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With the overwhelming convenience of prepackaged foods and takeout, our taste buds have become overwhelmed. Often, the subtle taste of food is lost on us and we reach for salt and other seasonings to enhance the flavor of our meal. As a result, most of us take in way more sodium than we need to on a daily basis. Even those of us who make a conscious effort to eat healthy can fall prey to salt hidden in what is considered to be a healthy food.

The problem with this is that too much sodium increases our risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks, and kidney disease.

So instead of reaching for the salt, try incorporating foods high in umami to make your meals tastier. But what is umami? I’m glad you asked!

The word umami is Japanese and means “a pleasant savory taste.” Technically, umami refers to foods that contain high levels of glutamate, inosinate, or guanyiate, These compounds can be found in both plants and animal sources. Umami compounds are typically found in high protein foods. So not only do they make your meal taste better, but they’re more filling and help keep you satisfied longer.

And most likely, you’re already familiar with many of these foods. Here are some of the most common umami foods:

  • Parmesan
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • seaweed- esp Kombu and nori
  • Sweet corn
  • Fermented sauces and foods – soy sauce, sauerkraut
  • Green tea
  • Seafood – sardines, shrimp, cod, yellow tail
  • Meats- aged beef, chicken, bacon
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Green peas
  • Marmite (flavored yeast spread)

So the next time you think about reaching for the salt shaker, try substituting a umami food instead. Try a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese or roasted seaweed on vegetables. Add a bit of tomato paste to your soup. Season your eggs with sauteed onions and mushrooms. Or enjoy a tasty shrimp stir fry. The possibilities are endless. Your taste buds will thank you. And so will your heart!

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