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What Are Microgreens?

Different Types of Microgreens

The most popular varieties are produced using seeds from the following plant families 

  • Brassicaceae family: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, radish, and arugula

  • Asteraceae family: Lettuce, endive, chicory, and radicchio

  • Apiaceae family: Dill, carrot, fennel, and celery

  • Amaryllidaceae family: Garlic, onion, leek

  • Amaranthaceae family: Amaranth, quinoa swiss chard, beet and spinach

  • Cucurbitaceae family: Melon, cucumber, and squash.

Microgreens vary in taste, which can range from neutral to spicy, slightly sour or even bitter,

depending on the variety. Generally speaking, their flavor is considered strong and concentrated.

Microgreens are young vegetable greens that are approximately 1–3 inches (25 - 75 mm) tall.

They have an aromatic flavor and concentrated nutrient content and come in a variety of colors and textures 

Microgreens are considered baby plants, falling somewhere between a sprout and baby green.

That said, they shouldn’t be confused with sprouts, which do not have leaves. Sprouts also have a much shorter growing cycle of 2–7 days, whereas microgreens are usually harvested 7–21 days after germination, once the plant’s first true leaves have emerged.

Microgreens are more similar to baby greens in that only their stems and leaves are considered edible. However, unlike baby greens, they are much smaller in size and can be sold before being harvested.

This means that the plants can be bought whole and cut at home, keeping them alive until they are consumed.

Microgreens are packed with nutrients.

While their nutrient contents vary slightly, most varieties tend to be rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper.

Microgreens are also a great source of beneficial plant compounds like antioxidants.

What’s more, their nutrient content is concentrated, which means that they often contain higher vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels than the same quantity of mature greens.

In fact, research comparing microgreens to more mature greens reports that nutrient levels in microgreens can be up to nine times higher than those found in mature green.

Research also shows that they contain a wider variety of polyphenols and other antioxidants than their mature counterparts.

One study measured vitamin and antioxidant concentrations in 25 commercially available microgreens. These levels were then compared to levels recorded in the USDA National Nutrient Database for mature leaves.

Although vitamin and antioxidant levels varied, levels measured in microgreens were up to 40 times higher than those recorded for more mature leaves.

Health Benefits of Microgreens

Eating vegetables is linked to a lower risk of many diseases.

This is likely thanks to the high amounts of vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds they contain.

Microgreens contain often greater amounts of these nutrients than mature greens. As such, they may similarly reduce the risk of the following diseases:

  • Heart disease: Microgreens are a rich source of polyphenols, a class of antioxidants linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Animal studies show that microgreens may lower triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.

  • Alzheimer’s disease: Antioxidant-rich foods, including those containing high amounts of polyphenols,may be linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Diabetes: Antioxidants may help reduce the type of stress that can prevent sugar from properly entering cells. In lab studies, fenugreek microgreens appeared to enhance cellular sugar uptake by 25–44%.

  • Certain cancers: Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in polyphenols, may lower the risk of various types of cancer. Polyphenol-rich microgreens may be expected to have similar effects.