So the egg example I gave in my intro is quite apt. The most common form of microgreen around is the humble cress plant, and when do most people get cress into their diet…with a good ol’ egg and cress sandwich.
Cress is without doubt the most common and well-known form of microgreen for this reason, and its use is nutrient density and commonplace in supermarkets make it a great place to start if you haven’t tried microgreens before.
Microgreens are young vegetable greens, they are very quick to grow and therefore easy to produce at home. Since they are harvested and consumed within a few days to weeks they pack a heck of a punch nutritionally, slightly different to the full-grown vegetable some of these ‘sprouts’ might grow into.
Due to the unique combination of nutrients and minerals needed during the growth phase of vegetables the microgreens contain high amounts of potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper, in addition, they also contain high levels of enzymes which make the digestive process of these plant seedlings far more efficient.
Although the body of research into the specific nutritional value (protein, carbs and fat) of microgreens is still growing (no pun intended), studies have demonstrated a high level of phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals present in microgreens. Also, these minerals are highly concentrated in what is such a small package (e.g. tiny broccoli sprout compared to a full-grown broccoli stalk).
Professor Wang from the University of Maryland explains the findings of his study (referenced below):
“The microgreens were four- to 40-fold more concentrated with nutrients compared to their mature counterparts.”
Basically, you get a lot of bang for your buck per microgreen seedling! Take red cabbage microgreens as an example, they were seen to have 40 times more vitamin E and six times more vitamin C than the mature, full-grown red cabbage you have with your kebab…um, I mean salad!
Now for total clarity and understanding, it is worth noting a research paper from 2015 at ResearchGate found the phytonutrient content assessed at three stages: (a) sprouts, (b) microgreens, and (c) fully grown plants came back with differing results in terms of nutrient density. Although on the whole microgreens contain more micronutrients per gram, not all seedlings necessarily follow this rule. It is therefore entirely species dependant, but as a general rule the sprouts and microgreens do pack more of a punch.
A study by the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Maryland found there to be varying quantities of 4 key micronutrients in microgreens, with levels of vitamin C and E varying significantly between the type of microgreen. Total ascorbic acid (vitamin C) contents ranged from 20.4 to 147.0 mg per 100g.
The main micronutrients you get in microgreens (in varying quantities) include:
– Vitamin C
– Vitamin E
Microgreens are also rich in enzymes, which enable them to be more easily digested and absorbed into the body.
Varieties of Microgreens
From their respective plant families:
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
There appears to be no doubting the microgreens nutritional density and wide application to your diet, health and wellbeing. They are also quite versatile from their use as a garnish in Michelin star restaurants to added nourishment and flavour to your home-made smoothies.
I have some Alfalfa Seeds ready to go thanks to a recent client, and I cannot wait to get stuck into them!
Check out how I will be growing them in tomorrow’s Daily MANtra.
Xiao, Z., Lester, G, E., Luo, Y and Wang, Q. (2012). Assessment of Vitamin and Carotenoid Concentrations of Emerging Food Products: Edible Microgreens. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Retrieved from: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/jf300459b
Ebert, A, W., Wu, T, H., Yang, R, Y. (2015). Conference Paper, ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Andreas_Ebert2