Umami! The Fifth Taste
When one first thinks of taste: the four tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, and salty) immediately come to mind. However, for most umami does not.
So, what is exactly is umami? Umami, also known as savoriness, was first recognized at the 1985 Umami International Symposium in Hawaii to describe the taste of glutamates and nucleotides and has become widely accepted as the 5th basic taste.
Most people don’t recognize umami but it is key to making food taste delicious. The taste is subtle and blends with other tastes to “expand and round out flavors.” Umami is often described as pleasant “brothy” or “meaty” taste with long lasting, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue. Umami occurs naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products.
If one is ever in Los Angeles, one can try an Umami Burger that caters specifically to this “taste.” Umami Burgers were featured in Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever ate!
Unconscious Eating and Nutrition
“You are what you eat.”
But what if we don’t know what we’re eating and how we are eating?
Many of us undoubtedly have some poor nutritional habits. Some of us are not aware of our environment when we eat, and thus may often overeat. Others do not know what we are putting into our mouths, due to the increased amount of chemicals on foods going into grocery stores.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently compiled a list of cleanest and dirtiest produce after studying 100,000 produce pesticide reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Topping the charts for dirtiest include: celery, which contains on average 13 pesticides per stalk, peaches, laced with 67 different chemicals, strawberries, apples, blueberries, cherries, spinach, kale, collard greens, and potatoes. These fruits and vegetables either require high maintenance to ward off insects or have skin that cannot protect themselves from harmful pesticides.
Besides not being conscious of what we are eating, many people do not pay attention to how we are eating. Recent studies show that eating in a setting with bright colors and upbeat, loud music causes people to eat more quickly and thus eat more. However, people tend to eat more slowly and less food when they are placed in a darker setting with calmer music. Furthermore, the shapes and sizes of the plates and utensils we use to eat affect people’s consumption behaviors. For example, many people hesitate to pile food up to the rims of plates, thus they eat less food on plates of same size but with bigger rims. Similarly, people served with smaller utensils often eat less than do people using bigger serving spoons. Finally, eating in front of the TV does, in fact, cause people to space out and overeat.
By knowing what foods to avoid (or to buy organic) and knowing how exactly we should settle ourselves before eating a meal, we can develop good nutritional habits that will keep us healthy.
The Perfect Child
Imagine being able to pre-determine the height , intelligence and eye color of an unborn child. Though this seems implausible, scientific advancements will soon make it possible for parents to tailor the physical appearance of their offspring. This new technology involves pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which is done on the developing embryo. The resulting creation has been coined a “designer baby,” an infant whose genetic makeup has been screened or altered in hopes of influencing the appearance of certain traits. Though this technology was previously used to screen for diseases, a new wave of scientific advancement reveals to what length parents will go to in order to develop the “perfect child.”
One of the first medical advocates for genetic tailoring was a Los Angeles fertility clinic in Los Angeles, which allowed parents to provide input regarding the external appearance of their existing embryos. Though the clinic shut down on March 2 due to outrage from the medical community, it still had many supporters.PGD is a highly debated issue with both supporters and critics having valid arguments to substantiate their claims. Arguably, designer babies with an improved genome can potentially lead more successful lives. However, the seemingly speculative consequences addressed should still be taken seriously.
Cancer-Fighting Green Machine
Rejoice, broccoli-lovers! Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that three to five servings of broccoli a week, if prepared correctly, are useful in preventing cancer. To extract the health benefits of broccoli, the enzyme myrosinase must be preserved; in other words, don’t overcook the broccoli or expect broccoli-based supplements alone to do the same job. (The researchers recommended “steaming broccoli for two to four minutes.”) If broccoli sprouts sounds more appealing than regular broccoli, you’re in luck: the sprouts are particularly full of myrosinase and can boost the effectiveness of broccoli powder by helping to absorb sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is another compound that in relatively high levels helps target/fight cancer, as found in a study last year on breast cancer stem cells. Sulforaphane can also be found in mustard, radishes, arugula, and wasabi. Here’s to preventing cancer with a green diet!