I recently came across a new diet strategy that I thought could be useful to those of you trying to lose weight. It takes advantage of the umami flavor, which I hadn’t seen before.
What is umami?
Umami is classically described as the ‘savory taste’. The compound largely responsible for creating the umami taste is free glutamate, a non-essential amino acid (i.e., a component of protein not required for our survival). Glutamate is predominantly found in vegetables and high protein foods like meat, seafood, and poultry.
Many different cuisines have unknowingly relied on foods high in glutamate to create a larger depth of flavor in their dishes. The most familiar examples are mushrooms, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and other fermented products.
You’ve probably already heard of glutamate, but might not recognize it. MSG stands for monosodium glutamate. It’s a food additive that was invented in the early 1900s for the purpose of quickly and cheaply adding umami flavor to dishes.
What does the research say?
A recent study came out that wanted to test the effects of an umami rich broth consumed immediately before a buffet meal. Participants were split into two groups – one consuming chicken broth with MSG and another consuming chicken broth without MSG. The broth characteristics were as follows:
- 240 ml volume
- 750mg sodium
- 3g protein + 1g sugar
- 44g MSG (only in the MSG group)
Here are some of the key findings from the research:
- Participants in the MSG+ group showed improved inhibitory control.
- Participants in the MSG+ group showed decreased saturated fat intake at buffet meal.
- Total caloric intake at buffet was similar.
The effects were more pronounced in individuals who had poor baseline inhibitory control (they struggled to say ‘no’).
The study is in agreement with previous literature that has shown pre-loading a meal with a savory broth (MSG added) will decrease hunger and reduce preference for high-fat and high-sugar foods, particularly in individuals with excess weight. It should be noted that individuals with excess weight tend to also have worse inhibitory control.
What does it mean?
More research needs to be done to see if chronic consumption of broths before meals will result in weight loss. However, it should be noted that many cultures advocate for the consumption of a light soup or broth before meals, and those cultures tend to have better weight management.
It also agrees with another strategy I’ve discussed previously – that of increasing consumption of foods with a low caloric density before meals. Basically, your stomach is going to experience the same stretch as consuming a glass of water as of consuming a glass of oil. The water has 0 calories, but the oil will provide several thousand. More importantly, both will fill you the same amount.
I don’t care if you eat 20 lbs. of broccoli in one sitting. You will certainly explode, but you won’t put on any fat.
With this new research, we can get more bang for our buck with our efforts. Not only can you drink some broth (minimal calories) to fill up space so you eat less at the subsequent meal, but if you add in glutamate, you can also improve your ability to make healthier food choices.
If you are someone looking to lose excess fat, or if you struggle with saying ‘no’ to high-fat or high-sugar foods, then MSG may be worth a shot. Specifically, try consuming a broth with MSG added before your biggest meals.
You’ll be surprised how well it works!
A quick sidebar – I know MSG has received some negative press, but it’s completely unfounded. It’s no worse for you than salt. If you have hypertensive concerns, then please don’t start putting MSG on everything. However, if you have a healthy heart and no sodium restrictions, feel free to use MSG wherever you want.
As always, thanks again for taking the time out to read another article from me. I truly enjoy doing what I do and I am eternally grateful that you allow me to do so. If you have any feedback or want to hear about another topic, please feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking forward to chatting with you next week!