Microgreens :The Future Food

Microgreens
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Introduction

Diet-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke and cancer are escalating both in developed and developing countries, in part due to imbalanced food consumption patterns.

An average increase of fruit and vegetable consumption of approximately 150 g/d, 2.6% cancers in men and 2.3% cancers in women could be avoided.

Why Microgreens?

  • One of the most valuable benefits of traditional leafy vegetables is their high content of vitamins, minerals, fibre and other micronutrients essential for human health.
  • Short growth cycle microgreens can be grown without soil and external inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, around or inside residential areas.
  • Microgreens are usually consumed raw, hence there is no loss or degradation of micronutrients through food processing.
  • Microgreens can be easily produced in urban or peri-urban settings where the land is often a limiting factor, either by specialized vegetable farmers or the consumers themselves.
  • Phytonutrient levels differ according to the growth stages of the plant and often the decrease from the seedling to the fully developed stage.
  • Levels of essential micronutrients and consumer preferences at different growth and consumption stages are:
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  • Sprout
  • Microgreens – seedlings harvested when the first true leaves appear
  • Fully grown plants at the usual consumption stage
  • Breeding and selection for high yield may have led to a decline in some essential nutrients

What are Microgreens?

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Microgreens are the seedlings of vegetables, herbs and grains. They are an emerging type of speciality vegetable that people can grow at home or buy from shops from the seeds of vegetables, herbs, or grains.

  • Microgreens are usually harvested 7–15 days after germination, once the plant’s first true leaves have emerged.
  • They have an aromatic flavour and concentrated nutrient content and come in a variety of colours and textures.
  • Microgreens stems and leaves are considered edible. This means that the plants can be bought whole and cut at home, keeping them alive until they are consumed.

Different types of Microgreens

Microgreens can be grown from many different types of seeds. The most popular varieties are produced using seeds from the following plant families:

  • 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

Nutrition

Microgreens are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Vitamins and minerals play hundreds of roles in essential bodily processes.

  • The nutritional value of microgreens varies according to type, as with conventional vegetables.
  • Microgreens may have 4–40 times the amount of some nutrients and vitamins as the vegetables a mature plant would produce.
  • Microgreens, the edible cotyledons of many vegetables, herbs, and flowers is a newly emerging crop that may be a dense source of nutrition and has the potential to be produced in just about any locale.
  • A 100 g serving of sunflower and basil microgreen mix will provide:
    • 28 calories
    • 2.2 g of protein
    • 4.4 g of carbohydrate
    • 2.2 g of fibre
    • 88 milligrams (mg) of calcium
    • 15.9 mg of iron
    • 66 mg of magnesium
    • 66 mg of phosphorus
    • 298 mg of potassium
    • 11 mg of sodium
    • 0.7 mg of zinc
    • 6.6 mg of vitamin C
    • 79.6 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
    • 66 mcg of folate
  • The microgreens also contain selenium, manganese, and a range of B vitamins.
  • The key benefits of each microgreen varied. Red cabbage microgreens, for example, were rich in vitamin C but low in vitamin E. Green daikon radish microgreens were rich in vitamin E but relatively low in lutein.
  • Based on the analysis of 30 varieties, the results demonstrate that microgreens are good sources of both macroelements (K and Ca) and microelements (Fe and Zn.).
  • Regardless of how they were grown, microgreens had larger quantities of Mg, Mn, Cu, and Zn than the vegetable.
  • However, compost-grown microgreens had higher P, K, Mg, Mn, Zn, Fe, Ca, Na, and Cu concentrations than the vegetable.
  • Antioxidants help the body eliminate unstable waste molecules known as free radicals.
  • Our body can remove some free radicals, but they can still accumulate.
  • Antioxidants from microgreens can help remove more of them. Microgreens based foods can provide antioxidants.
  • Microgreens have a high antioxidant content, which means that they may help prevent a range of diseases.
  • The exact types of antioxidant will depend on the plant.
  • Microgreens from the Brassica family, which include broccoli, contain high levels of vitamin E, a phenolic antioxidant.
  • Asteraceae microgreens, such as chicory and lettuce, appear to be high in vitamin A, or carotenoid antioxidants.
  • Comprehensive profiling of polyphenols from five Brassica species microgreens was conducted using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography photodiode array high-resolution multi-stage mass spectrometry.
  • A total of 164 polyphenols including 30 anthocyanins, 105 flavonol glycosides, and 29 hydroxycinnamic acid and hydroxybenzoic acid derivatives were putatively identified.

Effect of Microgreens on Health

The methods used to grow microgreens (i.e., soil, compost, hydroponic) can significantly impact their nutritional value. 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 reduce the risk of the following diseases:

  • Heart disease: polyphenols, a class of antioxidants linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Antioxidant lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetes: Fenugreek microgreens appeared to enhance cellular sugar uptake by 25–44%.
  • Cardiovascular disease: antioxidants and phytochemicals found microgreens might promote health by combating free radicals
  • Oral cavity and pharynx Cancer: primarily a disease that occurs in men and ranks as the 7th most common form of cancer worldwide when both sexes are combined
  • Chronic diseases: like cancer

Is it Risky for us?

Eating microgreens is generally considered safe. Nevertheless, one concern is the risk of food poisoning. However, the potential for bacteria growth is much smaller in microgreens. Microgreens require slightly less warm and humid conditions and only the leaf and stem, rather than the root and seed, are consumed.

If you are planning on growing microgreens at home, it is important to buy seeds from a reputable company and choose growing mediums that are free of contamination with harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli.

How to include Microgreens in our Diet

Microgreens are generally more flavorful, some of them quite spicy, then their mature counterparts and have grown in popularity among culinary artists for adding texture and flavour accents to salads, sandwiches, and other dishes.

Wheatgrass juice is a popular example of a juiced microgreen. Another option is to use them as garnishes on pizzas, soups, omelettes, curries and other warm dishes.

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How to Grow Microgreens

Microgreens are easy and convenient to grow, as they don’t require much equipment or time. They can be grown year-round, both indoors or outdoors.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Good-quality seeds.
  • A good growing medium, such as a container filled with potting soil or homemade compost. Alternatively, you can use a single-use growing mat specifically designed for growing microgreens.
  • Proper lighting – either sunlight or ultraviolet lighting, ideally for 12–16 hours per day.

Instructions:

  • Fill your container with soil, making sure you don’t over-compress it, and water lightly.
  • Sprinkle the seed of your choice on top of the soil as evenly as possible.
  • Lightly mist your seeds with water and cover your container with a plastic lid.
  • Check on your tray daily and mist water as needed to keep the seeds moist.
  • A couple of days after the seeds have germinated, you may remove the plastic lid to expose them to light.
  • Water once a day while your microgreens grow and gain colour.
  • After 7–15 day, your microgreens should be ready to harvest.

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