Updated: Apr 6
There are food fads then there are legit nutritional powerhouses. In today’s 'foodie culture', it’s hard to tell which is which. In fact, I recently learned that I have been overlooking one of the easiest to grow superfoods on the planet.
Thinking it a hipster-foodie trend to make insta-food pictures look nice, I had no idea I was missing out. Missing out on a food that can have up to 40 times the nutrients of its ‘un-super’ counterparts. I reveal this secret below but first I have a challenge for you.
Are there any foods that you ignore because you think they are all hype and no substance? Let me know in the comments below. Are other secret supers hiding in plain sight?
First, what is a superfood? A food marketed as a superfood is one that has a higher nutrient density than other foods. Superfoods contain high levels of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.) and few calories. Many foods become trendy because of this high nutrient density. Kale became a rock star in part because of its higher nutrient density when compared to lettuce. Berries are considered superfoods because of their high concentration of antioxidants.
To be clear, the best way to eat healthy is to eat a large variety of fruits and vegetables. Be sure not to remove foods from your diet because they aren’t considered a superfood. Many nutrients work in tandem with one another. You get the most benefit when you consume many different types of fruits and vegetables. Learn more about this "nutrient synergy", in this science-based blog post: Cucurbits are Great - Synergy is Better.
Ok, so what is the wonder food I'm so excited about? The tiny but mighty microgreen!
Microgreens are immature greens produced from the seeds of vegetables and herbs. They are small (1-3 inches tall), and young (generally harvested only 7-14 days after germination). When you eat microgreens you are eating the earliest leaves to sprout on the plant.
Microgreens became popular largely due to the large variety of flavors, colors and textures that can be grown and added to soups, sandwiches, main dishes, and even smoothies. They are also often used as a garnish. Many have vibrant colors and are affordable to grow in large quantities.
Perhaps their use as 'just a garnish' is what had me thinking these tiny sprouts were all hype and no substance, but I was entirely wrong!
In an article published in 2012, in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Xiao et al.* investigated the concentrations of phytonutritients found in 25 commercially available varieties of microgreens. They then compared the levels they found in the microgreens to available data on phytonutrients in the fully mature plants.
They measured concentrations of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), carotenoids (types of antioxcidents), phylloquinone (vitamin K), and tocopherols (vitamin E). Generally, microgreens contained considerably higher concentrations of vitamins and carotenoids than their mature plant counterparts. The highest values of vitamin C, vitamin K1, and vitamin E were found in red cabbage, garnet amaranth, and green daikon radish, respectively. In fact, red cabbage micro-greens contained over 40 times the vitamin E content of mature red cabbage!
Cilantro microgreens showed the highest concentration of lutein/zeaxanthin and violaxanthin (which are cartenoid antioxidents). Cilantro also ranked second in β-carotene concentration (red sorrel had the highest). Even the microgreens that were relatively low in vitamins and carotenoids (such a popcorn), still compared favorably to mature plants.
Impressed? I know I am! And not only because of the amazing nutrition available in these tiny super foods. Mircrogreens are also impressive as an addition to your indoor or small-space garden. Check out the video below to learn some additional reasons why you might want to give microgreens a try.
Hopefully you now have a little motivation to add the tiny, mighty, microgreen to your diet and you garden. If so, I encourage you to get growing now. Check out the Hortiki Plants Microgreens Kit. Or, simply grab whatever lettuce, herb, or leafy greens seeds you have around and give those a try.
That's it for now! I didn’t even get to the culinary benefits of cooking with microgreens, the environmental benefits of having microgreens in your home, or the psychological benefits, backed by science, of growing your own edible garden! Hortiki and I will continue our microgreen re-hype party in a future post. Subscribe to get notifications so you don't miss out on new blog/video posts (or event announcements, freebies, bonuses, and other secret surprises)!
And let us know - are microgreens already part of your home garden or diet, or is it a food you have missed? Are you interested in giving it a try now? Why or why not? We would love to help you puzzle through what edible plants are right for your space. (Seriously, this is fun for us). So leave a comment and let's dive in!
Victoria LeBeaux, PhD
Founder, Hortiki Plants
Xiao, Z., Lester, G. E., Luo, Y., & Wang, Q. (2012). Assessment of vitamin and carotenoid concentrations of emerging food products: edible microgreens. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry,60(31), 7644-7651.