What are microgreens?
Microgreens are immature greens. After about 1 week of seed germination, we collect the stem and leaves of the young plant. That’s what we call “microgreens”.
So, we collect the young plant at the first stage of the growing process.
Do you want to grow your own microgreens?
Put seed on soil. After watering them, the seeds will germinate. After 1 or 2 weeks the seed develops roots and the first leaves. These leaves are called cotyledons. Cotyledons leaves are the first part of a plant to emerge from the seed. Cotyledon leaves provide energy to the plant, helping it grow.
In most cases, microgreens are harvested 7−14 days after germination. Growers cut the stem, right above the growth medium (usually soil). Therefore, microgreens are the stem and first 2 leaves of a young plant. Their height is about 1-3 in. (2.5−7.6 cm).
Furthermore, microgreens are produced from vegetable and herb seeds.
How to use microgreens?
Microgreens have tender texture, and intense flavor.
Some decades ago, chefs started using them, as garnish, due to their wonderful colors.
But microgreens are more than that…
They are great addition in salads, smoothies, sandwiches, or soups. Despite their flavor, microgreens provide many nutrients, as well.
Most microgreens contain much greater amounts of nutrients than mature plants. Certainly, microgreens are a good addition to every plant-based diet. Due to their extremely high nutrient-content.
What are the healthiest microgreens you can eat?
Many vegetables and herbs are ideal for microgreens.
The most common microgreens are arugula, amaranth, bok choy, basil, beets, broccoli, buckwheat, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, chia, chives, chickpea, celery, cilantro, cress, daikon radish, dill, endive, fennel, kale, mustard, lettuce, peas, spinach, sorrel, sunflower, watercress and many more.
Differences between microgreens, sprouts & baby plants
Microgreens are different from sprouts. Even if both are consumed in an immature state.
Sprouts are germinated seeds. Seeds are germinated after soaking for several hours. Sprouts are ready after a couple of days. Germinated seeds must be kept in a high moisture environment. They are ready after 2-7 days, depending on the seed variety.
Usually, the height of sprouts is up to 2 inches (5.08 cm).
The sprouts are different from microgreens. Sprouts are the germinated seed. We eat the whole seed. Furthermore, we use no growth medium.
On the contrary, we use soil to grow microgreens. Moreover, we don’t eat the roots of microgreens.
As the young plant absorbs nutrients from soil, microgreens are richer in nutrients than sprouts. Also, microgreens have a stronger flavor.
Last, but not least, baby vegetables are immature vegetables. Usually, they are harvested many weeks before maturing.
Seems like, microgreens, sprouts, and baby greens are all richer in nutrients than the mature plant.
Are microgreens more nutrient-rich than mature greens?
- vitamins, such as vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamin C,
- minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, and manganese,
- and other phytonutrients, such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Vitamin K in arugula, celery & cabbage microgreens
As a rule of thumb, microgreens contain more vitamin K than mature plants. Vitamin K is vital for our good health. For instance, vitamin K is important for strong bones, cardiovascular health, and insulin sensitivity. Also, studies have shown that vitamin K may prevent from some types of cancer, such as liver cancer.
We should consume 90-120 mcg per day (3).
Furthermore, vitamin K is abundant in dark-green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, arugula and broccoli. For instance, spinach has 483 mcg of vitamin K per 100 gr. Kale (390 mcg), arugula (108 mcg) and broccoli (100 mcg) are also high sources of vitamin K (4).
Most microgreens contain great amounts of vitamin K. Even more than broccoli and arugula. For instance, arugula microgreens (160 mcg), celery microgreens (220 mcg), pea microgreens (310 mcg), and red cabbage (280 mcg) are good sources of vitamin K (1).
Celery, cabbage, amaranth & spinach microgreens are rich in vitamin C
We need about 90 mg of vitamin C per day (5).
Most microgreens are good sources of vitamin C. In most cases, microgreens contain 20-147 mg of vitamin C per 100 gr.
For example, red cabbage microgreens (147 mg per 100 gr), amaranth microgreens (131 mg), arugula microgreens (45 mg), spinach microgreens (41 mg), and celery microgreens (45 mg) are excellent sources of vitamin C.
Furthermore, many microgreens contain higher amounts of vitamin C than the mature plant.
For instance, amaranth microgreens (131 mg) contain 3 times more vitamin C than the mature plant (43 mg). Similarly, red cabbage microgreens (147 mg) contains 2.6 times more vitamin C than the mature plant (57 mg).
Certainly, microgreens can boost your daily vitamin C intake.
Certainly, a plant-based diet is better for greater health benefits… Many foods are rich in vitamin C. Besides oranges (53 mg per 100 gr), vegetables such as broccoli (91 mg), cauliflower (88 mg), and peppers (80 mg) are high in vitamin C.
For better health benefits, eat lots of foods rich in vitamin C, per day.
Daikon and red cabbage microgreens are good sources of vitamin E
Microgreens are also good sources of vitamin E.
Green daikon radish microgreens are the richest source of vitamin E. Other good sources of microgreens are cilantro, and peppercress.
Furthermore, red cabbage microgreens have an astonishing vitamin E increase, compared to the mature plant. Red cabbage microgreens contain over 40 times the vitamin E content of the mature plant (0.11 mg per 100 gr).
Cilantro, peppercress & red cabbage microgreens are high in vitamin A
Microgreens are also rich in beta-carotene. The type of vitamin A that comes from plants. This powerful antioxidant fights free radicals.
Most noteworthy, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids have linked to good eyesight (6).
Sweet potatoes (9 mg per 100 gr), carrots (8.3 mg), spinach (5.6 mg), and beet greens (3.8 mg) are among the best sources of beta-carotene. You can see the list of foods rich in beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin here.
Microgreens contain 0.6-12.1 mg of beta-carotene per 100 gr. Not bad!
The richest microgreens in beta-carotene are red sorrel (12.1 mg per 100 gr), cilantro (11.7 mg), red cabbage (11.5 mg), and peppercress (11.1 mg).
Once again, microgreens have a superior nutritional value, compared to mature plants. The best examples are cilantro and red cabbage… Cilantro microgreens contain 3 times more beta-carotene than the mature plant. Moreover, red cabbage microgreens contain approximately 260 times more beta-carotene than the mature plant (1). Pretty amazing…
Cilantro, amaranth, red cabbage & sorrel microgreens protects your good vision
Lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful carotenoids. They are unique antioxidants, as they present in the macula of the eyes. Many studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin may prevent age related macular degeneration and cataract.
Cilantro microgreens are the best source of lutein & zeaxanthin, among microgreens. Cilantro microgreens have 10.1 mg per 100 gr.
Red sorrel (8.8 mg), red cabbage (8.6 mg), and amaranth microgreens (8.4 mg) are also good sources of lutein & zeaxanthin.
Cilantro microgreens are good for the eye health
If you want to protect your good eyesight, you should start eating cilantro microgreens.
They are the richest in lutein and zeaxanthin, among microgreens. Furthermore, cilantro microgreens are rich in beta-carotene. Second only to red sorrel microgreens.
Do you want to boost the beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin intake? Eat foods rich in these carotenoids. For instance, carrots are a good source of beta-carotene. Yes, carrots are good for your vision…
Microgreens have great health benefits due to the high mineral content
The health benefits of microgreens don’t stop. They even have higher amounts of minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, and manganese (2).
For instance, lettuce microgreens have higher content of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, and manganese than the mature plant (7).
Certainly, microgreens are good sources of minerals. They could help us meet the daily requirements.
Broccoli microgreens have a higher chlorophyll content
Chlorophyll is only present in plants. Animals can’t synthesize it. Above all, chlorophyll has linked to amazing health benefits such as prevention of cancer, boosting immune system, detoxification of the liver, and lowering high blood pressure (8).
These health benefits are mainly due to chlorophyll’s antioxidant properties.
Chlorophyll was found to be a phytochemical with much higher concentrations in microgreens, compared to mature plants.
For instance, broccoli microgreens contain 15 times more chlorophyll than mature broccoli. Celery, lettuce, and artichoke microgreens have higher chlorophyll, as well (9).
The richest foods in chlorophyll are moringa powder (8.2 mg), wheatgrass powder (5.3 mg), alfalfa (4.6 mg), celery (4.5 mg), Brussels sprouts (3 mg), matcha green tea (1.9 mg), and many more. See the whole list here.
Soybean microgreens contain a higher melatonin content than legumes & seeds
Melatonin is a hormone that the body produce naturally. Furthermore, you can get melatonin either from certain foods high in melatonin, either from supplements.
According to studies, microgreens seem to be pretty high in melatonin, as well. For instance, germinated soybean seeds may have 400% more melatonin. Moreover, the melatonin content in germinated mung beans can be increased more than 11 times.
More about health benefits of melatonin here.
Broccoli microgreens have more phenolic compounds
Phenolic compounds are abundant antioxidants in plant-based diets.
Furthermore, phenolic compounds may be responsible for the taste and color of vegetables and herbs.
Above all, phenolic compounds in plants are important for the human health. Mainly, due to their powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Many foods are rich in phenolic compounds. Certainly, microgreens are among the best sources.
For instance, broccoli microgreens has about 10 times more phenolic compounds than the mature plant (9).
Baby plants or microgreens have greater health benefits?
Baby plants are usually vegetables that are harvested before maturity. Furthermore, growers may plant seeds densely, in order, to grow baby plants.
Certainly, baby plants are good sources of nutrients. They tent to be richer in nutrients than the mature plant.
Moreover, baby greens are often richer in minerals and antioxidant than microgreens (10).
Keep in mind that spinach microgreens need about 1 week until harvest time. On the contrary, baby spinach need about 40 days. Furthermore, we can harvest mature spinach leaves after 6 weeks.
Therefore, growth of microgreens may be cost and time effective.
Are microgreens healthier than sprouts?
You can grow sprouts easily at home. Just soak seeds overnight and rinse several times. In most cases, sprouts will be ready after 3 days.
Sprouts, as microgreens, tend to be richer in vitamins and minerals than the mature plant.
You can learn more about the health benefits of glucoraphanin here.
In a study amaranth sprouts had higher protein, iron, and zinc content, compared to amaranth microgreens. On the contrary, amaranth microgreens had higher vitamin C, lutein, neoxanthin, and beta-carotene content (12).
Certainly, sprouts are nutrient-dense foods. The big disadvantage is that sprouts are grown in dark, high in moisture rooms. These conditions are ideal for the development of pathogenic bacteria. Therefore, it is riskier to eat raw sprouts than consuming microgreens.
So, the consumption of microgreens is much safer.
Additionally, microgreens have much stronger flavor.
What are the health benefits of eating microgreens?
Microgreens are rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, chlorophyll, phenolic compounds, many other antioxidants and carotenoids. Furthermore, microgreens contain great amounts of dietary minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, and manganese.
Therefore, microgreens have amazing health benefits. They may protect against (13):
- cardiovascular disease,
- high blood pressure,
- chronic kidney disease,
- chronic inflammation,
- Alzheimer’s disease,
- age related macular degeneration,
Microgreens should be a part of a plant-based diet for greater health benefits.
A whole food plant-based diet is the key for good health
There are so many plant-based sources high in:
- vitamin C. Citrus fruits, such as lemons, oranges, or grapefruits are good sources. Peppers, broccoli, cauliflowers, or tomatoes are also vegetables rich in vitamin C.
- vitamin K. Eat dark leafy greens. They are the best sources of vitamin K. Basil (1714 mcg), parsley (1640 mcg), oregano (621 mcg), dandelion greens (778 mcg), wheatgrass powder (1075 mcg) are only a few foods high in vitamin K. The whole list here.
- carotenoids. Carrots (8.3 mg), sweet potatoes (9 mg), dandelion greens (5.9 mg), kale (2.9 mg) are rich in beta-carotene. Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene are important for good health. They are powerful antioxidants, that fight free radicals. Especially beta-carotene, along with lutein and zeaxanthin are excellent for good eyesight. See the whole list here.
- phenolic compounds. Green tea, coffee, olive oil are the most common foods rich in phenolic compounds. Many vegetables, herbs, and spices are also good sources.
- calcium. Cow’s milk isn’t the best source of calcium. On the contrary, dairy may be bad for your health (14). Luckily, many plants are high in calcium.
Are microgreens sustainable?
Certainly, microgreens are nutrient-dense food. They can feed many people, with low environmental impact.
For instance, scientific data has shown that broccoli microgreens require about 236 times less water than the mature plants. Moreover, microgreens need about 93% less time to grow (15).
Most noteworthy, there is no need for fertilizers and pesticides. Therefore, microgreens don’t cause any environmental impact.
Additionally, microgreens are sustainable, as in many cases, they are grown near cities. So, there is no need for long-distance transportation.
So, are microgreens worth it?
Yes, microgreens are nutrient powerhouses. They are definitely worth it.
Furthermore, you can try to produce sprouts. Homemade sprouts are also nutrient-dense. Most noteworthy, homemade sprouts are much cheaper than microgreens.
In any case, microgreens and sprouts are the among the healthiest food you can eat.