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Are Microgreens Healthier?

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 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

24 responses to “Are Microgreens Healthier?

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  1. 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!

      1. RE: the study you’re citing for the proposition that baby spinach has more phytonutrients

        Pardon my ignorance, but I can only see the abstract–and the abstract indicates the study is about irradiating baby spinach. Could you clarify?

      1. Darryl, Could you or another on the fabulous NF team answer this:

        RE: the study Dr. Greger’s citing for the proposition that baby spinach has more phytonutrients

        Pardon my ignorance, but I can only see the abstract–and the abstract indicates the study is about irradiating baby spinach. Could you clarify?

        1. Is there any way to see this information in the table form?
          Iv been searching around found the report but not the individual microgreen statistics.



  2. 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?

    1. Hi Alex,
      Bacteria have adhesion molecules. Those that are just ‘surface contamination’ can be washed off, but if the bacteria are actually growing on the object they will have put down ‘anchors’, only things like prolonged boiling or chemicals like bleach will get rid of them.

      Here is a scientific overview of the microbiology involved:

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. I’ve been eating raw alfalfa sprouts for years without issue. I did a lot of research because I remember about the bacteria sprout scares about 20 years ago. My seeds come from . They test every seed they sell for pathogens, germination, etc. I also use their sproutbag which works MUCH better than jars. With the right equipment and seeds and some care, I don’t see why alfalfa sprouts can’t be safely eaten raw.

  7. Hi, Tania Bevington. I think that depends on the type, and the particular nutrients under consideration. Some seeds do better in soil, and others are better suited to sprouting in jars. Broccoli sprouts are the highest in sulforaphane. More on sprouts here:
    Why choose one over the other? You can enjoy both, if you like!
    I hope that helps!

  8. I am curious about the transition from seed to microgreens. Example, does flax seed loose all its omega three fatty acids if it’s sprouted and grown into a micro green?

  9. Dr. Greger,

    I’m considering growing my own microgreens, but my daughter says that you can’t eat enough of to give you the nutritional values. In other words, you would not be able to eat enough to satisfy your daily minimum requirements. Or for instance, would you have to eat several bowls a day? Can you set me straight.

  10. Hi, david sphar! I am not sure where your daughter is getting the information she is sharing with you. Microgreens generally tend to be concentrated sources of phytonutrients. I would not recommend making them your only source of nutrients, but they can certainly contribute. If anything, it would take fewer of them than mature greens to supply the same nutrients. They are fluffy, however, so that would be by weight rather than by volume. If you haven’t already, you may want to watch the videos linked in the blog post above for more information about microgreens. I hope that helps!

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