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Boost Immunity With Microgreens

Written by Blessing Ifunanya Maduelosi on Wed, 16 November 2022

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Call them by any name-vegetables, herbs, or young plants; microgreens are wholesome superfoods that offer a diversity of flavors, color, and delicate textures to our meals. These are usually small plants, 1-3 inches, harvested between 10 to 14 days after seeding.

Microgreens contain a delicate stem, nascent cotyledon leaves, and a pair of young leaves. Do not confuse microgreens with sprouts and baby greens. All three differ in their harvest time. Baby greens are generally harvested between 15-40 days, while microgreens are harvested as soon as their youngest leaves appear.

Also read: Easy Lunch Recipes That Are Tasty & Easy On The Stomach

Owing to their diverse colors, delicate texture, and distinct flavors, chefs use microgreens as garnishes to lift the taste of a dish beyond the ordinary. Microgreens can be easily identified as attractive garnishes in salads, soups, and sandwiches. Recent studies on the composition and nutritional value of microgreens have shifted the focus of the food industry towards these powerhouses of nutrients.

The market is now flooded with diverse species of microgreens, including amaranth, beet, garlic, leek, celery, cilantro, fennel, chicory, lettuce, broccoli, radish, watercress, and chives.

Why microgreens are functional foods?

Microgreens from different species used in combinations can complement color and flavors and enhance the tactile, sensory appeal of the food. The added bonanza is that microgreens offer the richness of bioactive compounds, nutrients, and dietary fibers.

The University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the United States Department of Agriculture have reported that microgreens from different plant species contain 4-40 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts. So, embrace microgreens in your diet and protect yourself from chronic diseases and infections. They can be easily grown in the minimal space of your kitchen garden or balconies in a short period.

The major challenge is their short shelf life and their potential to carry foodborne pathogens. Once harvested, microgreens rapidly dehydrate, wilt, decay, and lose nutritional value. This also raises their price and inhibits active commercialization. They may harbor the growth of bacteria that may cause stomach infection and diarrhea and can compromise food safety.

Health benefits of microgreens

Microgreens can help boost immunity as they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and various plant nutrients than mature plants. Highly rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper, microgreens can provide more nutrition in less amount. Packed with vitamin A, B, C, E, and K, they reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and various types of cancers, lower bad cholesterol, and reduce blood sugar levels.

What are the best microgreens to eat?

Some of the best microgreens to eat are as follows:

1. Amaranth

Amaranth is a pseudocereal, an ancient grain naturally gluten-free and predominantly rich in protein, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants5. To read more about the health benefits of ancient grains and pseudocereals, read 'How ancient grains help build immunity.' Its microgreens are easy to grow and contain a remarkable reserve of nutrients and health benefits.

Red amaranth microgreens offer manganese necessary for your brain function. It is packed with magnesium; an essential co-factor needed to perform vital functions in your body, and calcium that keeps your bones healthy.

How to use: Adobo, a widely enjoyed dish in the Philippines, is a chicken or pork stew cooked in vinegar and soy sauce, garlic, and spices. Want to take this dish to another level? Sprinkle a handful of amaranth microgreens on top of a bowl of adobo and experience the extra crunch and unique taste.

2. Mustard

Mustard microgreens are a rich source of vitamins A, B, C, E, and K and benefit the immune system and overall health. Mustard microgreens are nutritious and versatile. They are considered healthy options to improve vision, heart health, and immunity. The high content of micronutrients and antioxidants in mustard microgreens renders them with potential anticancer and immune-boosting properties.

How to use: Garnish lentils soups, sambhars, and curries with mustard microgreens to make them alluring, colorful, and nutritious. Pho bo, a hearty Vietnamese recipe for beef and noodle soup, can be garnished with mustard microgreens besides traditional lime, mint, and coriander. Enjoy this healthy and flavorful broth on a chilly winter afternoon.

3. Radish

Radish, also known as daikon, is easy to grow and highly popular due to its peculiar intense flavor closely resembling mature radish. Want to make your 'Sambol' (Sri Lankan salad) hot and colorful? Add peppery and sweet pink stems of radish microgreens to the mix of shredded vegetables, spices, coconut, green chilies, onion, and umbalakada fish. Relish your colorful sambol with steaming hot rice and buttermilk. Apart from incredible flavor and color, radish microgreens fill your plate with abundant nutritional benefits such as vitamins A, B, C, E, K, carotenes, and dietary fibers. These are loaded with minerals such as potassium, iron, phosphorus, pantothenic acid, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, and thus relieve constipation and are deemed suitable for patients with kidney dysfunction.

4. Alfalfa

Not only is its name interesting, but alfalfa also has a peculiar nutty flavor and gives a fantastic crunch to sandwiches and salads. It is widely grown in Asia and is actively consumed as a nutritional supplement. The mature part is well-recognized for its medicinal properties. Alfalfa microgreens are enriched in vitamins C, K, antioxidants, and saponins. These aid in digestion and have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Alfalfa microgreens do not require soil to grow. Just sprinkle them on a tray and moisten them evenly. Alfalfa microgreens germinate within five days, and you can harvest them anytime between 10 to 15 days.

5. Broccoli

People around the world either love or hate eating broccoli florets and stalks. Broccoli microgreens are tiny leaves of 10-14 days old plants having a very mild taste. These are an incredible reserve of nutrients and compounds protective against many cancer types, including gastric, pancreatic, lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate.

The anticancer potential is attributed to the rich amount of sulforaphane, a plant compound that can block the active proliferation of cancer cells. The compound also gives a peculiar bitter taste to broccoli and broccoli microgreens.

Avoid cooking broccoli microgreens as sulforaphane is degraded upon heating. You can steam or stir-fry but for a few minutes to retain nutrients. Broccoli microgreens strengthen our immune system with vitamins A, C, and K, high protein content, and protect against several diseases like Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, and cancer. Generously sprinkle broccoli microgreens on your omelet or stir-fried vegetables or pack them in your spring rolls to prepare yourself a healthy breakfast.

Conclusion

Eat your microgreens raw. Avoid cooking as these delicate herbs lose their nutrients and vitality when exposed to the harshness of heat. Innovate your everyday recipes with a variety of microgreens- blend them in dips, smoothies, and sauces, toss them in salads and pasta, pack them inside sandwiches and wraps, or simply mix them in daily servings of lentils and curries.

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Blessing Ifunanya Maduelosi

Blessing Ifunanya Maduelosi is a pharmacist by profession; her health credentials include a BPharm (Bachelor of Pharmacy). Blessing is a resident of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.

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