Sprouts have high concentrations of antioxidant compounds, up to 100 times higher than adult plants, and thus incorporating them in salads or dressings is an excellent source of nutritional and nutraceutical compounds.
Developing new products that incorporate sprouts in their formula, in order to enrich them in a natural way with bioactive compounds beneficial to consumers' health, is the objective of the work that Lorena Martínez is carrying out within the Post-Collection and Refrigeration Group of the Department of Agronomic Engineering of the Polytechnic University of Cartagena.
In addition, the 'Development and minimal fresh processing of highly healthy sprouts using eco-sustainable techniques: Evolution of quality and safety during the useful life' project, which is financed by the Seneca Foundation, seeks to increase the concentration of these compounds through the use of new LED technologies.
"In 10 days of growth, a broccoli sprout can contain up to 100 times more anticancer compounds than an adult plant. We can stimulate the plant so that it doubles the content of these compounds by applying different stresses, such as LED lights, UV-B, UV-C, ultrasound, or microwaves, which would be a great advance for the food industry," the researcher stated.
"Some of the newest results have shown the increase in nutritional compounds after the application of blue and red lights, as well as after the use of UV-B and UV-C at harvest time. In fact, the application of these stresses has proven to be a viable technology to maintain the quality of these products and to increase their health by stimulating the production of carotenoids, phenolic, and isothiocyanates compounds, as the main antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer compounds," she stated.
Treatments with LED and UV lights have proven to be effective mainly on cruciferous sprouts, such as broccoli, radish, kale, and red cabbage, among others. Scientists have also proven its effectiveness in carrot sprouts. In addition, researchers have discovered that the continuous or photoperiod application of different visible light spectrum areas using LED lights is effective in ripe fruits, such as peppers, in which it has managed to enhance carotenoid biosynthesis by 20%.
"Given the simplicity and versatility of this treatment, this low-consumption technology can be applied, both in post-harvest and pre-harvest, to most fruits and vegetables," stated Lorena Martinez.