MICROGREENS, seedlings of plants often used as up-market garnishes, may be the key to better cardiovascular protection and lower levels of circulating lipids. Although the benefits of ‘eating our greens’ to modulate hypercholesterolaemia is already known universally to be a healthy commitment in the long term, researchers from the US Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service (USDA ARS), Beltsville, Maryland, USA, have now found that the immature microgreens of common vegetables such as kale, lettuce, and brussels sprouts, particularly those of red cabbage, may store a substantially larger proportion of beneficial nutrients.
Less commonly used and significantly smaller in size, the leaves of microgreens have been reported to provide up to 40 times the number of nutrients when compared with their mature counterparts: namely vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene. Investigating this further, results published by co-author Dr Thomas Wang, USDA ARS, and team now reflect upon potential health benefits that were previously overlooked.
Utilising a rodent diet-induced obesity (DIO) model, the group monitored the circulating levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol, in the blood of 60 mice over an 8-week period. Individuals were randomised to one of six groups: those following either i) a low fat diet, ii) a high fat diet, iii) a low fat diet supplemented with red cabbage microgreens, iv) a high fat diet supplemented with red cabbage microgreens, v) a low fat diet supplemented with mature red cabbage, or vi) a high fat diet supplemented with mature red cabbage.
As expected, both the mature greens and microgreens reduced weight gain and also lowered LDL levels compared with the control groups. Surprisingly, the circulating cholesterol of mice fed microgreens compared with mature red cabbage was found to be much lower, a phenomenon attributed to the considerably higher levels of polyphenols and glucosinolates in the microgreens. The microgreens were also found to lower levels of triglycerides, often linked with heart disease risk.
Dr Wang summarised, “These data suggest that microgreens can modulate weight gain and cholesterol metabolism and may protect against cardiovascular disease by preventing hypercholesterolaemia.” Although further research is needed, this may prove a promising find in the interest of the global population and the alarming increase in cardiovascular disease.