Microgreens may contain more nutrients than their adult counterparts, research shows. Kale, for example, was found to contain five times more glucosinolates, substances that are being studied for their potential health benefits, including protection against cancer.
Growing microgreens, or sprouts, means growing and harvesting the plant in a short period of time. Shoots are the step after germination, which is the first stage in the plant’s life cycle after the seed, and are in principle easy to grow on a small scale. We have previously written about how to easily germinate and grow shoots.
Microgreens are often described as more nutritious than the adult plant, and researchers from the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), together with the University of Maryland, have investigated the nutritional content of the young plants.
In findings presented at the American Chemical Society meeting this fall, the researchers concluded that the sprouts’ positive reputation is true.
When they looked at red cabbage, they could see how the plant’s nutrient content changed over time; as a shoot, the plant was much richer in substances such as glucosinolates, which are nitrogen- and sulfur-containing compounds that may protect against cancer, and kale contained five times as much of these substances. Other plants were also found to be more nutritious as juveniles than as adults.
Beneficial bacterial diversity
– We wondered whether the bioactive components in microgreen kale were different from those in mature kale. And we found that the nutritional composition is very different., says researcher Thomas Wang.
The biological effects of microgreen and mature kale were further investigated. Instead, they discovered that both plant stages were effective in weight loss when studied in mice. Wang believes this is because the vegetable can partially alter the animals’ microbiome, or gut bacteria. Consuming kale, regardless of the stage of the plant, increased the number of gut bacteria. In contrast, microgreens provided a more pronounced improvement.
– That’s important because greater bacterial diversity is generally associated with better health, Wang notes, says the researcher.
The researchers will now continue to study other plants to make it easier for others to eat healthier.
– For instance, for people who don’t like broccoli, can we find some other vegetable they like better that has similar health effects? asks Wang.