'Trendy' red cabbage good for the heart

Eating trendy shoots or microgreens favoured by celebrity chefs such as Raymond Blanc and Heston Blumenthal can help prevent heart disease, according to new research.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 19th December 2016, 12:31 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 2:20 pm
Red cabbage
Red cabbage

In experiments mice on a high fat diet had less bad cholesterol when they were fed the tiny tender sprouting vegetables.

An essential part of any fine dining chef's arsenal, microgreens punch well above their weight when it comes to nutrition.

Previous research has shown microgreens like red cabbage, cilantro, and radish contain up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts.

Microgreens are tender, immature plants and herbs that take just a week or two to grow before they're ready for harvesting.

They are usually about one inch long and come in a rainbow of colours, which has made them popular in recent years with chefs.

They are sprouting up everywhere from Michelin star restaurants to home gardens. They help spruce up old recipes with intense flavours and hues.

The seedlings are often used as delicate garnishes as the shoots don't survive cooking well.

They tend to pack more of a flavoursome punch than the full sized vegetables, and are far prettier and easier to place on a plate.

They can also be used in salads and omelettes, to flavour pasta or to top a pizza.

The shoots can be hard to find in shops as they're difficult to keep fresh for long, but can be bought from specialist chef suppliers.

But the easiest option is to grow them yourself.

Now testing has shown for mice on a high fat diet, red cabbage microgreens helped lower their risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease and reduced their weight gain.

The study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry adds to a growing body of research suggesting microgreens could offer more health benefits than their big cousins.

Previous studies have shown full grown red cabbage can help guard against excessive cholesterol.

So cardiologist Dr Thomas Wang and colleagues wanted to see if the microgreen version might have a similar or even greater effect.

They used mice that were a model for obesity because they also tend to develop high cholesterol and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The team divided 60 into different diet groups, receiving food low or high in fat, and with or without either red cabbage microgreens or mature red cabbage.

Both the microgreens and mature cabbage diets reduced weight gain and levels of liver cholesterol in the mice on high fat diets.

But the study also showed microgreens contained more natural chemicals called polyphenols and glucosinolates than mature cabbage.

These lower high blood pressure, a condition known medically as hypercholesterolemia which affects more than one in four adults and can lead to heart disease.

The baby plants also helped lower LDL, or "bad," cholesterol and liver fats called triglycerides in the animals.

Dr Wang, of Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Centre, Maryland, said: "Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, and hypercholesterolemia is a major risk factor.

"Population studies, as well as animal and intervention studies, support the consumption of a variety of vegetables as a means to reduce CVD risk through modulation of hypercholesterolemia.

"Microgreens of a variety of vegetables and herbs have been reported to be more nutrient dense compared to their mature counterparts.

"However, little is known about the effectiveness of microgreens in affecting lipid and cholesterol levels.

"The animals were on their respective diets for eight weeks. We found microgreen supplementation attenuated high fat diet induced weight gain.

"Moreover, supplementation with microgreens significantly lowered circulating LDL levels in animals fed the high fat diet and reduced cholesterol, triacylglycerol and expression of inflammatory cytokines in the liver.

"These data suggest microgreens can modulate weight gain and cholesterol metabolism and may protect against CVD by preventing hypercholesterolemia."