In Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste, Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek explain the health benefits of umami:
Food with umami can often be prepared with significantly less salt, sugar, and fat without sacrificing the delicious taste of the resulting dish. Salt, in particular, is frequently applied too liberally in order to compensate for ingredients that are insipid or unpalatable. In many cases, its use can be reduced by as much as a half by incorporating foodstuffs with umami into the recipe. The fifth taste spurs the appetite, an attribute that can be exploited to advantage in caring for the sick and the elderly, who may have lost interest in eating. At the same time, however, umami promotes satiety, which helps to curb overeating by those who are inclined to overindulge. Either way, adopting a diet that has an abundance of umami may be a way for modem humans to eat in a healthier manner and to adjust their caloric intake to suit the needs of their bodies.
So where can you find umami? Well, the authors also provide a list of 12 easy way to add umami:
Cut shiitake or other dark mushrooms into slices and dry them in an oven on low heat. Crush them into a powder and mix it with Maldon sea salt flakes.
Use to season fish, soups, vegetables, and pasta dishes.
Marinate mushrooms in a little soy sauces or garum
Can be fried or used raw in salads.
Essence of Worcestershire sauce
Concentrated reduction of the sauce kept at the ready in a small bottle with an eyedropper.
Just add a couple of drops to meat that is being fried or to a sauce or a dressing. Rounds out the taste of a pâté or an egg dish.
Highly concentrated chicken bouillon
1 L (4¼ c) chicken stock reduced to 1 dL (½ c) or less.
Use as an essence in gravies that are a little flat or to add depth to a dressing, or drizzle on pasta or salads.
Light or dark paste made from fermented soybeans; available where Asian foods are sold.
Adds a nutty, savory taste to dressings, sauces, marinades, and soups (especially those with shellfish); or use it like butter to coat warm vegetables just before serving.
Available in a squeezable tube to keep in the refrigerator.
For all types of vinaigrettes, dressings, marinades, pesto, and pâtés.
Available in health food stores and many supermarkets.
Use in marinades, sprinkle on vegetarian dishes and grilled vegetables, or mix in with the crumbs used for breading fish. Toast lightly in a skillet with a little olive oil, some ground pure chile powder, and a few bread crumbs and use as a savory topping.
Bits and pieces of air-dried ham
Fat trimmings, bones, and skin.
Throw into the soup or stew pot and remove before serving.
Made from garlic, olive oil, butter, milk, bread crumbs, and a lot of anchovies.
Use as a dip for raw vegetables or as a sauce for fish or poultry.
Parmesan cheese crusts
The hard crusts from Parmesan cheese.
Cook with the other ingredients in soups and sauces and remove before serving.
Flatfish dorsal fins
The soft, translucent flesh of the thin muscle of the dorsal fin is cut into small squares and fried lightly.
Use like croutons or bacon bits on a salad; can be marinated with a little lemon juice before serving.
Remnants of soft, ripened blue cheese
Place on parchment paper and dry out in the oven or in a food dehydrator.
Grate or crush into a powder and sprinkle on pizza, salad, or pasta, or add to a gravy that tastes a bit flat.