UF/IFAS scientists find top 10 muscadine grape varieties for health, taste, smell

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- You may eventually tempt your palette with more muscadine grape varieties, and they’ll be good for you, with new findings from University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

Muscadine grapes are known for their health benefits and other nutritive values – even for potential preventive measures against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The fruits are rich in antioxidants such as a ellagic acid and resveratrol.

Although scientists have done much research extracting and identifying these health benefits, the studies have looked at few commercial varieties. The new UF/IFAS study examined those benefits in 58 of the approximately 100 muscadine grape varieties.

UF/IFAS scientists, led by former post-doctoral researcher Changmou Xu, put the muscadine varieties through various tests over two growing seasons to see which ones passed muster for health, taste and smell genes.

“We ranked the top 10 muscadine grape varieties according to high potential for consumer preference,” said Maurice Marshall, UF/IFAS professor emeritus of food science and human nutrition, and another author on the study. “With more and more consumers favoring healthy fruits, and research continually revealing the benefits of muscadine grapes, these grapes should have excellent market potential, not only in the U.S., but throughout the world.”

In addition to consumers, grape breeders could use this information to select which varieties offer the best fruit quality and most nutrients, while integrating these factors into other growing performance characteristics such as yield and disease resistance, he said.

Marshall also deemed this study as novel because researchers used what they call “nutraceutical” values for each grape variety. “Nutraceuticals” are any substance that may be considered a food or part of a food that provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.

The varieties examined in the UF/IFAS study are the most common muscadines grown in the United States, Marshall said. Scientists found 10 varieties merit further testing as table grapes and ranked based on their size, sweetness, nutrients and antioxidants.

Consumers purchase muscadine grapes to eat as a fruit and to drink as a wine. The grapes are native to the South and are found along the Gulf Coast west to Texas and north along the Mississippi River to Missouri. American farmers grow muscadine grapes on about 5,000 acres.

The new study is published in the journal Food Chemistry, http://bit.ly/2akXOBa.

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