What are Microgreens?
Microgreens are plants which are harvested when they are around 1-3 inches tall. These plants are at a middle stage in plant maturity, as they are younger than a full grown plant and baby greens, yet older than sprouts . Some of the more popularly grown microgreens include mustard, kale, beet, swiss chard, basil, onion, chive, broccoli, carrot, radish, spinach and more . In comparison to mature plants, some of these microgreens have been shown in limited studies to contain higher levels of minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients which are chemicals produced by plants to stay healthy such as carotenoids and tocopherols that help to protect the body against cancer and cardiovascular diseases .
In a study published in 2010, it was found that less mature leaves of baby spinach had generally higher levels of phytonutrients such as carotenoids, vitamins K, B and C than leaves which were more mature . Another study conducted in 2012 at the University of Maryland tested 25 different microgreens, amongst them including cilantro, arugula, red beet, green basil, opal radish and red mustard. It was found that microgreens possessed significantly higher concentrations of phytonutrients and vitamins than plants which were more mature, with different variations of nutrients depending on the plant . This is exciting because it shows that microgreens are an excellent source of nutrients. These can be grown and harvested quite easily by anyone without prior experience. The growth time is around one week to three weeks depending on the plant selected. In that same study, it was also observed that golden pea tendrils yielded considerably higher concentrations of nutrients when grown under proper light compared to ones not grown in light . This information concerning light is very important for the beginner grower who wants to get the most nutrients out of their plants.
Here is the initial set up which has yielded a number of plants including spinach, different types of lettuce, thyme, spearmint, sunflower, kale and dill, just to name a few.
How can microgreens help with maintaining health?
As stated in the introduction, there are several phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that are present in microgreens, which contain an even higher concentration of these nutrients than their mature counterparts. There are more than 25,000 phytonutrients in different plant varieties . The scientists in the cited 2010 and 2012 articles only tested for a few of the more bioactive compounds available in the plants, including vitamin K, B, and C as well as carotenoids, tocopherols (vitamin E) and phylloquinone (vitamin K1). Below is a table containing some of the phytonutrients and vitamins spoken about in the articles.
There are only a few of the many nutrients which can be taken into the body by the consumption of microgreens. There are also other foods which contain some of the nutrients mentioned like nuts, vegetable oils, meats and grains, but the focus was on plants which can be harvested at the microgreen stage. With the right equipment, knowledge and sufficient space, anyone can grow their own highly nutritious food Hippocrates of Kos, who lived close to 2,000 years ago between 460 and 370 BC is often referred as the Father of Modern Medicine  . He has been quoted as saying “let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food”. While modern medicine has made great strides in the healing sciences, prevention is one of the primary defences against disease and eating the right amount of nutrients is essential for this. Much more could be said concerning these phytonutrients and I invite the reader to go through the sources to get a more in-depth look at the research.
1. Microgreens: A New Specialty Crop. (2010). Reviewed 2016. University of Florida, Horticultural sciences department. Retrieved from: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs1164
2. Zhenlei Xiao, Gene E. Lester, Yaguang Luo, and Qin Wang. (2012)
Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Maryland. Retrieved from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/jf300459b#citing
3. Lester, G. E.; Hallman, G. J.; Perez, J. A. γ-Irradiation Dose: Effects on Baby-Leaf Spinach Ascorbic Acid, Carotenoids, Folate, α- Tocopherol, and Phylloquinone Concentrations. J. Agric. Food. Chem. 2010, 58, 4901−4906.
4. Szalay, Jessie. What are Phytonutrients? (2015). Live Science. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/52541-phytonutrients.html
5. Heiting, Gary. (2017). How Carotenoids Can Keep Your Eyes Healthy. Retrieved from: http://www.allaboutvision.com/nutrition/carotenoids.htm
6. Bradford, Alina. (2015). Vitamin E: Sources, Benefits & Risks. Retrieved from: http://www.livescience.com/51543-vitamin-e.html
7. Vitamin K. (2017). George Mateljan Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=112#function
8. Vitamin B1. (2017) George Mateljan Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=100
9. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine). (2017). University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b1-thiamine
10. Vitamin C. (2016). U.S Dept of HEalth & Human Services. National Institute of Health. Retrieved from:
11. Hippocrates. (2017). Retrieved from: