Many health experts have crowned microgreens as ‘superfoods,’ capable of delivering a strong cocktail of vitamins, micronutrients and potent enzymes. But aren’t we just talking about really tiny leaves? Yes, and looks can be deceiving. Microgreens are anywhere from 4 to 40 times more nutrient-dense than their mature equivalents. That's crazy, right? Yes - it is!
Nature’s perfect ‘superfood’?
The strongest case supporting the notion that microgreens are superfoods involves what are called ‘phytochemicals,’ or plant compounds (“phyto" in Greek means plant). Most phytonutrients are rumored to contain anti-carcinogenic properties, particularly those found in cruciferous plants (like kale and cabbage).
Glucosinolates are one of the micronutrients in kale that makes the plant so healthful. Interestingly, the food reserves of those little cotyledons (remember cotyledons from day 2?) in microgreens turn out to contain far more glucosinolates than an equivalent weight of a mature plant. This is because their mature counterparts are bigger, and therefore more 'diluted' with water, meaning you would have to eat much more fully-grown kale to get the same amount of nutrients that you would get from a (significantly smaller) handful of micro-kale.
It’s for this reason that a small number of recent studies suggest that microgreens are more nutritious than mature leaves. For example, red cabbage microgreens have six times more vitamin C than mature red cabbage of the same weight, nearly seventy times more vitamin K, and 40 times more vitamin E. This commonly cited research was conducted at the University of Maryland, where researchers looked at four groups of vitamins and other phytochemicals in 25 commercially available microgreens by isolating specific plant compounds. The most nutrient-dense micros seem to be red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth and green daikon radish.
Additionally, microgreens can be produced in the dead of winter all season long - as we do at Farm.One! Come check it out by taking one of our tours or classes. Growing your own is also the easiest way to gain access to these nutrients from the comfort of your home.
TL;DR - It’s probably safe to say that microgreens are very good for you and leave it at that – but best not to assume that sprinkling a few microgreens on a heaping plate of fried chicken will balance everything out. Microgreens have not been extensively studied and to date there have been no large-scale epidemiological trials. Maybe because there are very few non-billionaires eating measurable amounts of micros on a daily basis - micros can be expensive, which is why you can learn how to grow your own.
Thank you to Dan Bernstein for co-authorship of this article!