Scientists Say: Umami
Umami (noun, “Oo-MAH-mee”)
This is one of the five major tastes. The others are sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami comes from the Japanese words for “delicious” and “taste.” Many people say it tastes “meaty” or “brothy.” People taste umami when foods turn on receptors on your tongue for glutamate. It’s an amino acid that is part of many proteins.
In a sentence
Many animals love the taste of umami, but penguins can’t taste it at all.
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amino acids Simple molecules that occur naturally in plant and animal tissues and that are the basic constituents of proteins.
glutamate A salt of glutamic acid. Glutamate plays an important role in the brain as a signaling molecule between cells.
glutamic acid A non-essential amino acid that helps make up proteins.
umami One of the five major tastes (along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter). It has been described as savory but most people find the mild flavor hard to characterize. It is particularly prized as a flavor in Japanese cuisines.