Date sugar is the winning ingredient for nutrition and dietetics students

Contact: Chris Hybels
Nutrition and dietetics students, left to right, Abby Harvey, Derek Fischer, Andrew Dasher and Natalia Yuen.

Nutrition and dietetics students, left to right, Abby Harvey, Derek Fischer, Andrew Dosher and Natalia Yuen.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Nutrition and dietetic students baked their way to success at the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual conference. The conference provided an opportunity for nutrition and dietetics students from across the state to present their research in the field. At the conference, Abby Harvey, Andrew Dosher, Derek Fischer and Natalia Yuen won first place after they presented their poster on the research they've conducted using date sugar as an alternative sweetener in baking.  

"Being awarded the top prize in the student poster contest is impressive, but of note is that the WMU group were all undergraduate students and were identified as having a better project and presentation than graduate students from other institutions," says Dr. Suzan Smith-Ayers, chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. "This truly is a feather in their caps."

The purpose of their research was to use a more nutrient dense sweetener to improve the nutritional value, decrease added sugar and increase dietary fiber intake. They decided on date sugar because it met all of the criteria they sought from an alternative sweetener. Additionally, date sugar is a whole-food sweetener since it incorporates all parts of the original fruit which means it does not contribute to the daily intake of added sugar.

For the experiment, students baked four loaves of pumpkin bread, each with a different variation of date sugar substitute. Loaves were baked using 25%, 50% and 75% date sugar and an 100% granulated sugar loaf was used as the control. Bread was then tested by panelists who rated the bread on different variables of taste and appearance.

Students found partial substitution of date sugar at levels greater than 25% had a negative impact on the appearance of the bread and taste. However, the loaves containing date sugar had increased fiber, calcium, vitamin A and potassium content. This increase gave student researchers hope that date sugar can someday be used as an alternative sweetener in baking.

"Date sugar shows great benefits to health, especially when compared to refined sugar," says Harvey. "I have high hopes that nutritive sweeteners will be more deeply explored as this research proves it is a promising substitute."

About nutrition and dietetics at wmu

The nutrition and dietetics major at WMU equips students with the foundational knowledge needed for a career in the field of dietetics. The program meets the academic requirements of the didactic program in dietetics and is accredited by ACEND, the accrediting agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, visit the nutrition and dietetics program website.

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