Microgreens are the early leaves and stems of growing vegetables or herb plants. The seedling is only 7 to 14 days old, and 1 to 3 inches (3 to 8 cm) tall. Microgreens are older than sprouts (grown with water in just a few days), but younger than baby veggies, such as baby lettuce or baby spinach.
There are hundreds of options. Almost any vegetable or herb you can eat can be enjoyed as a microgreen, such as lettuce, radish, basil, beets, celery, cabbage, and kale.
Many people enjoy the tiny leaves of microgreens for their fresh taste, crisp crunch, and bright colors.
WHY THEY ARE GOOD FOR YOU
Microgreens are packed with nutrition. Many of the tiny microgreens are 4 to 6 times higher in vitamins and antioxidants than their adult forms. Antioxidants are substances that help to prevent cell damage.
The following microgreens have higher amounts of certain vitamins than their adult forms:
- Red cabbage -- Vitamin C
- Green daikon radish -- Vitamin E
- Cilantro -- Carotenoids (antioxidants that can turn into vitamin A)
- Garnet amaranth -- Vitamin K
Eating lots of fruits and vegetables in any form is good for you. But including microgreens in your diet can give you a nutrient boost in just a few calories.
Although it is not well-proven, a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk for cancer and other chronic diseases. If you take blood-thinning medicine, such as anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs, you may need to limit vitamin K foods. Vitamin K can affect how these medicines work.
HOW THEY ARE PREPARED
Microgreens can be eaten in several simple ways. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly first.
- Eat them raw. Add them to salads and drizzle with a little lemon juice or dressing. They are also very tasty on their own.
- Garnish meals with raw microgreens. Add them to your breakfast plate. Top your fish, chicken, or baked potato with microgreens.
- Add them to a sandwich or wrap.
- Add them to soups, stir fries, and pasta dishes.
- Add them to a fruit drink or cocktail.
If you grow your own microgreens or purchase them in soil, snip the healthy stems and leaves above the soil when they are 7 to 14 days old. Eat them fresh, or store them in the refrigerator.
WHERE TO FIND MICROGREENS
Microgreens are available at your local health food store or natural foods market. Look near the lettuce for packages of greens with tiny stems and leaves (just a couple inches, or 5 cm, in length). Check your local farmer's market as well. Microgreen growing kits can be ordered online or found in some kitchen stores.
The selections may change from time to time so keep an eye out for your favorites.
They are a bit pricey, so you may want to try growing them in your kitchen window. Once cut, they can last in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days, sometimes longer depending on the type.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Strategies to prevent obesity and other chronic diseases: The CDC guide to strategies to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2011. www.cdc.gov/obesity/downloads/fandv_2011_web_tag508.pdf. Accessed July 1, 2020.
Choe U, Yu LL, Wang TTY. The science behind microgreens as an exciting new food for the 21st century. J Agric Food Chem. 2018;66(44):11519-11530. PMID: 30343573 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30343573/.
Mozaffarian D. Nutrition and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 49.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Specialty greens pack a nutritional punch. Agricultural Research Magazine [serial online]. www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/2014/specialty-greens-pack-a-nutritional-punch. Updated January 23, 2014. Accessed July 1, 2020.
Review Date 5/26/2020
Updated by: Meagan Bridges, RD, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.