Are Microgreens Healthier?

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USDA researchers recently published a study assessing the nutrition content of 25 commercially available microgreens, seedlings of vegetables and herbs that have gained popularity in upscale markets and restaurants. Just a few inches tall, they boast intense flavors and vivid colors, but what about their nutritional content? No one knew until now.

We’ve known that baby spinach leaves, for example, have higher levels of phytonutrients than mature spinach leaves, but what about really baby spinach–just a week or two old?

Microgreens won hands down (leaves down?), possessing significantly higher nutrient densities than mature leaves. For example, red cabbage microgreens have a 6-fold higher vitamin C concentration than mature red cabbage and 69 times the vitamin K.

Microgreens are definitively more nutrient dense, but are often eaten in small quantities. Even the healthiest garnish isn’t going to make much of a difference to one’s health, and microgreens may go for $30 a pound! But BYOM—birth your own! You can have rotating trays of salad that you can snip off with scissors. It’s like gardening for the impatient—fully-grown in just 7 to 14 days! If that’s too long, what about sprouting? See my 1-min. video Antioxidants Sprouting Up to see what happens to the antioxidant content of seeds, grains, and beans when you sprout them.

Homemade sprouts are probably the most nutrition-per-unit-cost we can get for our money. See Biggest Nutrition Bang for Your Buck, where they beat out the previous champ, purple cabbage (Superfood Bargains). Broccoli sprouts are probably the best—see for example The Best Detox and Sulforaphane From Broccoli to Breast. I would recommend against alfalfa sprouts (even when home sprouted) as fecal bacteria from manure can hide in the seed’s nooks and crannies and cause illness: Don’t Eat Raw Alfalfa Sprouts.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2014 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image credit: cogdogblog / Flickr

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  • Veganrunner

    Dr Greger the seeds you sent with my donation are absolutely wonderful and my favorite kale. I need to pick them sooner when just one week old. So delicious!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Oh I’m so so glad!

  • http://www.facebook.com/molodozeleno Andrey Hanevskiy

    How i wished i could read the full text of this study !

  • Alex Floyd

    Hi,
    I sprout at home and you have to do 8-12 soak and rinse, then rinse every 12 hours for 2-6 days, at end remove most hulls, don’t you think that would wash out the microbes?

  • Alex Floyd

    If I make a donation, you think maybe you could send me some of those kale seeds?

  • Joyce

    I have no argument that sprouts are nutritious. As noted, they can be a bacterial minefield. Be sure you know how to handle the seeds, to decontaminate before sprouting, and the sprouts themselves. Bacterial foodborne disease outbreaks have been associated with other than alfalfa sprouts: clover, radish, mung bean.

  • Melanie

    Sprouting is really easy, and I do it more often in the winter when fresh produce isn’t available. If we could only get our alfalfa sprouts from a trusted veganic farm, then we wouldn’t have to worry so much about e.coli.

    A warning for new people who want to sprout: chia, flax, and cress are mucalaginous (sp?) so require a different method.

    I didn’t have much success with mason jars, although many people do. When I bought a snakpik (3-level self draining tray system, with a water collector tray on the bottom), I had more success. A local commercial organic sprout seed vendor was not impressed, due to concerns over possible cross-contamination, but it works for me and no food poisoning. I usually put my kale sprouts at the top, hoping at least the water off the kale might have some protective effect! Right now, that is superstition not science, but someday soon, we’ll see research on kale sprout water, mark my words.

  • Myron Schwarzennecker

    There is such a thing as popcorn shoots? Does the stuff sold for actual popping sprout, or is a special kind needed to be still alive?

  • Barbara

    Is pea protein a safe additive to smoothies