Ajinomoto Panda Bottle - © Ajinomoto via the Japan Times

The Science Behind the ‘Soup’ Course

Almost all well-established cultures share the tradition of serving a Soup course at or near the beginning of a meal. A new study reveals there’s more than just tradition behind this practice, and serving ‘Soup’ can help diners – especially those who are overweight or obese – eat more healthfully…

Hot & Sour Soup - © amigosdelivery.pkHot & Sour Soup: A Classic Asian umami starter…

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) at Harvard Medical School wanted to know how consuming a savoury Broth or Soup before a meal affected food choices during the meal. Previous experimental studies have shown that intake of a broth or soup supplemented with monosodium glutamate (MSG), a sodium salt of glutamate, prior to a meal can decrease appetite and food intake, especially in women with a propensity to overeat and gain weight.

“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,” said Senior Author Miguel Alonso-Alonso, MD, PhD, an Assistant Professor at the Center for the Study of Nutrition Medicine in BIDMC’s Department of Surgery.

What they did…

The investigators used three laboratory tools to detect changes: a computer test that measured inhibitory control (a key mental process that is necessary for self-regulation of eating), a buffet meal during which participants ate freely while wearing special glasses that tracked eye movements, and a functional brain scan that measured brain activity while participants made food choices.

What they found…

Following consumption of the umami-rich broth, participants performed the inhibitory control test better, had more focused gazes during the meal, and had more engagement of a brain area that is linked to successful self-regulation during food choice. Also, after consuming the umami-rich broth, those at higher risk of obesity consumed less saturated fat during the meal.

Alonso-Alonso says there is real potential in using umami broths to help control and, possibly, change eating behaviours that contribute to overweight and obesity. But he also stresses that research to date ha been confined to lab situations and more work needs to be done to see how adding an umami broth to meals might affect eating behaviours in the real world.

My take…

This just makes sense. The Asian cultures all have ‘Soup’ traditions employing umami broths with various flavourings and solid additives. I always have a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup (or something similar) at the beginning of a sit-down Asian meal. And I’ve always believed that the Soup ‘starter’ has made the foods that follow more satisfying and, yes, I do eat less than I do when ordering in the same foods for home consumption. I don’t order soup as part of a delivery Asian meal. I used to, bur haven’t for some time, now, because the majority of delivery Asian food orders I used to make arrived with the Soup spilled.

Asian Restos NOTE: Please don’t put the Soup containers in the bottom of the bag! They’ll  more than likely get crushed.

I’ve been experimenting with adding MSG to my home-cooked dishes, and I’ve discovered that a little Salt and a little MSG go farther to enhance the flavour of foods than a lot of Salt, alone. My take on that is, I’m getting no more Sodium in my diet from my new seasoning regime – maybe less – than I did when using Salt, alone.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on any future studies on the affects of umami broths in the real world…

~ Maggie J.

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