Should Microgreens be Considered a Superfood? (Solved!)

Microgreens are considered a superfood by some scientists, but not by all. Microgreens are more nutrient-dense than their fully-grown counterparts, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Despite this, many scientists don’t consider them to be a superfood since there is still little known about their effectiveness in affecting health issues in humans. 

The rest of the article will explain what microgreens are, what superfoods are, and why many scientists do not consider microgreens to be superfoods. 

What are microgreens?

Microgreens are seedlings of edible plants typically used to add color and flavor to food. They are high in vitamins and minerals, having a higher concentration of nutrients than their fully-grown counterparts.

What are superfoods?

Superfoods are foods considered to be nutritionally dense, making them beneficial for overall health. Superfoods do not have their own food group, according to the American Heart Association. Many dieticians, such as Despina Hyde with the New York University’s Langone Medical Center, believe that “superfood” is more of a marketing term used for foods that have health benefits.

Examples of superfoods

Many foods are considered “superfoods” by the food industry. Dark green leafy veggies are high in folate, zinc, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber, and contain a high amount of anti-inflammatory compounds. Examples of these include kale, collard greens, and spinach. Berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries are considered to be nutritional powerhouses filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

Is there research to back the health benefits of superfoods?

Studies published by the National Institute of Health claim that many superfoods contain certain compounds that promote enhanced immune function, delay certain types of cancer, and can even protect from some sunburn reactions. These are particularly abundant in fruits that tend to be yellow-orange in color, such as carrots, pumpkins, peppers, and tomatoes. 

What is the difference between superfoods and regular foods?

Superfoods tend to be more medicinal and supplemental than regular food and should be eaten in smaller amounts. For example, if you eat a large amount of dark chocolate bars, you may get a stomachache, and not much will happen other than that. If you eat a large amount of raw cacao beans, you may overdose on nutrients. Superfoods are not meant to be eaten in very large quantities. 

What is the nutritional benefit of microgreens?

A study done for the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition found that multiple microgreens contained a high concentration of vitamins.

  • Microgreen Cilantro has a high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that act as an antioxidant for humans
  • Microgreen Green daikon radishes contain the most vitamin E
  • Microgreen red cabbage has the highest amount of vitamin C

Why may macronutrients be beneficial?

Macronutrients are rich in nutrients, and it is thought that small amounts of them will provide similar nutritional effects compared to larger amounts of regular greens, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Scientists hope that the concentrated amount of vitamins and nutrients will help people in the long term.

What are the differences between regular greens and microgreens?

A study done for the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis shows that lettuce microgreens have more calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, zinc, manganese, and molybdenum than their fully-grown counterparts.

What are the overall health benefits of microgreens?

There has not been much research into the health benefits of microgreens, but things are changing. In 2012 the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry claimed absolutely no scientific evidence being available to support the claim that microgreens are a superfood, but have since followed up on this, stating that they are nutrient-dense. There is no proof that microgreens are effective in affecting overall health in humans.

Why don’t scientists believe microgreens are superfoods?

No studies have been done showing how microgreens affect humans, but one study for the American Chemical Society did find that mice fed red cabbage microgreens on a high-fat diet had lower LDL cholesterol when overweight and did not gain as much weight as mice fed regular red cabbage on a high-fat diet, showing that microgreens can be protective against cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, this does not prove that they will have the same effects on humans.

Why are microgreens rising in popularity?

Over the years, the amount of people taking an interest in microgreens has been increasing. This is due to its potential to be a functional food due to their contents of micronutrients. They have taken on the food world as a way to add textures, colors, and flavors to foods. 

What does the future of microgreens look like?

Microgreens are becoming increasingly popular, and the demand is skyrocketing. A study for the Journal of Food Science shows that out of 99 people surveyed, most of them had a positive reaction to the different kinds of microgreens. Microgreens have also become a bigger conversation after the start of COVID, as more and more families have become food insecure. Researchers have worked to figure out of microgreens could be the answer to food deserts. 

Final thoughts: Are microgreens superfoods?

It depends on what you believe a superfood is. If you are like most dietitians and believe that superfoods are just nutritionally dense foods, you can consider them a superfood. It’s no secret that these small leafy greens are packed with nutrients that may or may not be linked to an abundance of positive health benefits.

However, if you believe that superfoods are supposed to benefit your overall health, there is no actual proof that microgreens can do so – at least not yet. Although the status of microgreens as a superfood is up in the air, there is no question that the conversation surrounding them has only just started, and that we will be hearing a lot more about them in the coming years. More research is being funded and done, so in a couple of years we’ll have a more concrete answer as to whether microgreens are a measurable superfood or not.