Every country and culture around the world have its own long list of signature dishes. Yet, few food items have the same global appeal as the pizza. You can find it pretty much in every country and the begs the question, why is it so darned popular? The basic ingredients are nothing out of this world. There is a bread-like crust, some tomato sauce, cheese and regular portions of meats and vegetables as toppings. Constituent wise it does not seem like much and yet it tastes so good that you just can’t have enough. Today, we will look at the science behind this and find out what makes it so addictive and crave-worthy.
First, let us define taste:
We all know that taste is one of our five senses. What most people do not know is that taste can be further sub-divided into five types. It is sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. While we should all be familiar with first four, umami seems to be the odd one out here and you probably guessed it, pizza falls under this category. So what is umami? It is a Japanese word which means “rich and savory” and that is perhaps the aptest description you can give of pizza. Next, we will look at why pizza comes under this category.
It is all about the glutamate:
You might have heard about glutamate when you came to know of MSG or monosodium glutamate. What you might not be aware of is that there are many natural sources of glutamate. What does glutamate do you ask? Well, it does not have a specific taste or flavor of its own but it has the ability to enhance the flavors of other ingredients around it.
This is perceived as being a lot more delicious by our taste buds. Pretty much every component of a pizza is packed with a substantial amount of glutamate that even the simplest pizzas taste so good that you just have to keep eating more. The two major components common for pretty much every type of pizza are tomato sauce and cheese. These have a high content of glutamate and combined can provide glutamate in excess of 200 milligrams of the stuff.
The meat used as toppings is another great source of glutamate. So, when all of this packed into a single pizza, the taste buds are bombarded with so much glutamate that it is only natural to get a strong craving for it.
Is glutamate bad for the health?
Yes, it is. In excess quantities, it can weaken the heart and the blood vessels and cause other health issues as well. So, it is a good idea to control that craving for pizzas.
Tell us what your favorite pizza is in the comments below.