When you have no time to meal prep, it can be hard to start a healthy eating routine. But now new research points to one particular type of food that can get you well on your way.
According to a new study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers found that consuming ‘a broth rich in umami — or savoury taste — can cause subtle changes in the brain that promote healthy eating behaviours and food choices.’
Umami is one of the five basic tastes ( the other four are: sweet, salty, bitter and sour) which is Japanese for savoury. Glutamate is a big part of Umami, an amino acid especially present in foods high in protein such as dairy products, fish and meat.
Previous research has found that broth supplemented with monosodium glutamate ( MSG) beforehand can be used to decrease appetite, especially in women prone to overeating and weight gain.
During the experiment, scientists analysed the brains of healthy young women after consuming chicken broth with and without added MSG as they ate at a buffet. Measuring their self-control and tracking eye movements through special glasses, the study authors examined the brain activity while volunteers made their food choices.
Interestingly, after consuming umami-rich broth, the participants’ self-control was far better, their eyes were better fixed on certain foods and the part of the brain linked to self-regulation during food choice performed better. Excitingly, those most at risk of obesity didn’t consume as much saturated fat.
“Previous research in humans studied the effects of umami broths on appetite, which is typically assessed with subjective measures. Here, we extended these findings replicating the beneficial effects of umami on healthy eating in women at higher risk of obesity, and we used new laboratory measures that are sensitive and objective,” says senior author Dr. Miguel Alonso-Alonso, an Assistant Professor at the Centre for the Study of Nutrition Medicine in BIDMC’s Department of Surgery, BIDMC.
While plenty of research has been down on how sugar affects the brain, there has been limited coverage on the effects of savoury food, notes Alonso-Alonso.
“Many cultures around the world advocate drinking a broth before a meal. Our study suggests the possibility that people at high risk of obesity could benefit from an umami-rich broth before a meal to facilitate healthy eating and healthy food choice,” says Alonso-Alonso.
“However, here we only evaluated immediate effects and in a laboratory context. Future research should address whether these observed changes can accumulate and affect food intake over time and/or whether they can be leveraged to help people lose weight more successfully.”