Sugar may not be needed to make strawberry shortcakes soon.
A recent study by UF researchers pinpointed the compounds that give strawberries their flavor and sweetness, according to a press release. This will allow varieties of strawberries to be produced with lower levels of sugar and higher levels of sweetness.
“When we started out, our goal was to make a better-tasting strawberry,” said Michael Schwieterman, a 28-year-old UF postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the study. “What we weren’t expecting was the sweet-enhancing volatiles.”
Schwieterman and his team tested 35 strawberry varieties throughout two growing seasons by conducting biochemical testing and hosting taste panels in an effort to make more flavorful strawberries. But during the search for the compound related to flavor, researchers also found the compound directly related to sweetness.
“Those could potentially have an impact in processed foods where we can enhance the sweetness of a food without adding a lot of extra sugar,” Schwieterman said. “That’s what we are exploring now.”
Ryan Feagle, a 22-year-old UF agricultural operations management junior, said he thinks it could be beneficial to decrease sugar levels in processed foods as long as it doesn’t create new problems.
Schwieterman said researchers are now looking at the sweetness-enhancing compounds to see what kind of broad effects they could have.
“If we get to make an effect in processed foods, students eat a lot of junk food,” he said. “It wouldn’t be as junky.”
[A version of this story ran on page 8 on 3/11/2014 under the headline "UF researchers make sweet discovery"]
A new UF study has found compounds in strawberries that make the fruit taste sweeter. Researchers want to use this information to make a better artificial sweetener.