Microgreens have been around for a while, but they’ve recently started gaining popularity as flavor-packed salad toppings or as a delicious addition to your favorite avocado toast. And although many people confuse microgreens with sprouts, they are actually not the same at all.
According to Healthline, microgreens are more developed than sprouts, but not quite a baby green. These greens are harvested as soon as they begin to sprout their leaves, which is usually between seven and 21 days after the seeds germinate.
Many different types of seeds can produce microgreens, with some of the most popular being from radish, broccoli, arugula, and even sunflower seeds.
These tiny veggies not only pack a punch of flavor, but they also pack a ton of health benefits. Although the specific benefits often vary depending on the type of seed the microgreen comes from, a recent report from the Future Food Diary found that microgreens may have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antibacterial properties.
More research is being done on microgreens nutrition as it continues to grow in popularity, but read on to find out what dieticians and researchers have to say about this nutrient-dense food. Then, for more healthy eating tips, check out Top Effects of Bananas on Your Health.
According Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD author of The Sports Nutrition Handbook and a member of our Medical Expert Council, one of the main benefits of eating more microgreens is their high antioxidant content.
“Microgreens contain antioxidants, which help fight disease by protecting your cells,” Goodson says, “and research suggests they actually contain more antioxidant polyphenols than most mature greens.”
It also often depends on the type of seed. According Nutrition Frontiersbroccoli microgreens have higher levels of many antioxidants and minerals than their adult counterparts.
Goodson adds that many types of microgreens are loaded with potassium, which can help meet recommended daily amounts.
“A cup of microgreens provides 10-11% of your dietary potassium needs, making it an official ‘good source’ of potassium,” says Goodson. “In fact, most Americans don’t get enough potassium at all, so adding a cup of microgreens to a salad or omelet can be a great way to boost your intake.”
All vegetables contain some level of prebiotics, which are types of fiber that are essential for your gut health. According Morgyn Clair, MS, RDNauthor at Fit Healthy Momma, this is another great reason to add microgreens to your diet.
“There are high levels of prebiotics in many types of microgreens, which help support the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut,” Clair explains, “and the best way to ensure high levels of these nutrients is to eat them raw as a meal garnish or a salad additive.”
Many plants contain natural pigments that not only give them their fun and vibrant colors, but also provide a handful of health benefits. For example, carotenoids are what give vegetables like carrots or bell peppers their orange and red coloring, and are known to support eye health, cardiovascular health, and even help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
According to a report in foodmicrogreens contain high levels of pigments like carotenoids, as well as other common plant pigments like chlorophyll and anthocyanin, all of which contain helpful benefits.
While microgreens are primarily beneficial for our overall health, there is one thing researchers want us to be aware of. According to food report, some microgreens contain trace metals and potentially high amounts of nitrates.
The report says the reasoning behind this has to do with the growing sites of many microgreens, such as weed-free farmland, areas bordered by roads or paths, and other areas with higher human traffic, which often contain a soil richer in nitrates.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid microgreens altogether, but it’s a necessary risk to be aware of.