Researchers are attempting to determine whether microgreens, readily produced at home, are the superfoods they are marketed as and how they stack up against vegetables.
Microgreens are tiny vegetable and herb seedlings. They can be picked and eaten a week to ten days after the cotyledon, a part of the embryo inside the seed, leaves have grown, unlike larger herbs and vegetables that take weeks or months to grow.
Thomas T. Y. Wang, the project's lead researcher, says, "The scientific literature suggests that cruciferous vegetables, like kale and broccoli, are good for you."
According to the results thus far, their nutritional profiles and how they affect gut microorganisms are different. However, studies using rodents show that microgreens and vegetables help prevent weight gain. On August 15, the researchers presented their findings at the American Chemical Society's (ACS) annual meeting.
The health advantages of these foods' microgreen variants are emphasized the most. Microgreens, younger than baby greens but older than sprouts, are usually plucked a few weeks after they grow. Additionally, they are easy to cultivate on a windowsill in a pot.
The team's initial research subject was red cabbage, a different cruciferous plant. In mice fed a high-fat diet, the researchers discovered that immature and fully-grown cabbage prevented weight gain. Although the microgreen was much richer in nutrients like glucosinolates, which are nitrogen- and sulfur-containing chemicals that may provide cancer prevention, Wang notes that the nutritional profile of the cabbage varied with time.
"When we started this research, not a lot was known about the nutrient content or biological effects of microgreens, so we thought we should look at them."- Wang
The researchers focused their attention on kale next.
"We wondered whether the bioactive components in microgreen kale were different from those in mature kale," says Wang. "And we found that the nutritional composition is very different."
For instance, the young plant has roughly five times as many glucosinolates. Similar studies by Wang's group and others have shown that young plants contain higher nutritious content in various cruciferous vegetable kinds. The most current study by Wang and his colleagues compared the biological effects of microgreen kale with matured kale.
They discovered that both microgreens and mature vegetables effectively prevent mice from gaining weight when fed a high-fat diet. According to Wang's hypothesis, the effects on weight may be partially attributable to the vegetable's impact on the mice's microbiome or the number of bacteria in their digestive tracts.
Researchers have shown that eating kale, regardless of how mature it is, broadens the diversity of intestinal flora. With microgreens, that improvement is more prominent.
This is significant because, as Wang points out, more bacterial diversity is typically linked to improved health. The group will keep researching how additional cruciferous vegetables affect health in the following studies.
Those results may provide direction for consumers looking for better-tasting substitutes for some dishes they don't enjoy.
Wang asks, for instance, if it's possible to discover a different vegetable with comparable health benefits for those who prefer anything other than broccoli. He adds that changing these vegetables' flavor characteristics is also feasible to make them more flavorful.
Wang hypothesizes that some health-promoting ingredients that give them their distinctive flavor, including glucosinolates, may be present at higher levels than are essential to enjoy health advantages. If that's the case, he claims these crops may be developed to lessen those amounts and the bitterness accompanying them.