Outstanding nutrition grad nourished his undergraduate experience through research

Brayden Smith in a lab with a research subject
Brayden Smith, right, works on a research project in the lab.

Although he is an undergraduate student, Brayden Smith has been able to gain some remarkable experience conducting research in the Colorado State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. An outstanding graduate of the department, Smith majored in nutrition and food science with a concentration in dietetics and nutrition management.

Smith hails from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and came to CSU for the nutrition program which allowed him to still stay close to his family. He was also happy to have continued access to the many hiking trails in the Front Range.

Microgreens research

Brayden Smith and Lauren Grabos in lab coats and masks
Brayden Smith, left, with fellow nutrition student Lauren Grabos.

During Smith’s time at CSU, he had the honor of working with Sarah Johnson, associate professor and director of the Functional Foods and Human Health Laboratory, as an undergraduate student researcher. Smith’s research was focused on assisting with Johnson’s clinical study involving microgreens. The purpose of the research was to test whether consumers would eat microgreens, which are a sustainable crop that is highly nutritious and beneficial to health, and a second part of the study investigated whether they would be tolerated by the gastrointestinal tract.

His research found that there was a high rate of adherence to daily microgreen consumption and the preliminary data has shown that there were minimal adverse gastrointestinal symptoms associated with microgreen consumption.

“This study is the first stepping-stone in learning more about how microgreens impact human health,” said Smith. “I think microgreens can go from primarily being used as garnishes to a staple vegetable crop that can help diversify our diets and bring nutrient-rich foods to more people.”

Earning Highest Honors

Smith was excited to be able to submit his research to CSU’s Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity Showcase in spring 2020 under the mentorship of Johnson and graduate student Kiri Michell. In spite of CSU moving to remote activities only because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of the show were able to hold the event by pivoting to an online version using iPosterSessions.

Smith’s entry, Adherence, Feasibility, and Gastrointestinal Tolerability of Daily Consumption of Microgreens in Healthy Middle-aged/Older Adults, which included a research poster and presentation, received Highest Honors at the showcase, of which he is very proud.

In addition to his research activities in Johnson’s lab, Smith has volunteered more than 130 hours with the Larimer County Food Bank. He continued his volunteer work during the pandemic and experienced firsthand how many people need nutritional assistance.

“I’m very happy I could help them during this time,” he said.

After graduation, Smith plans to apply to dietetic internships and become a registered dietitian.

The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.