Tag Archives: food

Sweet success: UF researchers find key to sweeter, healthier strawberries

6 Apr
Paige Levin is a freshman journalism and political science student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing opinion pieces and in-depth feature articles, and loves to discover people’s stories. Levin hopes to one day combine her passions for writing, government and politics to work in the nation’s capitol and bring the political information needed back to the people. Paige has been writing for about five years now, she is currently an intern for the Pledge 5 Foundation, and was previously the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper.

Paige Levin is a freshman journalism and political science student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing opinion pieces and in-depth feature articles, and loves to discover people’s stories. Levin hopes to one day combine her passions for writing, government and politics to work in the nation’s capitol and bring the political information needed back to the people. Paige has been writing for about five years now, she is currently an intern for the Pledge 5 Foundation, and was previously the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Paige Levin

Whether they are tucked into a shortcake, whipped into a smoothie or sitting atop a yogurt parfait, there is nothing more enticing than a scoopful of juicy, red strawberries. But how many times have you bitten into a berry-laden treat, only to be left grimacing by a less than satisfying bitter burst?

You might be tempted to reach for the sugar to help sweeten your snack, which while tasty, isn’t beneficial to the waistline. Now, researchers at the University of Florida say they have found the compounds that promise a sweeter and healthier berry.

The study, conducted by the University of Florida’s Plant Innovation Program entitled “Strawberry Flavor: Diverse Chemical Compositions, a Seasonal Influence, and Effects on Sensory Perception,” identifies the 30 compounds in strawberries that give the fruit its distinctive flavor. This allows breeders to now create better tasting and possibly healthier varieties of strawberries.

One of the team members, Thomas Colquhoun said in the long term, six of the compounds discovered by Michael Schwieterman and his colleagues may allow scientists to create processed foods that taste sweeter while using less sugar, making the foods healthier.

“Our idea is to make our crops more flavorful and healthy for consumers so that our consumers eat healthier and eat more of it,” Colquhoun said.

Colquhoun, an assistant professor in floriculture biotechnology and genetics, said the study is unique because it uses a very sophisticated type of psychophysics. Psychophysics looks at the relationship between certain physical stimuli, in this case strawberry variety, and the sensations they affect or cause.

For the study,  166 consumers between 18 and 71 years old  were recruited and asked to taste between three and five different varieties of strawberries. After chewing and swallowing a whole strawberry, panelists were asked to rate it based on overall taste, texture  and perceived intensity of sweetness and sourness.download (2)

Linda Bartoshuk, director of human research at UF’s Center for Smell and Taste, was in charge of the consumer taste panel. Bartoshuk compared consumer opinions using a method called cross-modality matching. This method combines the pleasure and sensory scales, making it possible to compare opinions fairly.

“It doesn’t matter what your scale is or what my scale is,” Colquhoun said. “We can compare those two things because they can be mixed and matched and weighted.”

By comparing the psychophysics data from consumer panels with biochemical data, Colquhoun said they identified 30 volatile compounds associated with flavors consumers enjoy. Within that, the study showed a group of six volatiles associated with perceived sweetness intensity, without the contribution of sugar.

“You’re actually sensing this volatile, and there is some sort of signal that is telling your brain what you taste is actually sweet, even though you’re not registering sugar,” Colquhoun said. “So what that indicates is that we may be able to reduce the level of sugar, increase the level of these volatiles, and the strawberry should be perceived as approximately the same sweetness.”

Eventually, those six volatiles may be used to lower sugar content in products like strawberry jam and yogurt, but for now, Colquhoun said this information is passed along to the UF strawberry breeder so that he can grow more flavorful strawberries. He added that more varieties with richer flavor and better health benefits should be hitting the markets within the next two years.

Paul Lyrene, professor emeritus of horticultural sciences, said he thinks the new information will only have minimal effects on improving the strawberry in the short term.

“I think all the information is good and worthwhile and sometimes helpful, but I do not believe that the studies are going to lead to any great breakthroughs in flavors of strawberries because the problem is really not at the molecular level, its at some other level,” Lyrene said.

The reason we currently have such poor-flavored fruit is not because of the chemistry, Lyrene said, but because flavor is given low priority in the marketing system.

“I, as a plant breeder, know exactly how to make my fruit taste better without really knowing any of the molecular biology of what happens,” he said. “I have, for example, varieties of blueberries that everybody says are better than what is being grown, but the growers will not plant them because they yield only half as much.”

Lyrene said other issues come from the fact that a crop has to have a lot of different features to be successful.

“It has to be resistant to various diseases. It has to yield well.  It has to be attractive in appearance for the consumer, and it has to be compatible with the modern packing and shipping methods,” Lyrene said.

The team’s research, which began with tomatoes, and is now expanding to include blueberries, peaches, citrus and culinary herbs.

“UF is a unique place because we have a huge team of very, very highly skilled breeders,” Colquhoun said. “What we can do is just go right down the line and help our breeders with our basic science and applied consumer science.”

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Nutrition expert debunks sugar myths

1 Apr
Meg is epicurious and has a strong passion for cooking healthy meals on a budget. Her passion for food and nutrition stems from a young age with exposure to cuisine from various cultures. Originally from New York, she moved to Tallahassee, Florida to receive a bachelor's degree in Dietetics at the Florida State University. Upon graduating, She took one step further to become a nutrition expert in the dietetics field. She is currently a graduate student studying Clinical Nutrition at the Florida State University with the intent of becoming a Registered Dietitian post-grad. She believes that food has a unique ability to bond people from around the world, to create new relationships, and to cement old friendships. She aims to share her nutrition knowledge with others and to encourage healthy lifestyles through fitness and nutrition.

Meg is epicurious and has a strong passion for cooking healthy meals on a budget. Her passion for food and nutrition stems from a young age with exposure to cuisine from various cultures. Originally from New York, she moved to Tallahassee, Florida to receive a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics at the Florida State University. Upon graduating, She took one step further to become a nutrition expert in the dietetics field. She is currently a graduate student studying Clinical Nutrition at the Florida State University with the intent of becoming a Registered Dietitian post-grad. She believes that food has a unique ability to bond people from around the world, to create new relationships, and to cement old friendships. She aims to share her nutrition knowledge with others and to encourage healthy lifestyles through fitness and nutrition.

Meg Khan-Karen is a guest blogger for Layman’s Terms Media. Periodically she will post thoughtful articles about leading a healthy lifestyle on a budget. Check out her Facebook page Daily Fit Dish by MegKKFit for healthy recipes at a reasonable price.

By: Meg Khan-Karen, Nutrition expert

“Sugar is poison.” This has been engrained in our minds since childhood. As children, we were often told to avoid eating too much sugar because it would rot our teeth, make us hyper, give us nightmares—the list goes on. More and more, we are bombarded with new food products that are marketed as being all-natural or ‘healthy’. However, one look at the nutrition label and it becomes clear that this is not so.

 

These products are filled with added sugars and other nasty fillers that our body can do without. From a young age, we have been taught to believe that sugar is harmful for our bodies, but how much truth is there to this claim?

Allow me to debunk the ‘sugar-is-the-devil’ mayhem for you.

Sugars are the building blocks of carbohydrates, which your body needs in order to function on a daily basis.  Sugars are naturally found in foods such as fruits and dairy products. These types of sugars are called simple sugars. Other foods such as vegetables and grains contain complex carbohydrates, both of which your body can break down for readily available energy when needed.

 

These carbohydrates allow our brains to function at optimal capacity and provide us with the energy to fulfill daily tasks, whether it be studying for exams, running errands, or training for the local 5K. Sugars from fresh, whole foods keep us healthy and strong. Therefore, not all sugars are bad for you. Without these carbohydrates, we would feel lethargic and unable to function to our best ability.

 

Here is where the confusion about sugar arises. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has defined ‘added sugars’ as ingredients in processed and prepared foods (such as breads, cakes, soft drinks, jam, and ice cream) and sugars eaten separately or added to foods at the table.1 These types of sugars come from either fruits or vegetables, but have been processed into a product that is unrecognizable as a whole food source. Such added sugars in our diets have been shown to account for the rise in obesity as well as a higher prevalence of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Reducing your daily intake of added sugars can lead to a decreased risk of acquiring such diseases as well as alleviating health problems such as inflammation, irritability, poor immune system and possibly even some types of cancers.

 

Today, a greater majority of Americans are consuming added sugars in the form of sugar-laden beverages like sodas or as hidden preservatives subtly placed into various packaged food products lining grocery store shelves. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the average American consumes 22.2 teaspoons of added sugar from table sugar or processed foods per day, which can amass to an extra 355 calories each day.2  This can lead to unfavorable changes in your waistline while also increasing your risk of obesity and acquiring other harmful diseases.

 

Currently, the American Heart Association suggests women should consume no more than 100 calories, or about 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.  For men, the suggestion is 150 calories, or 9 teaspoons of sugar per day.

Consider this: One 12 oz. can of Coca Cola contains a whopping 39 grams of sugar, which is equal to 9.75 teaspoons. This is more than the American Heat Association’s suggestion for both women and men.

 

Eliminating added sugars from your diet may seem like a daunting task, as they are found in nearly every processed food product on the market. However, decreasing your consumption is the first step to building a healthier body and a brighter future.

 

Here are some tips to get you started in eliminating added sugars in your diet:

  • check nutrition label ingredient lists for words that end in ‘-ose’ such as maltose, sucrose, dextrose, and high fructose corn syrup as well as brown sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup, malt syrup, pancake syrup, honey, fruit juice concentrates, and corn sweeteners, all of which are added sugars
  • avoid adding white sugar to your foods and beverages like coffee or tea.
  • stick with the whole fruit – instead of a glass of juice, grab an orange or an apple
  • look for “no sugar added” or “low sugar” options and if necessary, consider canned fruits packed in water
  • when baking, cut the sugar requirement in half or consider a replacement such as unsweetened applesauce or mashed fruit, such as a banana
  • check the labels of packaged products such as salad dressings, tomato sauces, cereals, yogurts, and of course treats and candies
  • consider natural, plant-based sweeteners such as Stevia or Agave syrup

References:

(1)   Johnson, R. K., & Yon, B. A. (2010). Weighing in on Added Sugars and Health. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110(9), 1296.

(2)   Johnson RK, Appel LJ, Brands M, et al. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009; 120:1011-20.

(3)   Harvard School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. Sugary Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet. Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sugary-drinks-fact-sheet/

 

Fats & oils aren’t all bad: New study shows olive oil makes you feel full

15 Mar

The benefits of olive oil, a monounsaturated fatty acid, have been well documented: lowered risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol and the ability to normalize blood clots are just a few.

But, a new study suggests that olive oil can also help you feel full and the reason was a surprise to the researchers at Technische Universität Münchendownload in Germany. The study suggests that the aroma of the ingredient played a role in the feeling of fullness.

Work groups under Prof. Peter Schieberle and at the University of Vienna under Prof. Veronika Somoza looked at the effects of four different fats and oils: Lard, butterfat, rapeseed oil and olive oil. Study participants were studied over three months and asked to consume 500 grams of low-fat yogurt containing one of the fats or oils each day as a supplement to their normal diet.

“Olive oil had the biggest satiety effect,” Schieberle said in a press release. “The olive oil group showed a higher concentration of the satiety hormone serotonin in their blood. Subjectively speaking, these participants also reported that they found the olive oil yogurt very filling.”

No weight gains in the study group were reported.

“The findings surprised us,” Schieberle said, “because rapeseed oil and olive oil contain similar fatty acids.”

Confused by the findings, the researchers decided to look at a different component of olive oil: the aroma. In an experiment, some participants were given yogurt with olive oil aroma extracts and the control group was given plain yogurt.

The results showed that the control group consumed 176 more kilocalories a day.

“The aroma group adapted their eating habits, but the control group participants were obviously not able to do likewise,” Schieberle said.  “We also found that in comparison to the other group, the control group had less of the satiety hormone serotonin in their blood.”

The study used olive oil from Spain, Greece, Italy and Australia and found that Italian olive oil contained larger amounts of the two aroma compounds responsible for the satiety effect: Hexanal and E2-Hexenal.

“Our findings show that aroma is capable of regulating satiety,” Schieberle said. “We hope that this work will pave the way for the development of more effective reduced-fat food products that are nonetheless satiating.”

 

Milk allergies, lactose intolerance often confused.

18 Sep

Milk allergies are more prevalent in children and infants and should be monitored.

By: Rebecca Burton

Read full Miami Herald article here.