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Microgreens - Loaded with Phytonutrients and Antioxidants

Introduction

Microgreens are vegetable greens (not to be confused with sprouts or shoots) harvested just after the cotyledon leaves have developed (and possibly with one set of true leaves). They are grown or purchased by people focused on nutrition, or else are used as both a visual and flavor component, primarily in fine dining restaurants. Chefs use colorful microgreens to enhance the attractiveness and taste of their dishes with distinct delicate textures and unique flavors, such as sweet and spicy. Microgreens are smaller than “baby greens” (e.g. spinach, kale, arugula, radicchio), but harvested later than sprouts (e.g. broccoli, mung bean, soya bean, wheat, and sunflower). Among upscale grocers, they are now considered a specialty genre of greens, good for garnishing salads, soups, sandwiches, and plates.

Edible young greens are produced from various kinds of vegetables, herbs, or other plants. They range in size from 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.6 cm), including the stem and leaves. The stem is cut just above the soil line during harvesting. Microgreens have fully developed cotyledon leaves and usually one pair of very small, partially developed true leaves. The average crop-time for most microgreens is 10–14 days from seeding to harvest.

Types of Microgreens

Brassicaceae family: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, radish and arugula.

Asteraceae family: Lettuce, endive, chicory and radicchio.

Apiaceae family: Dill, carrot, fennel and celery.

Amaryllidaceae family: Garlic, onion, leek.

Amaranthaceae family: Amaranth, quinoa swiss chard, beet and spinach.

Cucurbitaceae family: Melon, cucumber and squash

Cereals such as rice, oats, wheat, corn and barley, as well as legumes like chickpeas, beans and lentils, are also sometimes grown into microgreens.

Nutrients Potential

While their nutrient contents vary slightly, most varieties tend to be rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper and beneficial plant compounds like antioxidants.

What’s more, their nutrient content is concentrated, which means that they often contain higher vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels than the same quantity of mature greens.

In fact, research comparing microgreens to more mature greens reports that nutrient levels in microgreens can be up to nine times higher than those found in mature greens.

Research also shows that they contain a wider variety of polyphenols and other antioxidants than their mature counterparts.

One study measured vitamin and antioxidant concentrations in 25 commercially available microgreens. These levels were then compared to levels recorded in the USDA National Nutrient Database for mature leaves.

Although vitamin and antioxidant levels varied, levels measured in microgreens were up to 40 times higher than those recorded for more mature leaves .

That said, not all studies report similar results.

For instance, one study compared nutrient levels in sprouts, microgreens and fully grown amaranth crops. It noted that the fully grown crops often contained as much, if not more, nutrients than the microgreens Therefore, although microgreens generally appear to contain higher nutrient levels than more  mature plants, this may vary based on the    species at hand.

How To Grow

Growing  microgreens is relatively easy. Many small           "backyard"     growers       have sprung up selling their greens at farmers markets or to restaurants. A shallow  plastic container with drainage holes, such as a nursery flat or prepackaged-salad box, will facilitate sprouting and grow out on a small scale. Growing and marketing high-quality microgreens commercially is much more difficult. Artificial lighting is not necessarily needed for growing microgreens. This is because microgreens can grow under various lighting conditions, including under indirect natural light and grow lights, or even in complete darkness. Different lighting conditions can change the flavors of the microgreens being grown. For instance, corn microgreens are sweet when grown in the dark, but become bitter when exposed to light due to photosynthesis processes taking place in the sprouting plants.

Nightshade family plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers should not be grown and consumed as microgreens, since nightshade plant sprouts are poisonous. Nightshade plant sprouts contain toxic alkaloids such as solanine and tropanes, which can cause adverse symptoms in the digestive and nervous system.

Health Benefits Of Microgreens

Eating vegetables is linked to a lower risk of many diseases .This is likely thanks to the high amounts of vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds they contain.

Microgreens contain similar and often greater amounts of these nutrients than mature greens. As such, they may similarly reduce the risk of the following diseases:

Heart disease: Microgreens are a rich source of polyphenols, a class of antioxidants linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Animal studies show that microgreens may lower triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.

Alzheimer’s disease: Antioxidant-rich foods, including those containing high amounts of     polyphenols,may be linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Diabetes: Antioxidants may help reduce the type of stress that can prevent sugar from properly entering cells. In lab studies, fenugreek microgreens appeared to enhance cellular sugar uptake by 25–44%.

Certain cancers: Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in polyphenols, may lower the risk of various types of cancer. Polyphenol-rich microgreens may be expected to have similar effects.

Author Details

First author - Mohit Kumar
Designation- Assistant Professor
Institution - Chandigarh Group of Colleges,Jhanjeri,Mohali-140307 (Punjab)
E.mail- mohitsharma8755@gmail.com

Second author- Satendra Kumar Sharma
Designation- Assistant Professor
Institution - Chandigarh Group of Colleges,Jhanjeri, Mohali-140307 (Punjab)
E.mail- ss0944619@gmail.com

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