Microgreens: A Millennial Superfood

Dr.Parvani Rekhi
Microgreens are young edible seedlings of vegetables, herbs, and plant-rich in flavor and nutrition which has recently received wide attention. These are identified by various colors, tastes, textures and are fresh and tenderly soft vegetables, found from the seeds of abundant varieties (aromatic vegetables, wild edible plants, and herbaceous plants).
It can be harvested a few days or week after germination during the formation of cotyledons and the appearance of the first true leaves. The many varieties of plants including turnips, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, lettuce, spinach, arugula, amaranth, cabbage, beets, parsley, and basil, can be grown as a microgreen for a wholesome and nutritious addition to our daily meals. The tiny leaves of the microgreens can be harvested in 12 to 14 days and are packed with nutrition and intense flavors imitating their mature counterparts. These culinary greens were used in restaurants during the mid-90s in California, USA and since then, it is very much familiar in the Western world with other nicknames such as Micro herbs or Vegetable confetti. In India, these are still becoming a part of our daily diet and are consumed in fine-dine restaurants (salads, appetizers, sandwiches, desserts, mocktails, etc.) in metro cities like Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai. Microgreens are the larger concentrations of phenolic, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins which are present fully in developed greens or seeds and are hence recognized as functional foods consisting of health-improving or ailment prevention characteristics apart from their nutritional benefits. According to USDA, National Nutrient Database, the Vitamin, and antioxidants values in mature vegetable leaves vary and are approximately 40 times more in microgreens. These are well recognized as good carriers of biologically active components, but unfortunately, commercialization of microgreens is less due to their speedy degradation and very small storage life, generally, 3 to 5 days encompassing temperature, as they are highly decomposed products. Microgreens can be obtained from different sorts of seeds (cauliflower, cabbage, radish, carrot, fennel, onion, garlic, cucumber, etc.), cereals (rice, oats, wheat, corn, and barley), and legumes (chickpeas, beans, and lentils, etc.)
Rainbow of Microgreens:
Microgreens of different colors represent different healthy compounds called phytochemicals, as well as other micronutrients.
*Red vegetables contain lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant.
” Orange and yellow vegetables contain carotenoids like beta carotene and lutein, which the body converts into vitamin A.
*Blue and purple vegetables contain anthocyanin which can help protect cells from damage.
*Green vegetables contain a wide range of different phytochemicals including saponins, indoles, and carotenoids.
* Brown and white vegetables like garlic contain allicin which has antibacterial properties.
Health Benefits of Microgreens
Eating vegetables is linked to lower risk of many diseases as they contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds which may reduce the risk of the following diseases:
Heart disease: Microgreens are a rich source of polyphenols, a class of antioxidants that are linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Studies show that microgreens lower triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
Alzheimer’s disease: Antioxidant-rich foods, which include a high number of polyphenols, may be linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Diabetes: Antioxidants help to reduce the type of stress that can prevent sugar from properly entering cells. In studies, it has been shown that fenugreek microgreens are appeared to enhance cellular sugar uptake by 25-44%.
Certain cancers: Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, especially rich in polyphenols, may lower the risk of various types of cancer. Polyphenol-rich microgreens may be expected to have similar effects.
Chronic Disease: Inflammation is a major indicator of disease in the body. The intake of microgreens and vegetables is generally shown to reduce inflammation markers which lower the risk of several types of cancer.
The analysis and studies of microgreens are carried out comparatively at a small level and are limited to a few number of researchers with limited targeted areas. There is a scope of the broad range and yet to be explored. Moreover, some of the varieties of microgreens have been studied and analyzed, but many of them have not been put for commercialization because of the short-life span. Prevention and treatment methods should be identified for microgreens because they are beneficial but maintaining the quality and safety of microgreens is still in its earliest stages. It has been established that post-harvest light treatments can increase the formation of bioactive elements, but this is not properly analyzed to apply to a broad range of microgreens. For the production of ready-to-eat microgreen products, washing and drying methods should be more focused. It is especially significant to put more and more research into ensuring the safety and quality of this new addition to healthy diets so that the food industry could resolve some of the problems that have created challenges for the fully grown vegetables.
(The author is Lecturer, GCW Parade)