What is umami?

Natural umami Substances

Glutamate in natural foods

Glutamate (umami substance) is a major constituent of food proteins (vegetables and meat). In addition,free glutamate is present naturally in most foods, such as meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables.
Tomatoes are especially rich in glutamate, and this is one of the reasons that tomatoes are widely used throughout the world to impart the taste of umami in a wide variety of dishes.

Meat and poultry


Beef 10
Chicken 22


Scallops 140
Snow crab 19
Blue crab 43
Alaska king crab 72
White shrimp 20
Meat and poultry,Seafood


Cabbage 50
Spinach 48
Tomatoes 246
Green asparagus 49
Corn 106
Green peas 106
Onions 51
Potatoes 10
Mushrooms 42


Emmenthal 308
Parmesan 1680
Cheddar cheese 182


Cow milk 1
Goat milk 4
Human breast milk 19

Glutamate in our body

Almost 70%of our body consists of water, almost 20% consists of protein, and almost 2% of body weight is glutamate, which is found in muscles, in the brain, in the kidneys, in the liver and in other organs and tissues.
The average person consumes between 10 and 20 grams of bound glutamate and one gram of free glutamate in the food which we eat everyday. In addition, the human body synthesizes about 50 grams of free glutamate daily.

Glutamate contents in breast milk

Of the 20 free amino acids in human breast milk, glutamate is the most abundant; it accounts for more than 50% of the total free amino acid content. Its presence may influence the taste acceptability to nursing infants. In particular, the glutamate content of human breast milk is almost ten times higher than that in cow milk.

Free amino acids in human breast milk

Free amino acids in human breast milk

Glutamate in breast milk

Glutamate in breast milk

(M. A. Mehaia and M. A. Al-Kanhal, 1992)

Which tastes do babies like?

The four images below show the reactions of babies after tasting umami, sweet, sour and bitter. As you can see, they display a happy expression after tasting something sweet, while they screw up their faces after consuming sour and bitter tasting foods. After consuming umami, meanwhile, in the form of vegetable soup with monosodium glutamate added, they display a calm face similar to that when having consumed something sweet. Thus, babies too can recognize different tastes, including umami. The taste and aroma of breast milk is influenced by the taste and aroma of food consumed by the mother. Through its mother's milk, the baby can experience a wider world of taste.

umami sweet sour bitter
umami sweet sour bitter

Source:Umami Information Center (NPO)