March is National Nutrition Month®
You have to love this year’s theme: Savor the Flavor of Eating Right. Savoring the flavor brings to mind family food traditions, lingering over a simple dinner with friends. It is quite the opposite of fast foods and salty snacks. This weekend, I slow-cooked a lean chuck shoulder roast in the oven, the wonderful aroma permeating the house piqued my family’s appetite. A healthy diet includes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats and other proteins, whole grains while limiting salt, added sugar, and saturated fat. Why is flavor important to eating healthy? Food is a source of enjoyment and pleasure as well as nourishment to help us thrive. A Tufts University research examined many popular weight loss diets and found that it is the diet adherence that determines how successful weight loss and heart health improvement was. Let’s explore how we can satisfy with naturally flavorful foods and eat healthfully. Flavor is taste plus aroma. Studies consistently show taste is the #1 factor in consumers’ choice of foods. It has been thought that there are four tastes: sweet, sour, salt and bitter. However, it is now known that there is actually the fifth taste: umami.
Umami is the fifth taste
Umami is the Japanese word for “delicious”. It is a pleasant savory taste imparted by glutamate, an amino acid which occurs naturally in meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products. Foods rich in umami taste are beef, seafood, tomatoes, soybeans, mushroom and cheeses. Pairing two umami-rich foods like beef and mushrooms or tomatoes creates eight times more flavor, such as this beef and mushroom stew. It is a delicious way to enjoy foods without much added sugar or sodium. So reach for the mushroom topping or always keep extra cans of tomatoes around for the stew.
Herbs, not salt
Experiment with herbs and spices to season instead of salt. Herbs, like basil and thyme, are the fragrant leaves of plants. Spices, like turmeric and paprika, come from the buds, seeds, and other parts of the plants. Check out the Chill-out Chili and other salt-free seasonings for your meat dishes. Add “sparkle” to your meal with vinegar or lemon juice. Sprinkle dried herbs at least 15 minutes before cooking is done for full flavor; add fresh herbs just before serving to avoid wilting. Learn more on flavoring with herbs on the American Heart Association website.
Remember, slow down and take time to appreciate the pleasures and flavors of eating right!
Cindy Chan Phillips
NY Beef Council