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How to Eat Microgreens: Nutrition Benefits & Easy Recipes

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Sherie Friedlander, Nutrition Consultant, discusses How To Eat Microgreens and their Nutritional Benefits! Microgreens are the tiniest little sprouts of your favorite vegetables and are absolute nutrient powerhouses! Learn why and how to eat microgreens to take advantage of these nutritional benefits yourself.

Woman holding Microgreens.

 What are microgreens, and where do they come from?

The key is in the name. Microgreens are very small seedlings of different leafy greens and veggies, and they’re typically raised in large trays filled with peat moss or coconut coir. Once the seeds are exposed to water, they begin to germinate and produce immature leaves called cotyledons. After about 2-3 weeks, they start to form their first set of true leaves, and the greens are harvested.

If you think about it, seeds hold all of the nutrients the young plant needs to grow and thrive. These tiny greens are harvested at the perfect time to maximize their nutritional content and offer the most antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, often even more than their fully-grown counterparts.

Microgreens first showed up in the 1980s and quickly became popular with chefs who wanted to use them to add vibrant colors, unique flavors, and different textures to their meals. That’s just an added bonus, though! These vibrant greens can truly transform your health in a variety of ways. The benefits we’re finding in scientific research are truly astounding!

Microgreens on a plate.

 

Health Benefits of Microgreens

Since microgreens exploded onto the culinary scene, scientists and researchers have been investigating them to learn more about their nutritional value.  These studies have shown that microgreens are extremely nutrient-dense and have powerful health benefits that anyone can leverage simply by incorporating them regularly into their diet. Most of these come from the high concentration of antioxidants, which are naturally anti-inflammatory and have far-reaching health benefits.

  • High antioxidant content – Fresh microgreens are high in a variety of antioxidants, including polyphenols, isothiocyanate, anthocyanins, and more. Many are even more nutritious than their mature counterparts. Plus, one study showed that the antioxidants and vitamins in several microgreens are easier to absorb than other foods. You may absorb up to 82% of the antioxidants in mustard microgreens!
  • Anti-inflammatory – The antioxidants in microgreens, like the polyphenols and glucosinolates, can invigorate the immune system, and reduce inflammation, 
  • Reduce diabetes – The polyphenols and antioxidants that reduce inflammation can also help reduce diabetes. For example, fenugreek microgreens are anti-diabetic and can help support healthy blood sugar levels, and the sulforaphane common in early broccoli microgreens can treat Type 2 diabetes. Microgreens in the Brassicaceae family (kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc) are recommended for cancer patients, obese people, and people struggling with heart disease.
  • Reduce cancer – Brassica microgreens, specifically broccoli microgreens, can have up to three times the amount of cancer-fighting properties and may significantly reduce the growth of tumorous cells. At the same time, microgreens can help boost the “killer cells” that fight cancer.
  • Prevent Alzheimer’s disease – Microgreens high in polyphenols may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, as well.
  • Reduce heart disease – Red cabbage microgreens, in particular, have been associated with improved blood lipid and cholesterol levels. This can help offset a host of health issues, including obesity, high cholesterol, liver inflammation, and more. Microgreens may even help “minimize the risk” of sedentary lifestyles worldwide.
Types of Microgreens

Microgreens are Packed with Micronutrients

One of the main reasons microgreens have become so incredibly popular is that they are packed with essential nutrients you need to survive and thrive. This study found that brassica microgreens (broccoli, cauliflower, and broccoli rabe) were high in these key nutrients: iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, sulfur, manganese, selenium, and molybdenum. In fact, they’re so high in antioxidants and key nutrients that they are being recommended for people who are nutrient deficient instead of supplements or vitamins. Plus, some of these vitamins and minerals are more bioavailable in microgreens, meaning you can actually absorb the nutrients you’re eating!

Salads with Microgreens.
  • Zinc supports immune health, and many gluten-free dieters are deficient in this vitamin. This study showed that the zinc content in microgreens was considerably higher than that of mature greens, which means you can get more of the benefit by eating less!
  • Potassium is used in different systems throughout your body but is especially important for healthy blood pressure. Eating a diet high in potassium-rich fruits and vegetables can help prevent the risk of stroke. Microgreens are exceptionally high in bioaccessible potassium, which makes it easier to absorb the potassium from your food.
  • Calcium—One of the best nutritional benefits of microgreens is the bioavailability of hard-to-absorb minerals like calcium. In general, you only absorb about 30% of the calcium you drink in milk, which is key to essential bodily functions and bone health. In contrast, you can absorb over 60% of the calcium in mustard microgreens!

Other Facts About Microgreens:

Ascorbic Acid – (Vitamin C)

Some research has shown that microgreens actually have greater amounts of vitamin C than any other stage of the plant’s development, including sprouts, baby greens, and mature plants!

Just 100g of microgreens can supply up to 70% of your daily Vitamin C, especially kale micros, broccoli, radishes, and mustard greens.

Phylloquinone (Vitamin K)

Another study found that different types of microgreens had consistent levels of vitamin K despite coming from different types of plants. Since Vitamin K plays a role in forming healthy bones, this can be especially helpful for preventing hip fractures in older adults.

Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E)

Vitamin E has a wide range of effects on the body, and is associated with your metabolic and immune health and fighting free radicals. One study showed that not all microgreens have the same amount of vitamin E. Broccoli and a specific type of lettuce microgreens have the highest concentration of Vitamin E, and are good choices for people who want these specific benefits.

Beta Carotene (Pro-Vitamin A)

Microgreens don’t necessarily contain Vitamin A, but they contain an organic compound that the body turns into Vitamin A. These compounds are generally called carotenoids, and are an important type of antioxidant. Vitamin A performs a variety of functions, but this particular type has been connected to inhibiting free radicals, stalling cancer, and improving the immune system. Several different microgreens are high in these carotenoids, especially plants in the Asteraceae family.

Chicory microgreens are high in pro-vitamin A, and once again, the microgreens have significantly more beta carotene than even the mature plants. In fact, cabbage microgreens were found in this study to have 260x more beta carotene than mature cabbage plants.

Microgreens on Fruit.

Various Types of Microgreens

There are many, many different types of microgreens, with a variety of flavors and textures. Basically, any type of leafy greens, as well as some herbs, edible flowers, grains, wild greens, and more, can be grown as microgreens.

According to this study, radish, french basil, and roselle microgreens were the most nutrient-dense, but each type of microgreen has a whole range of nutritional values and benefits.

  • Amaranth – Amaranth micros are high in antioxidants (specifically chlorophyll and anthocyanins) and taste similar to earthy, spicy mustard greens without as much of a bite.
  • Beet – Like the roots, beet microgreens have an earthy flavor. They’re also high in antioxidants, particularly polyphenols, betaxanthins, and betacyanins.
  • Broccoli – Micro broccoli has a mild broccoli flavor and is stacked with potential health benefits, including regulating the immune system and even fighting cancer.
  • Quinoa – These greens have a mild, slightly nutty flavor that’s especially great for people getting used the world of microgreens. They’re high in several key antioxidants, like beta-carotene and tocopherols, and several fatty acids.
  • Spinach – Micro spinach has a very mild, almost sweet flavor and a lot of chlorophyll, beta-carotene, and vitamin C.
  • Fenugreek – Fenugreek has a nutty flavor, but the microgreens are slightly bitter and spicy.They’re high in polyphenols and can be antidiabetic.
  • Onion – These microgreens are very small and skinny with a potent oniony flavor. They taste similar to chives and are wonderful with eggs or in salads.
  • Mustard microgreens – Mustard is one of the most nutritious microgreens. It has some of the highest concentrations of antioxidants and calcium, and they have a notoriously spicy bite.
  • Lettuce microgreens – There are many different kinds of lettuce, and you can grow microgreens with all of them. Some types have a really high nutrient content, especially vitamin E.
  • Arugula microgreens – Arugula microgreens have a milder flavor than full-grown arugula but can be a little spicy. Since they’re in the Brassica family, like broccoli, micro arugula has similar types of antioxidants and related health benefits.
  • Kale microgreens – Like most types of kale, the kale micros have a relatively mild flavor and are an excellent choice for beginners with sensitive taste buds.
  • Sunflower microgreens – These are one of the mildest (and largest) types of microgreens, and they have a lovely nutty flavor.
  • Radish microgreens – Just like full-sized radishes, micro radish greens have a spicy bite (and a nutritional punch). They’re in the same family as broccoli, kale, cabbage, and arugula, too.
Pans of Microgreens.

 

Where to Buy Microgreens

Since microgreens require so many seeds, they tend to be a bit pricey and don’t last very long. Fortunately, they’re commonly available at many grocery stores and other retailers:

  • Whole Foods
  • Sprouts
  • Specialty retailers
  • Local farmer’s markets or co-ops
  • You can even grow your own microgreens at home to have them on hand at all times.
Microgreen Salad.

How To Use Microgreens

It’s very easy to incorporate microgreens into your recipes in plenty of creative ways! They’re easy to eat raw and can be added as a central component to your meals or added as a garnish. Although they can be added to warm foods, try not to cook them with high heat to preserve their antioxidants.

Most of the research on microgreens is based on 100g servings, which is about 1 and 1/3 cups. Instead of eating an entire cup of raw microgreens in one sitting, try adding a handful to each meal throughout the day.

  • On top of salads and soups
  • As a garnish on your morning eggs or avocado toast
  • Add a handful to your next sandwich or wrap
  • On top of sushi rolls
  • Blend them into smoothies
  • Sprinkle on top of burgers, pizzas, and stir-fries
  • Blend into homemade pesto
  • Roll into spring rolls with your favorite fresh herbs
  • Juice them as part of your morning fresh-pressed juice

Food Safety and Microgreens

For food safety, it’s a good practice to wash them gently before eating them unless your greens are prewashed. Place the microgreens in a salad spinner, cover them with water, strain it off, and spin until dry. Store the clean microgreens in an airtight container in the fridge.

With proper storage and handling, they can last anywhere between 2 weeks after harvest. If they are starting to wilt or have a stronger smell, those are good signs they are getting old and should be disposed of to avoid foodborne illness.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Use Microgreens

What are your favorite Microgreen Recipes?

We love using two cups of microgreens drizzled with olive oil and lemon and sprinkled with shaved parmesan cheese. We also make omelets with goat cheese and microgreens.

Do you eat raw Microgreens?

Yes! Microgreens are best eaten raw, so the nutrients stay viable!

What do Microgreens taste like?

Microgreens have a very fresh, delicate taste somewhat like baby greens.

I hope you loved this How to Eat Microgreens: Nutrition Benefits & Easy Recipes Blog Post . Let us know your favorite ways to eat microgreens!

Microgreens—A Comprehensive Review of Bioactive Molecules and Health Benefits

“Microgreens, a new plant-based functional food that consists of the seedlings of the edible plants harvested after 7–14 days of the germination process, are the stellar source of phytochemicals, such as essential minerals, polyphenols, carotenoids, chlorophyll, anthocyanins, glucosinolates, etc., which imparts high antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic effects due to which it is considered as a practical food that might improve or attenuate chronic diseases.” –

Bhaswant M, Shanmugam DK, Miyazawa T, Abe C, Miyazawa T. Microgreens-A Comprehensive Review of Bioactive Molecules and Health Benefits. Molecules. 2023 Jan 15;28(2):867. doi: 10.3390/molecules28020867. PMID: 36677933; PMCID: PMC9864543.

3 Comments

  1. I love microgreens! I have used a dry radish mix but I will try some of the other ones, thanks!

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