Growing Microgreens for Better Health and Nutrition

Microgreens, seedlings of vegetables and herbs, have gained popularity over the years, becoming a new culinary trend. Although micro-versions of their fully grown counterparts, microgreens are packed with nutrients, intense flavor, and color. Best of all, they can be easily grown at home. Read on to learn more about their health benefits and how to grow them.

Key takeaways:
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    Microgreens are a more recent, healthy culinary trend.
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    Smaller in size than fully-grown plants, microgreens are rich in nutrients and have intense flavor and color.
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    Microgreens may help prevent major chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
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    Microgreens can be easily grown all year round — even in a small condo.

Microgreens’ health benefits

Pack a nutritional punch. Adding microgreens to meals, along with fruits, vegetables, quality proteins, and healthy fats, can help ensure your diet provides enough nutrients for optimal health. According to a 2012 study, microgreens contain 4 to 40 times more nutrients than fully grown vegetables and herbs by weight. Among the 25 microgreens assessed in this study, red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth, and green daikon radishes showed the highest concentrations of vitamin C, vitamin A(carotenoids), vitamin K1, and vitamin E, respectively. When it comes to mineral content, many varieties of microgreens contain plenty of potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and trace minerals like iron, zinc, manganese, and copper.

Microgreens may reduce the risk of major chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and brain degeneration. Preliminary studies found that the antioxidant compounds found in abundance in microgreens support heart health by lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. The antioxidants in microgreens may also help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. Furthermore, researchers believe that microgreens may also lower the risk of certain cancers, based on past research supporting the role of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits in cancer prevention.

More benefits of adding microgreens to your diet

Microgreens are easy to grow and cost-effective

Microgreens can be grown all year, outdoors or indoors — even in small spaces like condos. However, they need enough exposure to light, water, and good-quality soil.

Microgreens grow quickly

They’re ready for consumption in as little as 7-14 days.

Tasty, colorful, and crunchy texture

In addition to being highly nutritious, microgreens add color, flavor, and a crunch to a salad or a meal.

Plenty of options

You can grow microgreens from many types of vegetables, including arugula, chard, cabbage, beets, sunflower, carrots, broccoli, radishes, or herbs like mint, cilantro, dill, basil, and parsley. Even grains and legumes like rice, wheat, oats, chickpeas, and lentils can be grown as microgreens.

Easy to incorporate into a diet

Microgreens can be the main ingredient in salads, smoothies, or juices or used as garnishes.

Microgreens versus sprouts

Microgreens are immature or “baby greens”. They must be harvested before they are fully mature, about 7-14 days after germination. On the other hand, sprouts are seeds that after being soaked in water. They are ready to use within 3-5 days.

In terms of nutrient content, microgreens and sprouts are packed with nutrients. However, sprouts seem to be a better source of amino acids and sugars than microgreens. Microgreens provide more vitamin A in the form of carotenoids, organic acids, and chlorophyll, without any sugars. Furthermore, microgreens show more anti-diabetes effects compared with sprouts.

Sprouts require warm, humid conditions to grow, but this environment is also ideal for the growth of viruses and bacteria. Sprouts such as raw alfalfa and bean sprouts have been linked with the outbreak of foodborne illnesses like Salmonella and E. coli. Microgreens, on the other hand, are less likely to cause foodborne illnesses than sprouts.

Growing microgreens

Firstly, you’ll need seeds, rich soil, and a few gardening tools. Next, make sure the microgreens receive enough water and sunlight. Here are a few more tips:

Buy good quality seeds, preferably organic.

The growing medium must be high quality to obtain nutritious microgreens and prevent contamination with harmful microbes. Common growing media used for greens are peat-based mixes and coconut coir. Special growing mats created for growing microgreens are considered very sanitary and use natural substances like cotton, kenaf, hemp, or synthetic fibers like rock wool.

Microgreens need exposure to light, ideally for 12-16 hours daily. Use natural sunlight by placing the plant close to a window on the south side of the house. Alternatively, you can use special ultraviolet bulbs or a hydroponic lighting system.

In addition to light, seeds need water. Water as needed to avoid excess moisture and mold growth.

Step-by-step instructions:

  • Sprinkle the seeds evenly on the top of the soil.
  • Use a spray bottle to mist the seeds with water. Cover the container with a plastic lid.
  • Keep the seeds moist. Check the container daily and mist water as needed.
  • Once the seeds have germinated (typically, it takes a few days), remove the lid to expose the plants to sunlight.
  • Water the microgreens once a day as they start growing and getting color. You may want to water the trays from the bottom to limit the contact between water and greens.
  • Open the window occasionally to improve air circulation and avoid excess moisture.
  • The microgreens are usually ready to harvest in about 7-10 days.
  • Wash the microgreens thoroughly before enjoying them.
Note
Most seeds do not require any treatment. Those who choose to grow microgreens from larger seeds or hard seed shells may want to soak the seeds overnight to speed up the germination process.

Packed with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, microgreens are a healthy addition to your meals. You can grow them all year, even in small places, and are ready for consumption in a couple of weeks.

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