If there is one thing that going to uni teaches you it’s that it is important that you’re not misrepresenting data, making too many assumptions, or sharing opinions disguised as data.
For this reason I have been careful to avoid making too many claims about the benefits of microgreens and their nutritional profiles without the studies to back them up.
One day I will get my microgreens profiled so that I can be more certain of the nutrients they contain.
For now though, I’ll rely on studies that I have found.
In one such study, “Assessment of Vitamin and Carotenoid Concentrations of Emerging Food Products: Edible Microgreens”, 25 microgreen varieties were tested for their absorbic acid (Vitamin C), carotanoids (Vitamin A), phylloquinone (Vitamin K1), and tocopherols (Vitamin E) content.
Of the 25 varieties in the study there are only 3 that I grow regularly so I’ll talk about those three. Overall though, they found that the microgreens were higher in the tested nutrients than the values for their mature versions in the USDA National Nutrient Database.
Red Cabbage was a pretty big winner ranking in the top 5 for all but Vitamin E.
Typically found in dark green vegetables, Vitamin K is important for blood coagulation helping to heal cuts and wounds. Without Vitamin K, if we had a small cut we may bleed excessively and uncontrollably. Vitamin K may also be required to properly utilise calcium. Being a fat-soluble vitamin, if we eat more than we need the body will store it away. Ingesting foods containing Vitamin K along with a fat source can help with its absorption and retention for later use, the same is true for all fat-soluble vitamins.
Red Cabbage microgreens contained 2.8 micrograms per gram compared to 0.4 micrograms per gram for mature cabbage. Mizuna has 2 micrograms per gram and rocket has 1.6 micrograms compared to 1.09 micrograms per gram for mature Rocket. For Vitamin K though, mature Kale and Spinach are still big winners here and out do all of the microgreens tested. Microgreen Kale and Spinach weren’t tested. The study noted that growth stage affected Vitamin K content.
Vitamin C is considered an essential nutrient and acts as an antioxidant, reducing the process of oxidation which results in free radicals in the body. Free radicals can be thought of as waste products of the chemical processes in the body that if left to build up can wreak havoc. Ideally, we want to limit them by giving our body antioxidants. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin so if we have more than we need we’ll pee it out and we may require it regularly as part of our way of eating.
Red Cabbage was the highest of the 25 varieties with 147 milligrams per 100g of total absorb acid (Vitamin C), 2.6 times the USDA recorded value for mature red cabbage. Mizuna was 42.9mg, and Rocket has 45.8mg, compared to 15mg for mature Rocket. Figures for the absorbic acid content of mature Mizuna ranged wildly from 80mg to 19mg depending on the source.
Another fat-soluble vitamin, Vitamin A comes in a few different forms, called carotenoids, each serving a slightly different function. Overall though Vitamin A is important for healthy growth and development as well as for eye health.
This study measured 3 different types of carotenoids: b-carotene, violaxanthin, and lutein/zeaxanthin. Red Cabbage measured 11.5, 2.9 and, 8.6 milligrams per 100g respectively. According to the USDA values, mature Red Cabbage contains of 0.6mg/100g of b-carotene, and 0.33mg/100g of lutein/zeaxanthin.
For Rocket microgreens, the figures were 7.5mg/100g for b-carotene, 5.4mg/100g for lutein/zeaxanthin, and 2.6mg/100g of violaxanthin, compared to 1.4mg for b-carotene, and 3.5mg lutein/zeaxanthin per 100g of mature Rocket. Mizuna having 7.6mg/100g b-Carotene, 5.2mg/100g lutein/zeaxanthin and 2.4mg/100g violaxanthin but I couldn’t find any figures for mature Mizuna.
Remember above when I mentioned oxidative damage and how antioxidants help reduce the creation of free radicals? Well, while Vitamin C helps to stop the creation of free radicals, Vitamin E tracks down free radicals and subdues them so they can’t go nuts and destroy the place.
This study measured two tocopherols, a-tocopherol, and y-tocopherol, which are referred to as Vitamin E. Per 100g, Red Cabbage contains 24.1mg and 10.3mg of a-tocopherol and y-tocopherol respectively; as much a 40 times the Vitamin E content of the mature counterpart. I’m not suite sure how they got that figure from the USDA Nutrition Database, from what I can see the microgreens contain 219 times the a-tocopherol content of mature red cabbage. There’s nothing in the database for y-tocopherol.
Mizuna polled slightly higher than Red Cabbage’s a-tocopherol content at 25mg/100g and then 9.6mg/100 y-tocopherol. Rocket wasn’;t far behind with 19.1mg/100g and 7.1mg/100g for a-tocopherol and y-tocopherol respectively compared to 0.43mg/100g a-tocopherol for mature rocket.
According to this particular study looking at the vitamin content of 25 varieties and comparing them to the USDA Nutrition Database, microgreens generally contain a higher vitamin content than their mature versions. I’ve only shared the numbers for the 3 varieties that I grow regularly but I’ll include a link to the study in case you want to read it. Feel free to correct me if you find anything that doesn’t ring true when you do your own research. I’m certainly no expert when it comes to nutrition, just an enthusiast.
There were some varieties in the study that were much higher in particular nutrients that I may have to start growing. Some of them I am already growing but by special demand from chefs so I will have to start making them available to everyone else.