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NUTRITION

Are Microgreens the New Superfood?

The health benefits of adding microgreens to your diet

What are microgreens?

They're just baby vegetables, right? Well, not quite.

Microgreens are actually younger than the baby veggie varieties, such as baby spinach or baby lettuce available in your local supermarket. They're older than sprouts, which usually only take a few days to grow, but younger than baby vegetables, microgreens are edible seedlings usually harvested only 7–14 days after germination1.

Microgreens have recently exploded into the health and nutrition world as a new 'superfood.' Though the word superfood is a marketing term, it usually implies a specific food with high nutritional density.

Microgreens have been studied and were found to be incredibly rich in nutrients needed for the body to work properly. They pack quite a nutrient punch when it comes to minerals and vitamins that even smaller amounts could end up providing similar nutritional effects compared to more significant amounts of the more matured vegetable3.

Microgreens are considered good sources of nutritional and bioactive compounds and show potential in preventing malnutrition and chronic diseases. Adding them to your diet could potentially play an important role in a healthy diet4.

What is a Bioactive Compound?

Small amounts of bioactive compounds are found in plants and certain foods (such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils, and whole grains) and may promote good health. Among other diseases, they are currently being studied in the prevention of cancer and heart disease5.

Why should you start eating microgreens?

Humans need at least 22 different mineral elements to live a healthy lifestyle2. Most of these minerals can be gotten through food if eating a healthy and varied diet.

However, mineral malnutrition is a common problem in all countries of the world1.

It's estimated that2:

  • Over 60% of the world's population have an iron deficiency
  • Over 30% of the world's population have a zinc deficiency
  • 30% are deficient in iodine
  • 15% are deficient in selenium

This nutritional problem may be solved by adding the proper amount and types of microgreens into your diet. They are a great choice to meet dietary requirements for these essential minerals and elements4.

Nutritional Value of Microgreens

The benefits of microgreens are based on the number of minerals and vitamins they hold for being such small plants.

The following commercially grown microgreens have higher amounts of specific vitamins and minerals than other microgreens (per 100 g)4:

  • Wasabi Microgreens: High in Vitamin K with 387mg
  • Savoy Cabbage: High in Calcium with 98mg
  • Daikon Radish: High in Phosphorus with 86mg
  • Cauliflower: High in Magnesium with 66mg
  • Broccoli Rabe (Rapini): High in Iron with 0.84mg
  • Purple Kohlrabi and Red Radish: High in Zinc with 0.43mg

The highest total carotenoids is in watercress microgreens boasting 17.2mg per 100g.

Most microgreens are very low in starch. Their carbohydrates are most often reported as soluble sugars (i.e., glucose, fructose, and sucrose) and dietary fiber (i.e., soluble and insoluble dietary fiber)5.

Did you know? In California's Central Valley, broccoli microgreens have larger quantities of the minerals magnesium, Manganese, Copper, and Zinc than mature broccoli vegetables. Broccoli microgreens take 93–95% less time to grow and need 158–236 times less water than their mature counterpart to attain the same nutritional value1.

It's important to note that to sustain the production of microgreens, vegetable plants will still need to be grown to full maturity to cultivate enough seeds for microgreen farmers.

How to add microgreens to your diet?

How to eat microgreens is easier than you may think. Microgreens can either be cooked or eaten raw, used as garnishing and toppings or added into your main dishes just like any other vegetable would.

If you're not sure which microgreens you should try first, the top ten culinary microgreens are carrot, fennel, fenugreek, french basil, mustard, onion, radish, roselle, spinach, and sunflower4.

Ideas on how to add microgreens into your diet:

  • Add them to salads
  • Garnish your tofu, fish, or chicken
  • Add them to wraps and sandwiches
  • Incorporate them into soups
  • Top your pasta and noodle dishes

Another great benefit of microgreens is that, with the proper resources, they can grow in most locales! You could even start growing your own microgreens today.

Sources:

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