FDSN Seminar Series: A Salty Alternative: The Case for Seaweeds and Sea Plants




Sara Baker

The Department of Food Science and Nutrition will host Sara Baker for a seminar titled “A Salty Alternative: The Case for Seaweeds and Sea Plants” on Thursday, February 23, beginning at 12:45 p.m. The virtual seminar will take place on Zoom. 


It is estimated that high sodium consumption is the cause of 3 million deaths annually, making it the leading dietary risk factor for deaths in the world. Seaweeds are known to contain a diverse mineral composition and have been extensively researched for their unique flavor characteristics. It is believed that these products may have salt-enhancing potential via their diverse mineral and flavor profile. This research investigated the potential of Florida halophyte (Salicornia bigelovii, Batis maritima, Sesuvium partulacastrum) and seaweed (Ulva lactuca, Gracilaria tikvahiae) varieties for sodium reduction via salt taste enhancement in food systems. Samples were extracted in water and evaluated using the nose bump technique (retronasal olfaction) by 56 trained panelists to determine if a salt enhancement effect existed. Volatile and mineral analysis (sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium) were performed on each sample to determine the contribution of each on salt enhancement. In order to determine the application in food products, the dried extracts were used on green beans, veggie stock, and shrimp and were evaluated for how well it tasted and for salt and flavor intensity. The data showed that the plant seasonings were well received in the green bean and shrimp samples when compared to the salt control but had mixed acceptability in the veggie stock. Reduction in sodium was seen in all food categories with similar hedonic and salt ratings as the control samples. Similar to the enhancement study, the initial sodium concentration of the food may be valuable to the use of these plants for sodium reduction in the food industry.


Sara Baker is a three-time graduate of the University of Florida: Ph.D. in food science (2022), M.S. in food science (2013), and B.S. in food science and human nutrition (2011). Prior to finishing her doctoral degree, she was the sensory laboratory research manager under Charles Sims in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at Florida. She has worked extensively for industry companies in consumer research for product development, quality control, ingredient replacement, and marketing and business strategies, as well as other research objectives. She has mentored more than 60 undergraduate and 12 graduate students in sensory—food science, as well as numerous graduate students in food science, horticultural sciences, and other disciplines. Her research interests include taste enhancements using natural ingredients, flavor chemistry, and unique differences in consumer groups. Her long-term goal is to pursue a career in academia with a primarily teaching appointment. Outside of food science, she enjoys spending time with her two children, Ada and Marshall, her husband, Adam, and their two dogs, Ruby and Lou.

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