Microgreens are essentially younger versions of the vegetables you already know and love. Harvested much earlier than typical vegetables, microgreens are plants picked in their ‘seedling’ phase. As a result, microgreens look more like sprouts than fully grown vegetables.
But don’t let their wispy appearance fool you. Microgreens are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and potassium–and they may even help fight cancer cell activity.
Keep reading to learn about the macro benefits of microgreens.
Microgreens is an umbrella term for younger versions of vegetables like bok choy, purple radish, kale, and broccoli.
Different types of microgreens contain different vitamins and minerals. Notable nutrients in microgreens include iron, selenium, and manganese, among others.
Despite their miniature size, microgreens contain significantly higher amounts of nutrients compared to standard vegetables. Indeed, one study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that red cabbage microgreens deliver over 40 times more vitamin E compared to mature red cabbage.
Microgreens made from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are an excellent source of glucosinolates, naturally occurring plant chemicals that contain sulfur.
Research suggests that glucosinolate-rich foods have powerful anticancer activity. In humans, a higher consumption of cruciferous vegetables has been associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. And studies in animals have found that the glucosinolates present in leafy greens can limit cancer cell growth and proliferation.
Glucosinolates like sulforaphane in micro broccoli also support detoxification processes in the body. In particular, sulforaphane promotes the production of key molecules involved in detox pathways in the liver.
Antioxidants are compounds that help scavenge free radicals in the body. Free radicals are molecules that roam around your system, damaging cells and tissues over time.
While all fruits and vegetables naturally contain beneficial antioxidants, microgreens pack even more of the anti-inflammatory nutrients.
One study reported that red cabbage microgreens can contain nearly 29 times more lutein and zeaxanthin, two powerful antioxidants, than mature red cabbage. And broccoli microgreens were found to have ten times as many antioxidant compounds as mature broccoli.
Though extremely low in calories, microgreens are packed with vitamins and minerals. A 2.25-ounce serving of sunflower microgreens contains:
- Calories: 25 calories
- Fat: 0 grams (g)
- Sodium: 10 milligrams (mg)
- Carbohydrates: 4 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Protein: 2 g
- Iron: 14.5 mg, or about 80% of the daily value (DV)
- Vitamin K: 40 micrograms (mcg), or about 50% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 9 mg, or about 15% of the DV
- Selenium: 17 mcg, or about 25% of the DV
- Magnesium: 60 mg, or about 15% of the DV
- Manganese: 0.65 mg, or about 40% of the DV
Standard leafy greens such as raw kale can be difficult to digest for some people. If you struggle with this, microgreens may be easier to tolerate thanks to their softer texture. Microgreens are usually eaten in smaller quantities, too. As a result, they may be less likely to bring on the uncomfortable bloat that can sometimes follow from eating a larger volume of high-fiber vegetables.
Sprouts are notorious for transmitting foodborne illness, so you may be wondering whether microgreens pose the same risks.
Like sprouts, microgreens are typically consumed raw, which increases the risk that foodborne pathogens will survive in the product. Microgreens grown hydroponically (that is, without soil) may also be more susceptible to contamination. That’s because this mode of production may require humid conditions and use recirculating water, both of which encourage the growth of pathogens (or disease-causing agents).
Barring those grown hydroponically, microgreens are typically harvested in conditions that make them less likely to harbor foodborne pathogens than sprouts.
A February 2019 paper published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology noted that despite six microgreen product recalls since 2016, there have been no outbreaks or reported foodborne illnesses associated with microgreens as yet.
Microgreens are easy to incorporate into meals and highly versatile. They’re also most nutritious when consumed raw, so you don’t even need to cook in order to enjoy them.
Here are some simple ways to add microgreens to your diet:
- Add them to sandwiches
- Add mild tasting microgreens to homemade smoothies
- Use them as a nutrient-dense topping for soups, salads, and grain bowls
- Use them as a spicy garnish on avocado toast
- Blend or puree them in homemade dips, pestos, and salad dressings
Microgreens are an excellent source of nutrients, including antioxidant vitamins and minerals. Compounds in microgreens may even help prevent or fight cancer activity.
Best of all, microgreens are versatile, flavorful, and easy to incorporate into a wide variety of meals.