LifestyleCustomized Microgreens: Scientists Alter Iodine and Potassium Levels in Radishes, Peas, Arugula...

Customized Microgreens: Scientists Alter Iodine and Potassium Levels in Radishes, Peas, Arugula and Chard

Microgreens made to order: Italian scientists have tailored iodine and potassium content of radishes, peas, rocket and chard

The microgreens were grown in a commercial setting. Credit: Massimiliano Renna

In an exciting breakthrough for personalized nutrition, researchers in Italy have successfully cultivated microgreens with customized nutritional profiles to meet individual dietary needs.

The study, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, provides a blueprint for the soilless cultivation of nutritionally enriched plants in a commercial greenhouse setting.

Co-authors Massimiliano D’Imperio and Francesco Serio, both at the Institute of Sciences of Food Production (ISPA) National Council of Research (CNR); and Massimiliano Renna, professor of agricultural and environmental science at the University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy, explained the motivation behind the research.

“Propelled by an ever-growing awareness of the importance of following dietary recommendations, interest in personalized nutrition is on the rise. Soilless biofortification of vegetables has opened the door to the potential for adapting vegetable production to specific dietary requirements,” Renna said.

The team cultivated four different species—radish, pea, arugula and Swiss chard—and focused on two nutrients that play a crucial role in health and nutrition: iodine and potassium.

Iodine is critical to thyroid function, with deficiency affecting approximately two billion people worldwide. Fortifying table salt with iodine is a strategy used internationally to combat deficiency, while other sources in the human diet include fish, milk, and eggs.

However, recommendations from the World Health Organization to reduce daily salt intake, paired with an increase in vegetarian and vegan diets, mean demand is growing for alternative iodine sources.

Using tailored nutrient solutions for plant growth, the team successfully cultivated plants with iodine content up to 14 times higher than unfortified microgreens, as a novel dietary source of iodine.

Microgreens made to order: Italian scientists have tailored iodine and potassium content of radishes, peas, rocket and chard

The microgreens were grown in a commercial setting. Credit: Massimiliano Renna

They also grew microgreens with a 45% reduction in potassium levels, to attend to the needs of chronic kidney disease sufferers, for whom its intake must be restricted to avoid health complications.

“Since vegetables contain high concentrations of potassium, patients with impaired kidney function are sometimes advised not to eat vegetables, or that they should be soaked in water and boiled to reduce the potassium content through leaching.

“However, the reduction in potassium using such cooking methods can be considered limited, while other important minerals and vitamins could be significantly lost,” the researchers noted. “In this context, the production of vegetables with low potassium content could be of great interest.”

The study was conducted in a commercial setting—at Ortogourmet, a working microgreen farm in southern Italy. Crucially, this supports the viability of cultivating customized microgreens on a large scale while maintaining optimal agronomic performance.

The microgreens were grown in a soilless system, where a liquid medium is used in place of soil and the plants are fed through a nutrient solution.

Explaining the advantages of a soilless system, the authors said, “Soilless cultivation is considered an advanced,

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