Microgreens are sprouting up everywhere from upscale restaurants to home gardens. They help spruce up old recipes with intense flavors and colors, and are packed with nutrients.
Microgreens are typically seedlings of spinach, lettuce, red cabbage and other veggies that are usually 1-3 inches in height and harvested within 14 days of germination. They enhance the color, texture and flavor of salads, soups, sandwiches and other foods. Despite their growing popularity, no scientific information existed on how nutrients in microgreens compare to those in mature plants.
Now testing has shown that for mice on a high-fat diet, red cabbage microgreens helped lower their risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease and reduce their weight gain, according to research in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Microgreens are tender, immature plants and herbs that take only a week or two to grow before they’re ready for harvesting. A growing body of research suggests that microgreens could offer more health benefits than their mature counterparts.
Since previous studies have shown that full-grown red cabbage can help guard against excessive cholesterol, researchers wanted to see if red cabbage microgreens might have a similar or even greater effect than their larger counterparts.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers used mice that were a model for obesity. These animals also tend to develop high cholesterol and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The team divided 60 of these mice into different diet groups. They received food low in fat or high in fat, and with or without either red cabbage microgreens or mature red cabbage.
Both the microgreens and mature cabbage diets reduced weight gain and levels of liver cholesterol in the mice on high-fat diets. But the study also showed that microgreens contained more potentially cholesterol-lowering polyphenols and glucosinolates than mature cabbage. The baby plants also helped lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol and liver triglyceride levels in the animals.
Benefits of Microgreens
Other scientific analysis of nutrient levels in edible microgreens has found that many of those trendy seedlings of green vegetables and herbs have significantly more vitamins and healthful nutrients than their fully grown counterparts.
After analyzing vitamins and other phytochemicals in 25 varieties of microgreens, researchers found that microgreens generally have higher concentrations of healthful vitamins and carotenoids than their mature counterparts. But they also found wide variations in nutrient levels among the plants tested in the study.
Red cabbage microgreens, for instance, had the highest concentration of vitamin C, for instance, while green daikon radish microgreens had the most vitamin E. Concentrations of vitamins and carotenoids in popcorn shoots and golden pea tendrils were low compared to other microgreens, but were still as high as some common mature vegetables.
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