your meals by serving it alongside roast meats or vegetables.

Unlock the full potential of umami with Black Betty Bam – a testament to the artistry of Australian craftsmanship and the essence of pure, organic goodness.

Mechanisms of detecting umami substances in the digestive tract

Understanding the mechanisms underlying the detection of umami substances in the digestive tract sheds light on how amino acids elicit visceral sensations in the stomach and intestine. This process involves the activation of the vagus nerve, which serves as a conduit for transmitting signals from gastric vagal afferents to key regions of the brain such as the insular cortex, limbic system, and hypothalamus. These brain areas play pivotal roles in regulating various aspects of food intake, digestion, absorption, and metabolism.

Thus, the presence of umami taste not only influences food consumption but also impacts the digestive process itself. Researchers worldwide are actively investigating the intricate mechanisms through which the brain perceives umami taste and how substances with this taste profile can effectively trigger digestion.

Specifically, the sensory fibres within the vagus nerve play a crucial role in conveying information about food in the stomach and small intestine to the brain. When glutamate intake is detected at the surface of the digestive tract, this information is relayed to the brain via these sensory fibres, contributing to the overall understanding of umami perception and its effects on digestion.

Umami substances promote digestion

In the 1990s, the Russian Academy of Sciences published a number of reports on the digestion-enhancing effects of substances with an umami taste*. When substances with an umami taste (including glutamate) were added to dog food, gastric secretion was promoted. Further, when monosodium glutamate was added to the food of patients with chronic atrophic gastritis and impaired digestive function, gastric secretion was improved.

Glutamate induces visceral sensations and enhances gastric secretion. Other recent studies in human have suggested the possibility that glutamate modulates the transit of food from the stomach to the intestine, in proportion to its nutritional value ingested and thereby increases the efficiency of digestion.

Reference: Vasilevskaia LS, Rymshina MV, Shlygin GK.. Effect of glutamate and combined with inosine monophosphate on gastric secretion. Vopr. Pitan. 1993; (3): 29-33.

See also…


[1] The Tantric Kitchen Samantha Gowing 2005

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2005/jul/10/foodanddrink.features3

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