Are microgreens better for you than lettuce? Comparison of nutritional properties seeds, sprouts and microgreens and what affects them.
As more and more people strive to improve their health through better dietary choices, many turn to leafy greens as a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. The spotlight has traditionally been on vegetables like lettuce, but an emerging trend in nutrition has introduced us to microgreens - the tiny, tender, and flavorful seedlings of herbs and vegetables.
But are microgreens better than lettuce and if yes why? This article aims to shed light on the differences of nutritional properties of seeds, sprouts, and microgreens, and to explore the factors that affect them.
Take a look at table of contents below:
- Is microgreen a superfood?
- Are microgreens 40 times more nutritious?
- What influences the nutritious level of microgreens and sprouts?
- What is the healthiest microgreen?
Our investigation based on scientific articles and our own MP SEEDS experience will consider whether these "baby plants" are deserving of the title "superfood", and if so, how they look against their mature counterparts, like lettuce, or grown broccoli.
Moreover, we'll delve into the evidence that suggests microgreens could contain up to 40 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts. We'll also investigate the various factors that can influence the nutritional level of these microgreens and sprouts.
Lastly, we will check the healthiest microgreen variety. Let’s go!
Is microgreen a superfood?
Ah, microgreens—the pint-sized powerhouses that have taken (or soon will take) the culinary world by storm. But let's address the burning question on everyone's minds: Are microgreens really deserve to be called superfoods and superheroes in the world of food? 🌱💪
Well, they may not wear capes, but these greens are packed with concentrated vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, so they are even better than superheroes.
Picture it: these minuscule veggies bursting with flavor, cramming more nutrients into a single bite than their full-grown counterparts- checked information. 🌿🥦 It's like Popeye's spinach on steroids, only without the bulging muscles. So, while microgreens might not make you fly or turn invisible, they sure do earn their title as nutritional powerhouses. 💥
Just remember, when you're chopping down on these mighty morsels, do it with a smile on your face, knowing you're embracing the superpowers of the microgreen universe! 😄✨
The term "superfood" is not a scientific or regulated term, but rather a commonly used word or even marketing concept used to describe foods that are considered exceptionally nutritious and beneficial to health. Of course it doesn’t mean that they will make a miracle from one day to another for people that do not lead the healthy lifestyle but…
Superfoods are typically rich in various nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, which are believed to offer health-promoting properties. These foods often include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and certain fish or algae.
While incorporating superfoods into a balanced diet can contribute to overall health and well-being, it's important to remember that no single food alone can provide all the nutrients the body needs, and a varied diet is key for optimal nutrition.
Are microgreens 40 times more nutritious?
The claim that microgreens are 40 times more nutritious than their mature counterparts is a widely circulated statement, but it lacks scientific consensus and specificity.
While microgreens are indeed nutrient-dense and can contain higher levels of certain vitamins and minerals compared to their fully grown counterparts, the exact nutritional content can vary depending on the specific microgreen variety and growing conditions.
Researchers are not clear about the exact results of examined varieties of microgreens. Most research is focused on four groups of vitamins and phytochemicals: vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and others.
Some results say that microgreens can contain up to 40% more of these valuable phytochemicals and others say that Microgreen leaves were found to contain four to six times more nutrients compared to mature leaves of the same plant. The results may be different but 40% or 4 times is not the same as 40 times!
Let’s go over some facts about seeds, sprouts, microgreens and vegetables and nutritional degree between them:
- Sprouting seeds improves their nutritional value = sprouts are more nutritious than seeds.
- Sprouting for at least 3 to 5 days is recommended for optimal benefits.
- The sprouting process activates hydrolytic enzymes and releases nutrients from phytate chelates, increasing their bioavailability.
- Sprouted grains also synthesize and accumulate vitamins.
- The nutrient content varied among different microgreens.
- The nutritional value of sprouted grains can be compromised during food processing.
And more directly about examples of differences in nutrition of particular varieties in different stages:
- AMARANTHUS: Amaranth sprouts had significantly higher protein, iron (Fe), and zinc (Zn) content compared to amaranth microgreens.
There was a substantial increase in vitamin C content from amaranth sprouts to microgreens (2.7-fold) and from microgreens to fully grown leafy amaranth (2.9-fold).
Both α-carotene and β-carotene were detected in all three growth stages (sprouts, microgreens, and fully grown) with a considerable increase in content from sprouts to microgreens.
- ARUGULA: Arugula sprouts were found to have a higher content of total ascorbic acid, phylloquinone, and β-carotene compared to the mature stage of arugula.
- BROCCOLI: Sprouts exhibited significantly higher polyphenol values compared to microgreens and baby leaves.
Broccoli landrace showed substantial increases in kaempferol and apigenin from the seed stage to the baby leaves growth stage.
Antioxidant levels were highest in sprouts and tended to decrease as the plants further matured.
The findings suggest that 3-day-old broccoli sprouts exhibited a significantly higher inducer activity of detoxification enzymes compared to mature broccoli.
Additionally, broccoli sprouts had higher levels of α-tocopherol and carotenoids compared to mature broccoli. Tocopherols and tocotrienols belong to the vitamin E family.
- CABBAGE: Hydroponically grown cabbage microgreens were found to be 2.9 times more nutrient-rich than mature cabbage, based on the average ratio of ten nutrients (P, K, Ca, Mg, S, Mn, Cu, Zn, Na, and Fe). Cabbage microgreens were found to have higher levels of total ascorbic acid, phylloquinone (K1 vitamine), β-carotene, and glucoraphanin compared to mature cabbage.
- FENUGREEK: Microgreens have higher ascorbic acid and α-tocopherol levels than mature stages.
- MUNG BEAN: Sprouting mungbean seeds resulted in a 2.7-fold increase in vitamin C content compared to mature mungbean grains.
- SPINACH: Spinach has higher levels of ascorbic acid and α-tocopherol in microgreens compared to the mature vegetable stage.
- LETTUCE: Compared to mature lettuce, sprouts of lettuce exhibited increased levels of α-tocopherol and carotenoids. Hydroponically grown lettuce microgreens were found to be 2.7 times more nutrient-rich than mature lettuce, based on the average ratio of ten nutrients (P, K, Ca, Mg, S, Mn, Cu, Zn, Na, and Fe).
- PAK CHOI: The content of 3-butenyl glucosinolates in pak choi was found to decrease from sprouts to adult leaves.
- RADISH: In radish, health-promoting phytochemicals are found in higher concentrations in cruciferous sprouts, such as broccoli and red radish sprouts, compared to the edible organs of the respective adult plants.
- KALE: The study revealed that Kale Sprouts displayed significantly higher polyphenol values compared to both microgreens and baby leaves.
It's important to note that while microgreens can be a valuable addition to a healthy diet, they should not be viewed as a sole source of nutrition. A balanced diet that incorporates a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other nutrient-rich foods is still crucial for overall nutritional needs.
So, while microgreens can provide a concentrated dose of certain nutrients, the specific nutrient content and the extent of their superiority compared to mature plants may vary, making it challenging to make a blanket statement about them being 40 times more nutritious.
What influences the nutritious level of microgreens and sprouts?
Various factors influence the nutrient and phytochemical content of microgreens and sprouts. These include the specific variety chosen, and the stage of growth. Additionally, the environment, lighting conditions, substrates, nutrient fortification, and salinity stress during cultivation can impact the nutritional quality of microgreens and sprouts. Packaging methods and storage temperature also play a role in preserving the nutrients and phytochemicals. These factors can affect the photosynthetic and metabolic activities of microscale vegetables and potentially enhance their nutritional quality, depending on the specific crop, species, and genotype used.
Let’s go briefly over some extremely interesting facts about factors influencing on nutritious of micros:
- substrate matters: microgreens grown on vermicompost has higher concentrations of K, S, Ca, Mg, Mn, Cu, Zn, Fe, and Na than hydroponically grown (refers to Cabbage)
- calcium chloride gives longer shelf life: experiment shows that treatment before harvesting of broccoli microgreens with 10 mM calcium chloride increase in aliphatic and indolic glucosinolates which gives longer shelf life of packed microgreens (refers to broccoli)
- willow bark extract and brewer's yeast to increase antioxidant and antimicrobial properties: the most effective to increase in the content of phenolics and enhancement of antioxidant activity of sprouts is 1% extract of S. Daphnoides and 0.5% of S. cerevisiae cultures (refers to broccoli sprouts). Lactoferin, and oregano extract also may influence positively.
- treating seeds with potassium nitrate (KNO3) makes microgreens more stuffed in phenolic, flavonoid and higher in antioxidant and antidiabetic.
- selenium (Se) fertilizer: will not only give abundant harvest, but will make your microgreens higher in antioxidants, vitamin C and other bioactive ingredients.
- color and exposure of light influence for color, abundance of harvest and concentration of ingredients.
Research about how growing conditions, supplementation, and other treatments influence the nutritional contents of microgreens and sprouts are more and more popular, so we hope that this knowledge will be more named, defined and used in the cultivation industry.
What is the healthiest microgreen?
Ah, the epic battle of the microgreens for the title of the healthiest! As we saw above, the nourishment of microgreens depends on many things. All microgreens are healthy, but I understand that we want to have a winner.
In the green corner, we have the mighty broccoli microgreens and sprouts, flexing their miniature stems and leaves and boasting an army of nutrients. These little green warriors are not to be underestimated, as they contain a powerful weapon against cancer: sulforaphane.
Yes, you heard it right! Broccoli microgreens are loaded with this amazing compound that has been shown to have potential anti-cancer properties, aiding in the fight against those pesky rogue cells.
Our research shows that the Broccoli Calabrese variety has the greatest amount and concentration of this anti cancer ingredient. With sulforaphane as their not so-secret weapon, these microgreens provide a tasty and nutritious defense for your body. What is more, broccoli microgreens and sprouts are crispy, and have a very soft taste and flavor, so easily you can add them to your dishes.
So, when it comes to the healthiest microgreen, broccoli microgreens definitely reign supreme, ready to conquer your taste buds and help protect your well-being. Get ready for a mini green revolution on your plate! 🥦💥
This article critically shows the nutritional superiority of microgreens, and sprouts in comparison to traditional leafy greens. It delves into the concept of why we call microgreens superfood, and explores the factors that affect their nutritional value.
Finally, the article highlights the broccoli as healthiest microgreen, providing a comprehensive guide for anyone interested in extending knowledge about microgreens for some curiosities.
National Library of Medicine, 1.06.2023, Sprouts and Microgreens—Novel Food Sources for Healthy Diets, Andreas W. Ebert