5 Things You Should Know Right Now About Umami

07/23/2014 at 02:40 PM ET

Umami Foods: Mushrooms and Beef
Phoebe Lapine/Getty; Karen To/Getty; Image Source

What is umami anyway?
Umami is considered the “fifth” taste—savory—after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. A Japanese word that essentially means “yummy” or “deliciousness,” it’s described as a rich, meaty, satisfying taste.

How can I experience it?
You already have! The umami taste is in foods that have high levels of the amino acid glutamate, a naturally occurring building block of protein. Ingredients like beef, Parmesan cheese, miso carrots and some mushrooms have high umami levels.

Is it the same as MSG?
The additive monosodium glutamate, or MSG, can be used to enhance the flavor profile of foods; Asian cooks have been sprinkling it on dishes for years. Although some people report adverse effects from consuming MSG, researchers have found no evidence linking MSG to symptoms.

Why is it in the news now?
Consuming foods rich in umami may make you feel full, according to a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. People who had soup with MSG consumed less than people whose soup did not contain MSG.

Is an umami diet the next big thing?
Probably not. But as long as umami tastes so good and makes you eat less, it’s the perfect excuse to try an “umami bomb” (a recipe that includes several ingredients high in glutamate), like a Parmesean soufflé.

—Stephanie Emma Pfeffer

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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms
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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms

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On a clear day, you can see forever—or at least that’s the wicked thought behind L.A. designer Agi Berliner’s transparent idea: see-through jeans. Exhibitionists notwithstanding, most folks wear them over bathing suits or as attention-getting evening wear with halters, garter belts and body stockings. Created for the disco crowd, the $34 jeans are selling like, well, hot pants. In just six weeks, 25,000 pairs have already been sold in such major department store chains as Macy’s, Bonwit’s and Saks.

“What’s limiting American designers is that we’re afraid to do something different,” says Berliner, 32, a Hungarian émigré who fled with her family to the U.S. in 1956. Agi thought up the gimmick in London while marveling at the way plastics were being employed by designers of punk fashion. In her L.A. office, where she designs for La Parisienne junior sportswear, Agi spent five days on the phone and six weeks testing to come up with the right plastic.

Agi herself tried out the French-cut jeans with the zipper in front, and quickly found several problems: Some plastics tore away from stitching, others wouldn’t bend and all fogged with perspiration. The ideal material proved to be a vinyl supplied by a bookbinder. The steam was eliminated with a series of vents behind the knees and in the crotch. “They’re no hotter than polyester pants,” claims Agi, “and if you wear them with tights, they won’t stick to your legs.”

Whatever the discomfort and despite the problem of Saturday night feverishness, discomaniacs report one major advantage of the plastic pants: no laundry bills. To keep Berliner’s see-through jeans clear, all the wearer needs is a little Windex.

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