Everyone knows that you should eat your greens for better health, but you may not be aware of the potential benefits of very small sprouted plants, called “microgreens.”
These tiny seedlings of common herbs and vegetables pack a punch when it comes to nutrition. In fact, according to the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Maryland, they may be even more potent than regular greens.
Microgreens contain a higher percentage of important phytonutrients and antioxidants than even the healthiest vegetables. Until recently, however, there was little to no information about the actual nutritive benefits of these plants. According to the most recent study, miniscule versions of standard greens and other vegetables contained highly variable amounts of important carotenoids and vitamins. In 100 grams of fresh greens, researchers found anywhere from 20 to 147 milligrams of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. This important nutrient acts as an antioxidant and could help prevent or reduce damage to your cells.
One hundred grams of microgreens can also contain between 0.6 and 10.1 milligrams of beta carotene, violaxanthin and lutein, and anywhere from 5 to 87 milligrams of alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol, two different types of vitamin A. The differences in the nutrient content of the greens is due primarily to the different species from which they are derived.
Out of 25 different kinds of microgreens, researchers found that green daikon radish, amaranth, cilantro and red cabbage contained the largest amount of many vitamins and nutrients, including carotenoids, tocopherols, ascorbic acid and phylloquinine. Carotenoids are notable for their antioxidant activity, as are tocopherols, which may play a protective role in cognition. Phylloquinone, better known as vitamin K, plays subtle but important role in keeping your body functioning correctly. Compared to mature leaves, however, all species of microgreens contained a much greater nutrient density.
How can you get all these benefits? It’s simple; just include some microgreens in your next salad, sandwich or pasta dish. These tiny sprouts are extremely easy to grow on your own, or they can be found in the produce section of many grocery stores.
If you’re having trouble finding a good source, check out your local food co-op or health food store. Microgreens offer a delicate, unique flavor and texture that will delight you, as well as plenty of important nutrients. They’re definitely worth trying out if you’d like to protect your health.