Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Microgreens: What to Know & How to Grow Them

  • Microgreens in a Plastic Container

    Since their introduction to the Californian restaurant scene in the 1980s, microgreens have steadily gained popularity. These aromatic greens, also known as micro herbs or vegetable confetti, are rich in flavor and add a welcome splash of color to a variety of dishes.

    Despite their small size, they pack a nutritional punch, often containing higher nutrient levels than more mature vegetable greens. This makes them a good addition to any dieMicrogreens are young vegetable greens that are approximately 1–3 inches (2.5–7.5 cm) tall.
    They have an aromatic flavor and concentrated nutrient content and come in a variety of colors and textures (1).
    Microgreens are considered baby plants, falling somewhere between a sprout and baby green.
    That said, they shouldn’t be confused with sprouts, which do not have leaves. Sprouts also have a much shorter growing cycle of 2–7 days, whereas microgreens are usually harvested 7–21 days after germination, once the plant’s first true leaves have emerged.
    Microgreens are more similar to baby greens in that only their stems and leaves are considered edible. However, unlike baby greens, they are much smaller in size and can be sold before being harvested.
    This means that the plants can be bought whole and cut at home, keeping them alive until they are consumed.
    Microgreens are very convenient to grow, as they can be grown in a variety of locations, including outdoors, in greenhouses and even on your windowsill.

  • Microgreens can be grown from many different types of seeds.
    The most popular varieties are produced using seeds from the following plant families (1):
    • Brassicaceae family: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, radish and arugula
    • Asteraceae family: Lettuce, endive, chicory and radicchio
    • Apiaceae family: Dill, carrot, fennel and celery
    • Amaryllidaceae family: Garlic, onion, leek
    • Amaranthaceae family: Amaranth, quinoa swiss chard, beet and spinach
    • Cucurbitaceae family: Melon, cucumber and squash
    • aceae family: Garlic, onion, leek
    • Amaranthaceae family: Amaranth, quinoa swiss chard, beet and spinach
    • Cucurbitaceae family: Melon, cucumber and squash
    Cereals such as rice, oats, wheat, corn and barley, as well as legumes like chickpeas, beans and lentils, are also sometimes grown into microgreens (1).

    Microgreens vary in taste, which can range from neutral to spicy, slightly sour or even bitter, depending on the variety. Generally speaking, their flavor is considered strong and concentrated.Microgreens Are Nutritious

Microgreens are packed with nutrients.
While their nutrient contents vary slightly, most varieties tend to be rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper (23).
Microgreens are also a great source of beneficial plant compounds like antioxidants (4).
What’s more, their nutrient content is concentrated, which means that they often contain higher vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels than the same quantity of mature greens (4).
In fact, research comparing microgreens to more mature greens reports that nutrient levels in microgreens can be up to nine times higher than those found in mature greens (5).
Research also shows that they contain a wider variety of polyphenols and other antioxidants than their mature counterparts (6).
One study measured vitamin and antioxidant concentrations in 25 commercially available microgreens. These levels were then compared to levels recorded in the USDA National Nutrient Database for mature leaves.
Although vitamin and antioxidant levels varied, levels measured in microgreens were up to 40 times higher than those recorded for more mature leaves (4).
That said, not all studies report similar results.
For instance, one study compared nutrient levels in sprouts, microgreens and fully grown amaranth crops. It noted that the fully grown crops often contained as much, if not more, nutrients than the microgreens (7).
Therefore, although microgreens generally appear to contain higher nutrient levels than more mature plants, this may vary based on the species at hand.

Microgreens May Reduce Your Risk of Certain Diseases

Eating vegetables is linked to a lower risk of many diseases (8910).
This is likely thanks to the high amounts of vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds they contain.
Microgreens contain similar and often greater amounts of these nutrients than mature greens. As such, they may similarly reduce the risk of the following diseases:
  • Heart disease: Microgreens are a rich source of polyphenols, an antioxidant linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Animal studies show that microgreens may lower triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels (111213).
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Antioxidant-rich foods, including those containing high amounts of polyphenols, may be linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease (1415).
  • Diabetes: Antioxidants may help reduce the type of stress that can prevent sugar from properly entering cells. In lab studies, fenugreek microgreens appeared to enhance cellular sugar uptake by 25–44% (1617). 
  • Certain cancers: Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in polyphenols, may lower the risk of various types of cancer. Polyphenol-rich microgreens may be expected to have similar effects (18).
While this seems promising, note that the number of studies directly measuring the effect of microgreens on these medical conditions is limited, and none could be found in humans.
Therefore, more studies are needed before strong conclusions can be made.

Is Eating Microgreens Risky?

Eating microgreens is generally considered safe.
Nevertheless, one concern is the risk of food poisoning. However, the potential for bacteria growth is much smaller in microgreens than in sprouts.
Microgreens require slightly less warm and humid conditions than sprouts do, and only the leaf and stem, rather than the root and seed, are consumed.
That said, if you’re planning on growing microgreens at home, it’s important to buy seeds from a reputable company and choose growing mediums that are free of contamination with harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli (19).
The most common growing mediums are peat, perlite and vermiculite. Single-use growing mats produced specifically for growing microgreens are considered very sanitary (120).

There are many ways to include microgreens in your diet. 
They can be incorporated into a variety of dishes, including sandwiches, wraps and salads.
Microgreens may also be blended into smoothies or juiced. Wheatgrass juice is a popular example of a juiced microgreen.
Another option is to use them as garnishes on pizzas, soups, omelets, curries and other warm dishes.

Microgreens are easy and convenient to grow, as they don’t require much equipment or time. They can be grown year-round, both indoor or outdoors.
Here’s what you’ll need:
  • Good-quality seeds.
  • A good growing medium, such as a container filled with potting soil or homemade compost. Alternatively, you can use a single-use growing mat specifically designed for growing microgreens. 
  • Proper lighting — either sunlight or ultraviolet lighting, ideally for 12–16 hours per day. 
  • Fill your container with soil, making sure you don’t over-compress it, and water lightly. 
  • Sprinkle the seed of your choice on top of the soil as evenly as possible. 
  • Lightly mist your seeds with water and cover your container with a plastic lid.
  • Check on your tray daily and mist water as needed to keep the seeds moist.
  • A couple of days after the seeds have germinated, you may remove the plastic lid to expose them to light. 
  • Water once a day while your microgreens grow and gain color.
  • After 7–10 days, your microgreens should be ready to harvest.

Microgreens are flavorful and can easily be incorporated into your diet in a variety of ways.
They're also generally very nutritious and may even reduce your risk of certain diseases.
Given that they're easy to grow at home, they're an especially cost-effective way to boost nutrient intake without having to purchase large quantities of vegetables. 
As such, they’re a worthwhile addition to your diet.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Purified or Distilled Water? Plain Water? What's the Difference?

Purified vs Distilled vs Regular Water: What’s the Difference?

Optimal water intake is essential for your health. Every cell in your body needs water to function properly, which is why you must continuously hydrate throughout the day.
Most people know how important water intake is, but some are confused over the best type of water to drink. This article investigates the differences between purified, distilled and regular water to find out which one is the best choice for hydration.
Girl Drinking Water From Tap

Purified water is water that has been filtered or processed to remove impurities like chemicals and other contaminants. It is usually produced using groundwater or tap water. Through purification, many types of impurities are removed, including:
  • Bacteria
  • Algae
  • Fungi
  • Parasites 
  • Metals like copper and lead
  • Chemical pollutants
Several methods are used to purify water commercially and in the home.
In most Western countries, public drinking water is purified to make water safe for human consumption. However, standards for drinking water around the world vary and are typically based on governmental regulations or international standards.
In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that over 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. In countries that purify public drinking water, various treatment methods are used to make water safe, including:
  • Coagulation and flocculation: Positively charged chemicals are added to water to bind with negatively charged particles so they can be filtered out. This forms larger particles called floc.
  • Sedimentation: Due to its larger size, floc settles to the bottom of the water supply, separated from the clean water.
  • Filtration: The clean water on top of the supply then flows through numerous filtration systems made of sand, charcoal and gravel. This removes contaminants like dust, bacteria, chemicals and viruses.
  • Disinfection: During this step, chemical disinfectants like chlorine are added to the water to kill any remaining bacteria or viruses that may have survived the first few steps.
It’s important to note that water may be treated differently depending on the area and quality of the local water.

Health Benefits of Purified Water 

While tap water is safe to drink in many areas, it may still contain trace contaminants. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets legal limits that are considered safe for consumers for over 90 contaminants in drinking water.
However, the Safe Water Drinking Act gives individual states the ability to regulate their own drinking water standards, as long as they meet the EPA’s minimum requirements for contaminants. This means that some states have more stringent drinking water regulations than others.
Although measures are taken to ensure that public drinking water is safe for consumption, it can contain trace amounts of contaminants that could negatively impact health. For instance, the heavy metals lead and copper are extremely toxic to health. They can cause stomach distress and lead to brain damage when ingested over timeThese heavy metals have been known to leach into drinking water, even in countries where public water sources are closely regulated.
By using in-home water filters or drinking purified bottled water, drinking water undergoes another level of purification that can remove metals, chemicals and other contaminants, depending on the type of purification system used. Water purification systems like charcoal filters remove chlorine, a common chemical added to the public water supply as a disinfectant. Several studies have linked chlorinated water to an increased risk of certain cancers, including colorectal cancer.
Another benefit of water purification is that it removes unpleasant tastes associated with chemical treatments, organic matter or metal plumbing, leaving you with fresh, pure-tasting drinking water.

While purified water has many health benefits, it also has some potential drawbacks. For example, fluoride is a mineral that is added to public drinking water supplies in some countries to improve dental health and reduce dental decay.
Although this practice has led to decreased tooth decay in children, especially in at-risk areas, some argue that fluoridated water is not worth the potential health risks associated with its use. Excessive fluoride levels can be toxic to both brain and nerve cells, and long-term exposure to high levels of fluoride has been linked to learning, memory and cognitive deficits.
However, experts argue that the level of fluoride found in drinking water is safe and beneficial in reducing tooth decay, especially in children who are only exposed to fluoride through drinking water.
Research on the safety and efficacy of fluoridated water is ongoing, but those who drink purified water should be aware that some purification systems remove fluoride from drinking water.
Some other disadvantages of purified water include:
  • Upkeep: Water purification systems must be maintained regularly. If not properly maintained, contaminants can build up in old filters and leach into your drinking water.
  • May not remove some contaminants: Although water purification systems remove many contaminants, certain pesticides and chemicals may remain in purified water depending on the type of purification used.
  • Cost: Both installing an in-home water purification system and buying purified bottled water can be expensive, with some systems costing hundreds of dollars.
  • Waste: Buying purified water in plastic bottles leads to a large amount of waste, as does disposing of used filters from in-home purification systems.                                      
 Distilled Water Is a Type of Purified Water
  • Distilled water has gone through the process of distillation to remove impurities. Distillation involves boiling water and collecting the steam, which returns to water upon cooling. This process is very effective at removing contaminants like bacteria, viruses, protozoa like giardia and chemicals like lead and sulfate.
    Due to the fact that distilled water is exceptionally pure, it is commonly used in medical facilities and laboratories.Though drinking distilled water is not as common as drinking other types of purified water, some people choose to drink it because it is free of contaminants.

    Benefits of Distilled Water

    Water distillation is an effective way to remove contaminants from drinking water. Levels of pesticides and other chemicals in public water sources like tap water will depend on your geographic location and the agencies that regulate drinking water safety in your country.
    Distilled water is essentially free of contaminants like pesticides and bacteria, which could be especially helpful to those with weakened immune systems. For example, those with HIV/AIDS and certain cancers are at an increased risk of becoming sick from impurities in food and water and may benefit from drinking distilled waterWhat’s more, like some other purification methods, distilled water effectively removes chlorine from drinking water, which can improve the taste of water while decreasing your exposure to chlorine.

    Potential Risks of Distilled Water

    While distilled water is the purest type of water, it’s not necessarily healthiest. The distillation process is very effective at removing potentially harmful contaminants, but it also removes the natural minerals and electrolytes found in water.
    Along with unwanted impurities, beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium are also left behind as the steam rises during the distillation process. In fact, distillation typically removes around 99.9% of all minerals found in tap water.Though water is not typically thought of as a source of minerals, any factor that leads to a decreased intake of essential micronutrients could negatively impact your health.
    For example, drinking water that's low in calcium and magnesium has been associated with an increased risk of fracture, preterm birth and heart disease. However, it’s important to note that tap water is not a major source of mineral intake for most people, and drinking distilled water should be relatively safe as long as a well-balanced diet is followed.
    Like other methods of purification, distillation removes fluoride from drinking water, which may put those who choose to drink distilled water at an increased risk of cavities. This makes it important for those who drink distilled water to maintain proper dental hygiene.

    In most cases, public drinking water sources like tap water are safe due to the strict contaminant limits set by regulatory agencies. However, drinking water can become contaminated from natural sources or human activity, affecting water quality.
    For this reason, it may be a good idea to invest in an in-home water purification system, especially those who are immunocompromised and more susceptible to becoming ill from contaminated water.
    In countries where water contamination is an issue, especially in developing countries with lack of proper sanitation, choosing bottled or purified water is always the safest option. Many types of purification systems are available, including charcoal and UV filters, which remove impurities that may survive the initial, large-scale purification process that most tap water goes through.
    That being said, in countries where public drinking water is regulated for quality and safety, drinking tap water is relatively safe. If you question the quality of your tap water, you can test the water by purchasing a home test kit or contacting a water testing agency in your area.

    Most public sources of drinking water are regulated for safety, but some people choose to use home water purifiers to further improve water quality. Household water treatment units can improve the taste or odor of tap water and remove specific contaminants.
    Point-of-use (POU) treatment systems purify only the water that is used for consumption (drinking and cooking). Point-of-entry (PUE) treatment systems typically treat all of the water entering a home. POU systems are less expensive and therefore more commonly used in households.
    These filtration systems attach to the faucet or sit under the sink and also come in free-standing water pitchers with built-in filters like the popular Brita water filter. Some refrigerators also come with built-in water purification systems. Most in-home water filtration systems use the following purification techniques:
    • Filtration: Filtration systems trap unwanted impurities in the surface or pores of an absorbent medium. Charcoal filters fall into this category.
    • Reverse osmosis: These systems use a semipermeable membrane that removes impurities.
    • UV light: UV light filtration systems use ultraviolet light to disinfect water by killing potentially harmful bacteria and viruses.
    Depending on the type and model, prices can range from $20 to hundreds of dollars. No matter what type of filter you choose, be sure to look for brands with certifications from regulatory agencies like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and NSF International. These agencies certify that home water purification systems meet or exceed national drinking water standards.
    Home water purification systems must be maintained properly. As a result, it’s important to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for upkeep, including filter replacement, to ensure that your water is being properly purified.

    Access to clean drinking water is vital to health. While most sources of public drinking water are closely regulated and safe to drink, many prefer to drink purified water. 
    Purified water is relatively safe and may reduce exposure to certain contaminants that can be found in tap water. Remember that water quality can vary depending on where you live. This should be the determining factor when choosing to drink purified water or tap water.
    Thanks to Authority Nutrition

Thursday, November 2, 2017

For the Love of Lemons

I’ll be honest. Whenever I hear someone repeat the old saw, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” I’m not sure whether to smile or shake my head.
On one hand, I’m a huge believer in always looking for the positive in life. On the other, the saying paints lemons in a negative light. And that couldn’t be further from the truth!
So I’m going to set the record straight —not only about lemons, but also lemongrass.

Benefits of Lemons

I don’t know about you, but there’s something about lemons that just makes me feel good. Maybe it’s their eye-catching color, their clean scent, or their refreshing citrus flavor. Or maybe I’m drawn to them because I instinctively know that the vibes lemons give off are just what I need to stay healthy.
One thing is for sure—I love that lemons are loaded with immune-boosting, free-radical-destroying vitamin C. This is a vitamin that, in my opinion, doesn’t get the full credit it deserves. Sure, it will help take the edge off a cold or the flu—that’s why a little tea with some raw honey and lemon is a go-to remedy for seasonal illness. But vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps neutralize inflammation-causing free radicals, so it ultimately supports heart health.
Lemons get even more health benefits from the flavonoids they contain. Flavonoids are a type of natural (and potent) antioxidant unique to plant foods. They’re also effective at stopping free radical activity, which means they are anti-inflammatory.
Adding more lemons to your diet is easy. Lemonade is a traditional favorite, but I’d steer clear since most recipes contain too much sugar. You’ll be better off just squeezing some fresh lemon juice into a glass of water. If you must have some sweetness, try diluting lemonade with filtered water so it’s only half-strength, then add more fresh lemon juice to your glass; you can also make your own lemonade and sweeten it with a very minimal amount of maple syrup.
Great for enhancing the flavor of virtually any dish, lemons are particularly good on fish and poultry. Lemon juice also mixes wonderfully with olive oil – drizzled over some veggies, the combo is amazing! I love it so much, I included lemon in my line of flavored olive oils.
My personal favorite lemon-olive oil-veggie combo is asparagus. Try it for yourself! Watch this demonstration video, and you’ll see how incredibly quick and easy healthy eating can be:
Finally, there’s zero waste with lemons. Instead of throwing the rinds in the trash, you can put them down the garbage disposal. It’s not exactly a quiet undertaking, but the oils that are released as the rinds get ground up help clean the disposal and get rid of unpleasant odors.

Lemongrass Benefits and Uses

Now let’s look at lemongrass. Despite having a similar scent and flavor, lemons and lemongrass are not actually related at all. Lemons are a tree fruit, while lemongrass is actually a tropical herb from Asia.
You’ll usually come across lemongrass as either an ingredient for cooking or as an essential oil. You can cook with lemongrass that’s fresh, ground, or powdered, and it’s used in many fish, beef, poultry, and curry recipes.
Health-wise, lemongrass has benefits similar to lemons. It’s been shown to help fight inflammation (one study identified lemongrass as a top six essential oil with anti-inflammatory properties), and lemongrass oil—like lemon oil—has antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help fight infections. Lemongrass also supports healthy digestion, which has the dual benefit of supporting nutrient absorption and the removal of toxins.
A few other uses for lemongrass include:
  • Reduce stress. If you are stressed or can’t sleep, put a few drops of lemongrass essential oil in a diffuser and let its refreshing scent calm you. If you don’t have a diffuser or the essential oil, crush enough fresh lemongrass leaves that you can pick up their scent. Place them in your room for a relaxing evening.
  • Make tea. I love lemongrass tea; the taste is refreshing and invigorating. You can make tea by steeping fresh lemongrass in boiling water, or purchase dried tea. If you buy tea, just be sure the brand you choose is 100 percent organic so you’re not getting any health-damaging pesticides and GMOs.
  • Repel insects. Lemongrass makes a great insect repellent. (One species of lemongrass, citronella grass, is a common ingredient in candles and lotions that ward off mosquitoes.) Don’t apply lemongrass oil directly to your skin undiluted, though, because it can cause skin irritation. To be on the safe side, mix lemongrass oil with a carrier oil like jojoba oil or almond oil. Or, you could even use a little olive oil.
  • Repel fleas, ticks, and lice. Like other insects, fleas, ticks and lice hate the scent of lemongrass. You can take advantage of this (and make your dog very happy) by spraying diluted lemongrass oil over his coat and bedding. Don’t try this with your cat, though, because it can be highly toxic to felines.
  • Make massage oil. You can easily make massage oil by mixing three essential oils—lemongrass, sandalwood, and geranium—with almond oil.
There are so many other ways to use lemons and lemongrass for your health and happiness— I’ve really only scratched the surface here. But one thing should be obvious: there’s a lot more good about lemons (and lemongrass) than bad. So the next time you hear someone say “When life gives you lemons…” just smile, look on the bright side, and think how much healthier you’ll be.
~Thanks to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, at Vervana

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