Are Microgreens Healthy for You?

Cress, Beet, Raddish and Rocket Microgreens.

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Microgreens are little seedlings of edible plants that are often used to add color and flavor to meals. They're much smaller than regular greens (and even "baby" greens) and have grown in popularity, especially in fine dining circles.

Although people don't typically eat them in large quantities, microgreens are still high in vitamins and minerals. In fact, they have a much higher concentration of nutrients than fully mature plants.

The term "microgreen" isn't specific to any one plant. Common microgreens include radish, cabbage, mustard, parsley, beet leaves, celery, and cilantro.

Microgreen Nutrition

One study examined the nutrient content of several microgreens and found high concentrations of vitamins:

  • Red cabbage has the most vitamin C.
  • Garnet amaranth has the most vitamin K1.
  • Green daikon radish has the most vitamin E.
  • Cilantro has the highest concentration of two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Another study compared mineral content for fully grown green lettuce and lettuce microgreens. It found that the tiny greens had more calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, molybdenum, and manganese than the fully mature plants.

More research is needed to know the full nutritional content of many microgreens. But a few brands are listed in the United States Department of Agriculture's nutrition facts database.

For example, one serving (90.5g, or about 3 cups) of New Day Farms sunflower and basil microgreen mix has 25 calories, 2 grams protein, 4 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 80 milligrams calcium, and 14 milligrams of iron.

Health Benefits of Microgreens

There really isn't much research on microgreens beyond the nutritional content. So, it's hard to say for sure that eating a particular microgreen will produce a specific health benefit.

While no studies currently exist that look at microgreen consumption in humans, one laboratory study found that overweight mice that were fed a high-fat diet and red cabbage microgreens had lower LDL-cholesterol (the "bad" kind) and didn't gain as much weight as mice fed high-fat diets alone or with mature red cabbage.

This suggests that microgreens are protective against cardiovascular disease. Of course, it's a long stretch from animal studies to humans. But it makes sense that microgreens from plants high in healthful phytochemicals, such as those found in red cabbage, could have similar health benefits.

In fact, another study found that microgreens from the Brassica species—including red cabbage, red mustard, purple mustard, and purple kohlrabi—actually have more complex and more varieties of polyphenols compared to mature plants.

Are Sprouts Microgreens?

Edible sprouts such as alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts have been around for a long time (though it's harder to find raw sprouts than it once was, due to outbreaks of foodborne illness connected to the consumption of uncooked sprouts). Microgreens and sprouts may look similar but there are differences between the two.

One big difference is how they're grown. Microgreen seeds are planted and grown in soil, just like their full-grown counterparts. For sprouts, the seeds are germinated in water or wet bags for a couple of days, usually in warm dark places, until they sprout. At that point, they're ready to be packaged and shipped to stores.

The growing conditions for sprouts increase the risk of bacterial contamination that causes foodborne illnesses. Since microgreens aren't grown the same way as sprouts, they don't have the same risk. Of course, they still need to be handled properly with food safety in mind, just like any raw veggie or green.

Another difference between the two is that when they're packaged, sprouts include the seed, roots, stems, and tiny undeveloped leaves. Microgreens aren't ready to harvest until they grow their first set of true leaves, and serving them with their roots is optional. It's usually easier to snip them off at the stem.

Grow Your Own Microgreens

If you're lucky, you may be able to find microgreens in specialty grocery stores or farmers' markets. But be warned, they're probably quite expensive, around $30 a pound, and they only last a week under the best of conditions. Growing them at home may be a better solution.

You can easily grow microgreens right in your backyard or house, as long as you have a sunny window or lighting meant for growing plants. Microgreens don't take up much space and only require a couple of inches of potting soil.

Plant the microgreen seeds in flats or small pots, placing the seeds a little more densely than you would for full-growing plants. Mist the soil and microgreens regularly to keep both damp.

The little plants are ready to harvest as soon as they produce true (little) leaves, or about two to four weeks later. Pull the microgreens from the soil and rinse them off or cut the stems just above the soil.

Using Microgreens at Home

Some of the more common varieties of microgreens include arugula, beet greens, basil, chard, carrot, cress, amaranth, spinach, and mustard. These have stronger flavors, so only a little is needed to perk up your favorite dish. 

If you buy them from the supermarket or farmers' market, choose microgreens that are fresh looking and store them in the refrigerator. Remember, they won't last long, so consume them within a few days.

Microgreens can be used a number of different ways depending on the meal you are cooking. Try ones that have the colors and flavors that fit your taste buds. For example:

  • Arugula microgreens have a sharp, pepper-like flavor.
  • Beet microgreens have a bitter flavor, but add a lovely reddish color to a dish.
  • Carrot microgreens are slightly sweet.
  • Chard is beautiful and has a milder flavor.

Add microgreens to a sandwich or wrap in place of regular lettuce. They can also be used in place of, or in addition to, some of your favorite herbs. Another option is to make a salad with a cup or two of microgreens, some shredded carrots, chopped nuts, and a tangy vinaigrette.

Microgreens can also be added to the top of a hot, freshly baked pizza or roasted vegetables.

A Word From ​Verywell

Serving microgreens alongside (or on top of) any dish is a great way to add a few more vitamins and minerals to your balanced diet. However, since they have so much flavor, only a small amount is usually needed.

A tiny microgreen salad may not replace a big healthy garden salad for fiber content and volume, but it still packs a nutritional punch.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mir SA, Shah MA, Mir MM. Microgreens: Production, shelf life, and bioactive componentsCrit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017;57(12):2730-2736. doi:10.1080/10408398.2016.1144557

  2. Pinto E, Almeida AA, Aguiar AA, Ferreira I. Comparison between the mineral profile and nitrate concentration of microgreens and mature lettuces. J Food Compos Anal. 2015;37:38–43. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2014.06.018

  3. New Day Farms sunflower and basil microgreen mix. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  4. Huang H, Jiang X, Xiao Z, et al. Red cabbage microgreens lower circulating low-density lipoprotein (LDL), liver cholesterol, and inflammatory cytokines in mice fed a high-fat diet. J Agric Food Chem. 2016;4(48):9161-9171. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.6b03805

  5. Sun J, Xiao Z, Lin LZ, Lester GE, Wang Q, JM, Chen P. Profiling polyphenols in five brassica species by UHPLC-ESI/HRMS(n.). J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Nov 20;61(46):10960-70. doi:10.1021/jf401802n

Additional Reading

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.